6 ways to redesign your worklife in 2021
Updated: Mar 4
“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up”
2020 felt like a missed year. As plans of every kind were thrown into turmoil, it became the year of holding off, delaying and abandoning what we had hoped to do. For mums in particular, the sudden plunge into home-schooling threw an almighty curveball into our lives. A massive challenge for already working women. And a frustrating blow for that army of brilliant mums harbouring ambitions that 2020 would be the year they finally relaunched their working lives after a career break to bring up their family.
Qualified Career Coach - herself a mum and career changer - Rachel Schofield, shares her six foundations for redesigning your worklife in 2021.
1. Stop waiting for the perfect time
“The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now”
If you are a mum who had dreams of relaunching or reshaping your career in 2020, chances are you have already been waiting some time. You have waited until your children are a certain age. Until your partner’s job is settled. Until your house renovation is sorted.
We have a tendency to assume there will be an ideal time to start Project “New Me”. A time when the clouds lift and the path ahead is beautifully clear.
Here’s my liberating (and challenging) news … there is no perfect moment. As the past year has brutally shown us, life does funny things. The really powerful thing you can do to exert control is to take the first step.
Your career return or change is going to take some work and some time. You may choose to upskill or retrain. So best get started!
2. Get clear on who you are
“ Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”
The most important foundation for any career move is self-knowledge. You may feel you have lost touch with who you truly are as you’ve focused on family. It can be a long time since you needed to shout about your fantastic abilities and achievements, or even had the time to consider what lights you up.
So, dedicate serious time and thought to identifying your top skills, interests and values. Get clear on what motivates you and what meaningful work means for you. Success is not the same for everyone.
Outline your ideal working week and environment. The salary you want or need.
You are aiming to build a full and uplifting blueprint of who you are and what you want, against which to measure all your career ideas.
Don’t know where to begin? Consider a free online personality or skills profile like truity.com or the government’s Skills Health Check. Don’t take them as gospel - use them to get you thinking.
3. Explore every idea
“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas”
Buy a beautiful notebook, create a document on your phone, make a vision board … stop simply day-dreaming and start properly capturing and investigating your ideas.
Don’t self-censor at this stage. Think big and think freely. Include your wildest imaginings as well as the obvious avenues.
Make Curiosity your best friend. The insight comes from working out what is IMPORTANT to you about each particular idea. Take this childhood example: Did you want to be an astronaut because you love Space? Or travel? Is it about science or rather adventure?
Look for patterns and recurring themes in your ideas and focus on those. Use them to generate other ideas. Play around with idea combinations.
How does each idea stack up against your blueprint for career fulfilment?
Remember that you don’t have to get to your perfect outcome in one huge step. Your most ambitious career plan may be manageable if you’re prepared to break it down into stages.
4. Realise that the journey is as important as the final destination
"Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate”
You’re fretting. Until you feel 100% clear about what you want to do and how you’re going to do it, you don’t want to start down any particular path. I mean, what if it’s the wrong one?
Redesigning your career after motherhood initially throws up way more questions than answers. Some you can definitely solve by the kind of deep reflection I talked about. Beyond that, you need to start “stress-testing” your best ideas. Exploring the reality.
Volunteer, take a short course, arrange to shadow someone. Have coffee with people doing your dream job, attend an industry event, join a LinkedIn group.
Your exact destination will come more into focus once you embark on the journey. It’s by researching, experimenting, connecting and conversing that the path gets clearer and the endpoint nearer.
5. Get your support team in place
“The person who asks questions is more helpful than the person who offers advice.”
Who is championing your career decision and encouraging you to take action without judgement?
Sometimes well-meaning family and friends are your worst ally. They are desperate to help, throwing in advice without really listening to what you want.
The best supporters don't weigh in with "If I were you ..." They ask great questions, rather than offering their own unsolicited opinions. They make suggestions of people they know you could speak to, help you forge new connections, and see ways to help you learn and move forwards in your mission.
Think sisterhood – connect with like-minded women through online groups, or buddy up with a fellow school mum to encourage each other and keep each other accountable for making progress.
Consider attending a workshop or working with a career coach who can help you with all of these core foundations.
6. Positive mindset
Are you challenging the negative thoughts that hold you back and rock your confidence? How do you respond to the inner voice that tells you that "you can't, it's too hard, you're too old, you're been out of the workplace too long"?
Mums talk to me about feeling “vulnerable” or “diminished” and the word “confidence” is guaranteed to come up with saddening regularity.
You are not alone in this. Developing greater self-belief is, of course, not the work of five minutes. But it absolutely can be done. The simplest way is to start small and understand that action leads to confidence and not the other way around.
Gradually but consistently step further out of your comfort zone. Begin by setting yourself one career-related task a week and do it. Push away the excuses and feel the achievement of baby steps. Email one former colleague, plunge into one online exercise, research one interesting course, arrange a chat with a fellow mum.
Ask yourself regularly, how will I feel if I’m still stuck in a year’s time?
Visit Rachel’s website to sign up for a free worksheet on “How to Identify your Passions” and start getting clear on the career areas that are right for you.
Follow Rachel on Instagram: @reworkyourlife