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Career change

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Want to find a new career or a flexible job to suit you and your family? Career coach Jessica Chivers gives her advice on making it happen and how to plan for that financial breathing space:

Save for your new career

Whether you're staring down the barrel of a maternity leave comeback, or finding your job doesn't let you spend enough time with your kids, wanting flexible hours without having to turn floor-sweeper in the local hairdressers isn't an impossible ask. Top UK career coach Jessica Chivers, author of new guide Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House, £10.99), reveals the practical and financial steps to help you on your way.

Step 1: Don't dismiss your current job
Even if the hours don't suit or the job's no longer appealing, it's best not to hand your notice in straightaway. "Getting back into a familiar workplace after maternity leave can boost your confidence, reconnect you with potential contacts and safeguard your cash if a financial penalty was part of your maternity deal," says Jessica Chivers. "Crucially, it also allows you to start saving while you plan your next move."

Step 2: Ask for flexible working

If you're responsible for a child aged under 17, or a disabled child aged under 18, you have the right to ask for flexible working, in writing, and for it to be considered by your employer. The process can take up to 14 weeks. Find out more and get info on how to make an application from Directgov

"The best way to ask for flexible working is in a way that solves problems for others," says Jessica. "For example, is there a more junior member of the team who could progress by taking on some of your previous responsibilities? Are there areas of work you enjoy that others find stressful that you'd be happy to take on in a reshuffle of tasks? But remember - if you reduce your hours, you'll reduce your pay packet, so consider that carefully as part of your proposal."

Step 3: Understand what you want, and what's available

"Open your mind - look at employment websites, trade publications and newspapers, and highlight anything that excites you," advises Jessica. "Who do you know who's already doing what you want? Network with old friends, friends you met through ante-natal classes, even approach potential mentors and ask them what skills they needed for their job and what financial commitments they made to see if what you're imagining really could be right for you."

If you're not sure where to start, check out the flexible jobs on offer at Women Like Us, or Working Mums. You can also plan for setting up your own business with ideas, advice and support from Mum's the Boss or Mumpreneur UK.

Step 4: Be realistic about your finances

"Start saving as soon as you have any thoughts about wanting to change your work situation," recommends Jessica. "A nest egg gives you options, so be prepared to re-prioritise your spending and save as much as you can. While doing this, you can:

  • Look at re-training or gaining new skills at an evening class or weekend-based course, so you can still carry on working (and saving) while you forge your new career path. Prices vary massively, depending on what you want to do and where you live, but for a general guide look to Hotcourses for some options.
  • Consider volunteering opportunities via friends and contacts. You may be able to pick up the experience you need, without having to pay for it.
  • If you want to go on a full-time course, talk to your bank about re-jigging your finances. They may be able to help you work out a mortgage holiday or reduction on monthly payments while you re-train, or suggest ways you can put together a proposal for starting your own business.


How one mum made the change

"I swapped my desk job for the swimming pool." Tamsin Brewis

"I spent every day in a swimming pool with little ones aged from a few weeks to four years. It's a far cry from what I used to do sitting behind a desk doing a marketing job! After my children were born I worked part-time, but when the company I worked for asked me to move areas, I took voluntary redundancy and found a bursar's assistant job at the local school, which left me unfulfilled.

"I've always loved swimming and have taken my son Thomas and daughter Sydonie for classes since they were born. Inspired by the teachers at the swim school, I decided to get an ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) qualification and trained at the local pool while still working. Then one day as I was helping a three-year-old boy out of the water, I thought, 'Why am I still doing a job I don't like when I could be helping kids like this one learn to swim?' So, over the course of a year, I became a franchisee of a company called Water Babies, sorted out local pool hire and got all the relevant swimming qualifications.

"It cost my husband Michael and I £15,000 - savings we'd accumulated over a period of three years by putting whatever we had left after the monthly outgoings into a high interest account. Classes launched in January 2005 and now I work between one and four hours every day. One of my clients fell into a shallow pond recently and thanks to our teaching, he managed to right himself, avoiding a potential disaster. I look back on what I've achieved and feel really proud."

Find out more about Jessica's recommendations on flexible working and get ideas from Barclays on how to save for your new career.

Head to
Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more:

  • Expert information on starting your own business
  • Family budgeting and saving tips
  • Money-saving videos and inspiring start-up videos

© Directgov 2011. Sourced June 2011. 
© Women Like Us 2011. Sourced June 2011.
© Working Mums 2011. Sourced June 2011. 
© Mum's the Boss 2011. Sourced June 2011. 
© Mumpreneur UK 2011. Sourced June 2011. 
© Hotcourses 2011. Sourced June 2011.
© Jessica Chivers 2011. Sourced June 2011.

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Last updated: over 3 years ago