Soft toy on keyboard

This week one of my clients asked me the following question: ‘As I’m now a mother should I be looking for my ideal job or just be grateful that I have a job?’ I have heard this sentiment from many parents and imagine that you may also be wondering the same thing. It would be tempting to give you a quick one sentence answer but the question is a very good one and deserves a more in-depth response.   


One word from the questions my client asked really intrigues me. That word is grateful.

 Positive Psychology teaches us that feeling gratitude will improve our outlook, relationships and job satisfaction. It would therefore benefit all of us to feel gratitude for our daily lives, including our careers.

Let me set you a challenge – can you turn away from this article for a moment, and make a list of 10 reasons you feel grateful for your current employment.

Now that you have 10 reasons for gratitude we can analyse your answers.

1.    Did you feel genuine about the gratitude you felt for your employment or did it feel forced?
Here’s an example of forced gratitude: you might have written that you were grateful to have a job that used your expertise whereas you know that in an ideal world your job could align better with your strengths, skills and knowledge.

2.    Did your answers concentrate on the positives rather than the negatives?
Here are some statements that concentrate on the negatives: ‘I’m grateful I have a job, after the financial crises I wasn’t able to find one’, ‘Many people can’t get employment, I’m grateful I have a job’, ‘had I been born in a century ago I wouldn’t have had this career opportunity’.  Comparing yourself to worse situations is concentrating on negatives.

3.    Did your answers shut out the real problems?
For example, you may have written that you are grateful to have a wonderful team when you know full-well that one member of that team makes you feel miserable.  Let’s look at the reality.

4.    Did your answer focus on more than the absolute basics?
You may have identified that you were happy to have a job, money, ideal location or good work hours. Although these basic requirements provide security, and are so very important, they do not allow your heart to sing every time you enter the workplace!

5.    Did you find the exercise annoying?
Feeling annoyed suggests that you are not overflowing with gratitude for your job.

Once you cross off any answers that are forced, concentrate on negatives, shut out real problems, and focus on the absolute basics do you still have answers representing genuine gratitude for your job? If so, you do feel genuine gratitude for your current role, which is beneficial for you.  

The words my client chose indicate that her heart is not singing with gratitude for her current job.  Can you hear the lack of enthusiasm in these words? ‘As I’m now a mother should I be looking for my ideal job or just be grateful that I have a job?’

What is an ideal job?

So what does my client mean by an ideal job?  Having spoken to her about this, I know it is more than a job which satisfies her basic requirements of pay and flexible working hours. ‘Ideal job’ means different things to different people. However, these are some words which are often associated with an ideal job:

•    Meaningful
•    Provides opportunities for progression
•    Allows me to contribute
•    Provides a positive work environment
•    Uses my strengths
•    Empowers me
•    Provides variety

You know whether you are in an ideal job when you feel positive about entering the workplace, you feel a sense of fulfilment and that your contribution matters.

Can a meaningful family life replace a meaningful job?

Being a working parent you have a busy family life that is also takes your attention and energy. This too should bring meaning, purpose and happiness.

But is the enjoyment of family life enough in itself?

Here are three questions that you can ask yourself if you, like my client, find yourself questioning whether your work-life should be meaningful:
•    Would I be happier to leave your children in childcare if I knew I was doing a job I loved?
•    Would I be a happier mother if I had a meaningful work-life?
•    Would I feel like a better role-model in a job that was fulfilling?

Only you can answer these questions.

Is it possible for a parent to change career?

Yes, a career change is possible at any time in your life. As a career coach, I have seen many mothers and fathers reinvent themselves after having a family. It often means exploring new opportunities, rethinking what’s important to you, thinking about your strengths and maybe learning new skills.  

If you are feeling reluctant to make a change because (like many parents) you don’t want to work full time it may be reassuring to know that the 2016 census shows that 33.5% of South Australians work part time; 23.2% work less than 24 hours in a week. At time of writing (November 2017) 36% of South Australian vacancies on Seek are part time, contract, temp or casual. There are many more part time vacancies that haven’t even made it to Seek.

Ultimately, it is up to you as the individual to ensure that you have enough meaning and happiness in your life. Some parents may be satisfied to gain meaning through family experiences, others may need to achieve meaning through their work environment whether this is at the same level or a lower level position.

I will leave you with a question: If you could have a job with the ideal number of hours, in the right location that provides you with happiness and meaning would you take it?

Drop me an email if you want to talk about your opportunities: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Just think of it: skiing in New Zealand, working on a cruise ship, improving bird habitats in Queensland wetlands, au pair work in China, water sports instructor in the US, medicine and healthcare projects in India, or learning French in France. There are so many opportunities to do something out of the ordinary at a time in your life when you don’t have the responsibilities you could opt for later.

In a way these activities aren’t timeout but a way to enhance your career life whilst having a whole lot of fun. By involving yourself in eye-opening activities you are learning more about yourself and developing those much-sort-after transferable skills. To give you an example, teaching skiing is developing your leadership, time management, instruction, persuasion, resilience, planning and communication skills. Employers highly prize these transferable skills in applicants. Not only that but it gives you something exciting to write on your application which will make your résumé standout from the others in the recruiter’s pile.

The opportunities are certainly apparent but what about any hazards? You do need to be careful about the amount of time you spend away from your profession. There are a few reasons for this. If you are hoping to get a place on a graduate recruitment program you will need to apply at the right time of year – this is usually between February and April for a start January/February the following year. Some graduate recruiters expect applicants to apply within two years of graduation. This is something to keep in mind as it can put a time limit on your adventures.

Most degrees don’t really have a shelf life as their main purpose is to teach underlying principles and learning. However, there are professions that require you to start before a certain date. An example of this is law; ‘Qualifications may be considered ‘stale’ by the Board of Examiners after 5 years and you may be required to undertake further study as a result’ (Law Society of South Australia, Guide to Admissions). Also a break for too long could give the impression that you are not interested in pursuing a profession; this depends on the profession and how you intend to spend your time. For these reasons it would be beneficial to check with your potential employers or professional association whether you are required to start within a particular time limit.

The other hazard is deciding to take time out and then finding that time has passed and you still haven’t achieved anything. The danger of this is that you have a gap on your résumé and when asked by an employer what you did with your time you know that there is nothing you can say that would impress. By the end of your timeout you will need to have either; travelled, completed voluntary work, worked, studied, pursued an interest or achieved something. You will also need to judge the length of time that you spend. For example, travelling overseas for one week and spending the rest of the year on the couch would not show that you are a proactive person.

In summary, check with your potential profession how long you can leave it before joining the profession, ensure that you achieve something in the time you have put aside, and think through how you can explain the advantages of your timeout to potential employers on applications and at interview.

Business person with building blocks


It is becoming more common to have a complete change of career; people leaving education now will have 17 jobs over 5 careers in a lifetime (Australian Government: Labour Market Research and Analysis).

There are different motivations for career change; sometimes change is inevitable due to company redundancies, or perhaps the industry is employing fewer people with a specific skill-set, while other people find themselves in jobs that do not satisfy their current needs.

Whatever your reason for the change you are about to enter a new stage of your life. Yes, it might be daunting but it is also exciting; a new you, a new environment, new challenges, new colleagues and clients. 

Deciding on your next career step

By listing five steps to building your career I am not suggesting that career decision making is a quick, linear process. In fact a time of uncertainty  is actually positive and can provide the momentum for your growth. So when you go through the decision making process be open to all sorts of future possibilities.

1.    Reflect on your current and past roles

This is the time to be reflective; think through your current and previous roles and considered which aspects you enjoyed and which you didn't. Also think about the life you hope(d) for - what does this vision look or feel like?

  • Do you, or did you, feel fulfilled in your work?
  • Do you feel that you can truly be yourself in your work? 
  • Have you been using your strengths?
  • When do/did you feel energised or excited?
  • What skills do you enjoy using?

By answering these questions you are gaining clues to what you could/should be doing in your future work-life or study-life.

2.    Consider your responsibilities and financial needs

Your responsibilities and financial needs will impact; (a) whether you can take a vacation from work in order to make a decision, (b) whether you can do voluntary work and (c) how much money/time you can spend training/studying.

To achieve this you may need to complete a budget, have discussions with your family members and consider your realistic and ideal financial goals.

3.    Consider and research the possibilities

Try not to limit yourself at the early stages of the decision making process, there are many options that may be worth exploring. It is beneficial to speak to people who work in the roles or industries that interest you. You can also attend conferences and events where you are likely to meet the right people.

4. Analyse your own potential attractiveness to employers/clients

Consider whether you are currently attractive to employers/clients or whether you need more education, skills or experience in order to get into the ideal position. The easiest way to do this is to look at job advertisement for similar roles and check out the entry requirements. The advertisement will show you the expectations of the employer, however you won't know whether successful candidates have skills that far exceed these expectations. For that reason it is ideal to speak to people in the industry and get some inside knowledge about who is employed and what makes someone stand out from the crowd.

5. Get into action

Once you have decided on your next step it is time to start making plans, writing applications, filling any skills gaps and improving your marketing material (whether that's a business plan, a résumé, and/or a LinkedIn profile). Some people feel that can make progress once they have drawn up an action plan. You should feel inspired to do this; if you don't feel inspired then there is something holding you back. Consider whether you really believe that something positive and meaningful will occur when you take the next step.

I hope you enjoy the new opportunities that are about to present themselves to you.

Still confused?

Career decision making is a complex, personal and sometimes emotional process. It can take a lot of time and reflection to ensure that you are making decisions which feel right. If you are still feeling lost or confused about your options, and decisions, I would be happy to discuss ideas and help you put some building blocks in place. Send me an email or give me a call...

Graduate deciding what to do next

You have a degree! Now that’s something to feel proud of – afterall you have been working towards this moment for years. Together with this accomplishment you now have a change of lifestyle - the late night study, the deadlines and the need to consume knowledge from books and lecturers has come to an abrupt end. This is being replaced with the next era of your life. Many people have feelings of excitement and/or dread as you continue on your career journey. And yet, there are so many possibilities opening up (whether you can see them yet or not), so what are the next steps?

1.    Recharge

Before you jump into anything let’s just consider where you are at right now. Are you feeling energised or flat? Many people need a little time to re-energise after putting everything into their studies. Perhaps having a break, hanging out with your friends, going for walks on the beach, getting back into exercise or catching up on films is exactly what you need before you make some decisions. And in case indulging in relaxation turns into a cunning procrastination strategy which has been endorsed by a career coach it might be a good idea to put a time limit on it!

Before you put your feet up and browse youtube I would encourage you to keep reading this article! 

2.    Capture the best and worst of your uni experience

Whilst you are recharging your batteries think about what aspects of your degree you want to take forward into your next career phase. Ask yourself the following questions to clarify your thinking: 

•    What knowledge from your degree would you love to use in your career?
•    Did any of the relationships with your lecturer/tutors reveal how you would like to interact with future managers/employers?
•    What was it about your favourite assignment/project that you enjoyed?
•    If you had to read another book relating to your degree what would it be?
•    Were there any times at university when you were thoroughly engaged in what you were learning?
•    Think through any times in your degree you felt particularly creative? (maybe you were creative in your problem solving or perhaps you used artistic or language creativity)
•    Can you see how your degree could make a difference? And is this a difference you would like to make?
•    Did you have any responsibilities at university which you enjoyed?
•    What was exciting about your social life?
3.    Think positively about your future

The reality is that you don’t know what your future will hold (and nor do your friends who already have their graduate jobs lined up); your life is a journey that you can guide, but there will be unexpected opportunities along the way.

Many people tell me that they don’t want to be stuck in a job for the rest of their lives. What they are resisting is a feeling of lack of control and tedium. However, you do have control and if you ever feel that your day to day experience isn’t fulfilling it’s time to make a change. Many people reinvent their careers over and over again. Therefore, the question you need to be asking yourself is about the next step not about deciding on a fictional ‘forever job’.

4.    Establish yourself on LinkedIn

Now is the time to connect to your classmates and lecturers on Linkedin. The chances are that you will be working with some of these people in future, either at the same organisations, bumping into them at conferences or working on projects across organisations. In 5 years time your university colleagues will be more difficult to track down and you will have to think harder to remember names and surnames, and afterall they may not recognise/remember you. That makes NOW the ideal time to link. 

The LinkedIn headline you use can be career specific (if you know what you want to do), for example website designer or bookkeeper. However, if you are unsure of your future you can keep your student status just for now; therefore it would be acceptable to write Business student, or IT student, but only while you link to your contacts from your degree. The reasons you will have to change this before you start looking for jobs is because employers won’t take you as seriously if you still have the title ‘student’, it will give the impression that you are not yet ready for the world of work, and you won’t attract potential employers who are searching the website for possible employees.

5.    Generate career ideas

Make a list of careers or tasks in a career (such as training or organising an event) that seem interesting to you. You can use your answers from the list of questions in section 2 above as a starting point. You may also know people who have jobs that intrigue you. Be led by your curiosity about careers.  

If your head is still in a learning space you might wish to use this to generate new career ideas. Make a second list of subjects you would love to learn; this may be in an academic setting, in the workplace, or practical learning. You may find it obviously relates to your career or perhaps it is an unrelated passion. Don't limit yourself to ideas that you consider to be career-specific; here are some examples Thai cooking, language learning, meditation, developing negotiation skills, knitting, website design, leadership skills.   
6.    Create opportunities

Consider ways you can speak to people who work in the areas that are of interest to you. Maybe you want to attend networking events, conferences, travel, or volunteer. By attending some of these events you may meet people who lead you towards your next opportunity.
Creating opportunities can happen even if you decide to do something completely different for a year or two.

And if you are still feeling at a loss make some time to talk to me for a Coaching session.