How I switched careers as a new, first-time mum – and the five tips that helped me

The last thing on most new parents’ minds would be deciding to switch careers, but if it’s the right choice for you and your family, it could be the perfect time to make the move. 

I was 18 when I gave birth to my son Hayden, and prior to that had dropped out of college and was working full time at McDonald’s. After giving birth, I knew that I wanted to switch careers to better support my son and follow a path that I was always interested in; accounting.

I got started on climbing a new career ladder as soon as I could. Now my son is five years old and I’ve secured a position that I love as a Financial Accountant at Watches2U. 

If you’re a new mum and are thinking of switching careers, my view is that there is no time like the present. The sooner you start the process the closer you get to your dream role, and realistically parenthood is going to be chaotic for many years after giving birth.

It can be difficult to juggle looking after your little one with taking the necessary steps to make yourself the perfect candidate for the role you seek, but with great organisation and support from loved ones, it is definitely achievable. Here are the five tips that helped me to make the move. 

1) Make a career plan 

The first step to switching careers whilst managing family life is to make a plan. Figure out the necessary steps required to break into the industry that you’re interested in, and work out a realistic timescale that accounts for your family’s needs too.

Discuss this with your partner or any loved ones who will be happy to help with childcare, and work out a route that won’t overextend yourself.

2) Upskill 

In most cases, your plan to switch careers will involve a significant amount of time spent upskilling, to ensure that you have the right experience and qualifications for your sought-after role.

Research to see if there are any courses, in local colleges or online, that would help with the role you seek and seem manageable with your family commitments. In my case, I began studying The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) online, meaning that I could manage my own time and study when the baby was sleeping. 

3) Transform your CV

It’s also key that you make your CV shine. If you have put the hard work into gaining qualifications and work experience, you don’t want to fall at the final hurdle and sell yourself short to an employer. 

Utilise your personal connections, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from friends and family – particularly if anyone is involved in hiring, or there is anyone with connections to the type of role that you’re looking for.

If there is an employment gap in your CV due to motherhood, it’s best to be honest and it’s completely acceptable to note that the gap was due to becoming a mother. 

4) Get interview ready 

Having taken time off for maternity leave and then focusing on upskilling, getting ready for an interview can be daunting. Be as confident as you can in the interview, and take your time despite how uncomfortable you may feel.

It’s also good to be honest with your employer if they have any questions about your family situation and your childcare needs to make sure that they can account for your circumstances. 

5) Remember why you’re doing this

Making a significant career change as a new mum is definitely not easy, particularly when children will always be our priority. There were times when I was tempted to settle for an easier and quicker job option, but I’m incredibly grateful that I didn’t.

I landed an apprenticeship role, followed by a job as an Accounts Assistant and now have worked my way up the company to become a Financial Accountant. 

When things get tough it’s important to remember why you’re doing this. Not only will doing a job that you love make you a happier mum, but as they grow up it will inspire your child to follow their passions too and work hard for what they want.

Need help working out where to go in your career after having a baby? Take our Career Audit.

Summer-Leigh, age 23, is a Financial Accountant at Watches2U and mother to five-year-old Hayden.

Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle