8 Suggestions on What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (Career-Wise)

Imagine this: You’ve been a stay-at-home mom for years, with memories of the workplace being distant ones at best. In lieu of making your mark in the professional world, you’ve been running the show within the confines of your place of residence. Supporting your husband as he focuses on his lucrative career. Ensuring that your children’s basic needs are met. Paying all the bills. Keeping the house tidy (or at least preventing it from becoming a health hazard). Assisting with homework.

Planning and coordinating meals, doctor and dentist appointments, school obligations, holidays and other special occasions, family activities, play dates, birthday parties, and the children’s extracurricular activities. Not to mention the endless job of being the primary caregiver – tending to boo-boos, coaching your children in developing acceptable social manners, and implementing appropriate consequences for poor behavior. In your own personal enterprise, you’ve been the CEO, nurse, psychologist, teacher, chauffeur, accountant, housekeeper, chef, and event coordinator. Essentially, this has been your job for 18 hours a day/7 days a week/year-round, UNTIL…

…you find yourself divorced and needing to work outside the home, or

…your husband loses his job, and the family needs the extra income to survive, or

….somehow it’s necessary for you to return to the workplace.

But how? Now what?

Up until this point, you’ve worn so many proverbial hats, clocking in hours that make a corporate workaholic look as productive as a dog on a summer afternoon in Texas. But, unfortunately, not one hour is transferable in the professional world.

That college diploma is hanging out with the resume you’ve written in your B.C. (Before Children) years, collecting dust somewhere in the back of your closet.

You yearn for a meaningful career – not just a job that pays the bills. Yet, you’re not sure if you even want to return to the exact same occupation/industry path you once traveled. Volunteering to gain work experience sounds wonderful and noble, but you need to earn an income NOW.

Bad news: to drag out the old, tired cliché, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Good news: there are more resources in your own backyard and/or at your fingertips – than you may realize. And, you may not necessarily need to start from ground zero.

If you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree, you’re already further ahead than you may know. The difference between a degree holder’s earnings and those of a high school-only worker are sizeable over a lifetime. According to the U.S. Government Info Web site, “… a high school graduate can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor’s degree $2.1 million; and people with a master’s degree $2.5 million.” (Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnebersole/2012/08/08/why-a-college-degree/)

You may be thinking, OK, that’s great, but my head hurts from thinking about where to begin and I still have no clue where to begin!

Just like starting an exercise program – or any other major project, getting started is key. And, you need to start somewhere. Below are 8 suggestions:

1. Be Kind to Yourself. I’ve had to tell a few people who are (or were) in this journey – myself included. Entire books have been written on this very subject.

book_cover_what_should_i_do_frankel What Should I Do With My Life book

And, Economist Neil Howe estimates that only 5 percent of people find a good career match on the first try (Source: brazencareerist.com).

Bad news: You won’t find a clear, definitive guidance in any one single source. You’ll need to make a commitment to chip away at the layers of uncertainty to find your ideal career path. However, if you do find one single resource that provides you with that revelation, please share with the rest of us!

Good news: You’re not alone! And, in research conducted nationwide in 2005 among 2,443 college-educated women of all ages, the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWP) found that 74 percent of women who want to go back to work do manage it (Source: http://www.more.com/reinvention-money/careers/back-business-stay-home-moms-return-workforce).

2. Take a Test. You may have heard of the book, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles that’s been in print since 1970. Today, there’s no shortage of quizzes, tests, and other tools that provide insight into a career path that’s right for you. Here’s a website with a list of tests to consider: http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/for-career-changers/view/figuring-out-a-career-through-taking-tests

3. Do Your Research. Surf through popular job boards, such as monster.com, www.careerbuilder.com and www.linkedin.com. Print out some job postings with your desired job title and/or industr(ies). DO NOT worry at this point whether or not you may be qualified at this time. First, determine whether or not the scope of work sounds like something you truly would be happy doing (at least most of the time) for 40 hours a week. Next, highlight those requirements for which you lack experience.

4. Invest in Continuing Education. Does the job require some working knowledge of a particular software program or an industry best practice? Consider taking a course at your local community college. Or, “navigate the world of online education through 75,000 student reviews” at coursetalk.com to determine which course(s) would be best for you. Sure, it’s money out of your pocket now. But, you’ll more than likely earn that payment back in due time.

5. Talk It Out. Ask those who know you best – on both a professional and personal level – what they believe are your greatest strengths. If time and budget permits, seek some guidance and advice from a certified career coach. Check out the National Career Development Association or other organizations that certify career professionals to locate a qualified career coach. And, on the subject of talking it out…

6. Network. Chances are, you’ll get your big break through someone that you know. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. I’ll discuss this in more detail in my next post, so stay tuned…

7. Lower Your Expectations in Terms of Income – at least for the short term. Although there’s no question you’ve sacrificed A LOT for your family, the harsh reality is – that doesn’t translate into dollars and cents needed to pay the bills. And finally…

8. Ask Yourself, “What Motivates You?” Of course, we all need to make money. However, this shouldn’t be your sole driving force. Based on research involving 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients, the results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. The reported correlation (r = .14) indicates that there is less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels. Furthermore, the correlation between pay and pay satisfaction was only marginally higher (r = .22 or 4.8% overlap), indicating that people’s satisfaction with their salary is mostly independent of their actual salary (Source: https://hbr.org/2013/04/does-money-really-affect-motiv).

Bottom line: if you’re spending at least half – or more – of your waking hours earning a paycheck, you may as well be engaged in enjoyable work. Or at least at a job that doesn’t give you that gloom-and-doom feeling every time you hear your alarm clock buzz. Trust me.


For those of you who are (or were) in complete career overhaul, what resource(s) did you find the most helpful?

what-to-do-_307_1024x768 Forever39


3 thoughts on “8 Suggestions on What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (Career-Wise)

  1. lantanarunner

    I’m loving this blog you created. I’m so nervous about my future return to work. I still have a couple more years of SAHM duty to go, but I want to be ready to go when it’s time. I feel like all of your articles were written for exactly what I’m feeling about going back to work.
    I’m proud of you for what you’re doing. Keep up the awesome work!


    1. I’m so happy to hear that you’re finding these blogs helpful! My intentions for this blog are: a.) to share with other people who have been in a career hiatus (particularly SAHMs) what I’ve learned in my own journey, and b.) bring to light the challenges that bright, educated women who had chosen to stay at home (full-time or part-time) face when re-entering the workforce. That said, my hope is that SAHMs re-entering the working world can find some useful information and empathetic musings here. And, at the same time, corporate America (and our society in general) will realize that those who have chosen to work inside the home for a period of time can still provide tremendous value to an organization outside the home as well.

      Thanks again for the kudos, and best of luck to you as well!



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