Changing Careers after Divorce
By Paula Gardner
Along with death and the empty nest, divorce is one of the big life moments that often instigates a change of career. However, it’s not the same story for every woman. For some it may be because there is a new financial reality and they have to up the ante to pay the bills. Others may decide that they want to spend more time with their children to help through this transition. And there are those that are using this time to review everything in their life, and realign their goal and actions with what really matters to them.
However, career change is often not a straight forward process. Here, I’ll share some of the “rules” of career change that I’ve found most helpful, particularly at this stage in life.
- Accept it’s not an instant process
Career change itself can take up to three years: including time for introspection. Accept that you are not going to do this overnight and you give yourself the luxury of time to really consider. This is especially important after divorce when it’s easy to have knee jerk action to change everything in your life that reminds you of the past.
Giving yourself a three or even five year timeline will provide a structure and realistic expectations. What you don’t want to do at this point is put yourself under pressure.
- Consider a transition job
If you really hate what you are doing, it may be worth considering a transition job. Ideally, this is something that requires no or little training but allows you the time and head space to devote to your big picture. It may look like a step back or sideways at the moment, but sometimes this can be strategic decision.
A transition job can help in many ways. If you’re feeling isolated, looking for something with lots of human interaction (bar job or receptionist for example) will help with that. If you need a certain type of experience on your CV, this can be a way to gain that…or even just some referees if you’ve been out of work for a while.
- Get some help
There are plenty of books on career change out there (What Colour is Your Parachute is one of my favourites), and, of course, career coaches like me. I believe there are two approaches to career coaching. The first is looking at the purely practical side. So, ask yourself questions like how much money you will (realistically) need? Do you want to commute? Are you qualified for this job and if not, can you afford to get retrained?
I also like to deep dive, looking at your values and purpose…what you really need to do to feel fulfilled. This isn’t a half hour thing. You need to regularly make space to think. That could be asking a trusted friend or coach to listen to you talk it through for half an hour a week, or just pouring your thoughts regularly in a journal. The important thing is that you need to do both the practical and the deep dive work to really find the career that right not just for you, but your life as it is.
- Consider Going back to School
Perhaps you don’t want to commit yourself at this point? Going to University, college or even evening classes at this stage could open up a whole new vista, as well as introducing you to a vibrant social life. I went back to University to do an MSc after my divorce, specialising in business psychology. I loved it. I had worried about being the oldest one there, but that was far from true. There were even retired people in the department. Being back in a learning environment was life affirming in so many ways, and it boosted my confidence immensely. The trick to this was choosing something that I knew would be a stretch. With a first degree in English Literature I knew that choosing to do a science was going to be challenging, and I can’t say that statistics has been easy. However, it has felt as though I’ve switched my brain back on and come alive again, after years of relying on the same old thinking.
- Loving the Process
If you spend your life focused on this mythical career, you’re missing out on the right now. Try, as much as you can, to find things you like in the place where you are at, right now. If you’re taking a course, really get to grips with that and develop a love for the subject, rather than think of it just as a means to an end. This is what divorce is all about: waking up and enjoying our lives, and we have to live that every day.