For many women, having children and taking time away from our careers to care for them gives us time to pause and reflect. When we do, we come back to our careers with fresh eyes.

Many of us return with a renewed zeal for the career we had built and the work we love. For others, the experience is more like falling out of love. Maybe your company’s culture no longer works with your lifestyle and it’s time for a new job. Other times, your professional passion may have wanted and you’re no longer getting the satisfaction you once did.

It’s not that you’re no longer ambitious. A report from PwC says women are more confident and ambitious than ever before. But, something’s no longer working and it’s time for a change. 

Too often, however, the idea of change scares us. What’s more, we don’t actually know how to make a change. We feel crippled by the uncertainty of the very next step that we can’t move forward.

Change isn’t easy, but here is a 6-step guide offers you the strategies that’ll help you clarify where you should go next and get you moving toward your new goals.

1. Get to know what you want

The truth is we may never uncover the reason we need to shift our career. We just know we need to make a change. To understand what you want, you’ll need to reflect on your career path to date. What have been the things you’ve always loved about your work? Also, take time to consider the things you didn’t enjoy or caused you the most friction. What changes would you make to your job that would make it fit better into your life today?

As important as it is to look back, you also need to look ahead. Take some time to reconsider what success means to you and your life today (this free download will help). Think about what you want to accomplish, what will make you feel pride in your work.

2. Investigate your options

As you start to understand what you want out of your career, you’ll be ready to start to consider where you want to go next. Before making a move, take time to investigate your options.

After my return from my six-month mat leave, I was unsure I wanted to continue in my career. My worry was I’d hop to a new company only to feel the very same. So, instead of applying for new jobs, I began interviewing people in my field. After my second interview, I knew I wouldn’t look for another job in the same field. So, I started to meet with people in other fields that seemed interesting to me.

Taking actions like speaking with others – those in the field you may want to shift to as well as others like mentors, colleagues and friends – will go a long way in where you want to go next.  

3. Practice makes perfect

Once you’re clear on the direction, you’re going to want to bring it to life. This way you can test drive how you feel taking on this new line of work. Plus, as you practice you’ll build your credentials and your confidence in the new space.  

How you do this will vary depending on where you want to take your decision next. Volunteering for your role at a not-for-profit or other association is a great option, but there may be other opportunities for you. For example, as I began re-examining my career path, I considered moving into digital marketing, so I volunteered to run a not-for-profit’s social media sites.

4. Rebrand yourself

As you get more comfortable with the new direction you’re heading toward, you’ll have to start to talk about it. Essentially, you’ll rebrand yourself professionally. As you do, you’ll want to let people know where you are going, why you are going there and what you are doing to prepare for the shift.

At first, this may feel clumsy as you try to pick the words or phrases that best explain your journey. If it does, don’t fret. As you test out different versions of your elevator speech, you’ll find one that works for you.

5. Build your network

It’s who you know not always what you know. This is especially true when it comes to career shifts. So, take time to build your network that will support your new goals. You’ll begin to do this as you investigate your options, but you’ll want to double down on your efforts once you’ve made a clear choice.

Ask those currently in your network who they may know in the field you’re looking to enter. Search for contacts using LinkedIn or attend social events hosted by an association related to your new field. Whatever you choose the aim is to build a network that can help you uncover opportunities in your new field.

6. Prepare for a step back

As you begin to consider the shift you’ll take in your career, take time to understand the impact it will have on other important areas of your life. If you’ll be fully entering a new field of work, you may need to step back in terms of your career level so you can build up the necessary skills to get back to where you were. Such a scenario may also result in lower income level. Or, you may need to dedicate more time to come up to speed on a new job.

Whatever the setbacks may be, consider what you can do today to prepare for them. For example, if you’ll be taking a pay cut, then you may need to reconfigure your budget.

Making a career shift takes time and effort. These six strategies map out how to begin to reinvent yourself and shift your career in a direction that works better for you and your life.

Have you shifted your career after having children? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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