Often after a major life change like a divorce, women will decide to change careers. Maybe you will be going back to work outside the home after being a full-time stay at home mom. Sometimes, the career or job you had as a wife doesn’t work for a single mom. How to decide on a career after divorce is an important process.First Steps to Decide on a Career
People who work jobs that they enjoy and are good at have usually chosen careers that fit their personalities. After all, if your work fits your personality and strengths, it is easier and more enjoyable to do the work. When people work in careers that do not fit their personalities, it takes much more effort and energy to be good at it. In those cases it is like swimming against a powerful current. There are several personality and aptitude tests available, but Richard Bolles’ book, What Color is Your Parachute, is one of the best career exploration books available. He uses a process of self-exploration to help you select a career.
I read Bolles’ book years ago and I often recommend a couple of the exercises he described to help people begin deciding on a career or changing careers. Take out a notebook and list the following:
- Classes you liked in high school and college
- Topics that are exciting for you to learn about
- Books you enjoy
- Types of research you do on the internet
- TV shows you like
What do you enjoy about these topics?
When I was in high school and college, I did not like science or math. One factor in my decision to become a clinical social worker was that to get a BA in social work, I needed several foreign language credits but not many math and science credits. Minimizing math and science ruled out medicine, accounting, banking, and several other careers. Consider your answers to those questions. What did you learn from the above exercise? What are you drawn to and what can you rule out?
Decide on a Career and an Education
Consider the following questions.
- Do you enjoy a traditional educational setting, like college?
- Do you have a degree in a field you are still interested in pursuing?
- If you do not have one, how do you feel about getting a college degree? What about earning a different college degree, a masters, or a Ph.D.?
- Are you more of a hands-on learner and a technical school would be appropriate for your learning style?
Now you have an idea of what kind of an education you are willing to invest in.
Recall Job Experience to Decide on a Career
Make a list of all the jobs you have had. Include the part-time jobs you had when you were a kid and the jobs related to being a mother and a wife. What did you like about each job? What did you not like about each job?
Which would you prefer to work with: people, things, or ideas? Some jobs that work with people are teaching, sales, and most jobs in the medical field. Some jobs that work mostly with things are truck driving, plumbing, electrician, and HVAC repair. Writing is a job that works with ideas.
Consider Geography to Decide on a Career After Divorce
Next consider geography. Where do you want to live? What part of the country do you want to live in? Do you want to stay in the town you live in now? Where does your family live, and is that a concern when deciding where you will live? If you are open to moving, do you want to live in a city, a small town, or something in between? Some jobs are only available in a larger city. In some careers, there are possibilities for working remotely once you have experience in your field.
For a single parent, the other parent’s location is an important consideration. Some divorce agreements specify that the children will remain in the school district. Does your agreement limit where the children will live? If it does, that will decrease your options.
Friends and Family Can Help You Decide on a Career
List the jobs and careers that your friends and family have. What sounds interesting? Are there careers you know would be a poor fit for you? What do you think you would like about the careers your friends and family chose? Remember, people who enjoy what they do and are good at what they do work jobs that fit their personalities and interests. If your job does not fit your personality, it is much harder work than something that uses your strengths.
Once you have gathered this information, you will probably have a list of a few jobs that seem interesting. If you want to do a more formal assessment, I recommend the eParachute Assessment developed by Bolles.
Research to Decide on a Career
When you have some ideas about jobs that interest you, learn some basic information about the job. You will want to know what the duties are, how much education you need, and get an idea of what you can earn. Explore what kind of growth is expected in the field. For example, if your dream is to be a buggy whip maker, it is unlikely this would work out for you because we need very few buggy whips. On the other hand, we expect the number of retired folks to continue to grow, so we can also expect growth for most jobs working with the geriatric population. This basic information can help you narrow your ideas even more.
Interview to Decide on a Career
Once you have a handful of career ideas, set up informational interviews with people who are actually doing the work. Do you know someone who does this work? Ask around. Do you know someone who knows someone who does this work? Reach out through social media and let your friends know you want to talk to someone in your target career. It may seem scary to ask someone if you can interview them, but most people are glad to give you 15-30 minutes to talk about what they do. This will give you valuable information and you will start building a network to help you get a job later.
The more personal the contact, the more beneficial the information. In-person interviews are the best. If you have a half-hour chat with someone, it is much more likely they will remember you than if you email them a list of questions. An in-between option is a phone call.
Think about what you want to know that will help you decide whether or not this is the career for you. These questions will get you started:
- What do you like best about what you do?
- What do you like least about what you do?
- Do you have advice for someone going into this field?
What Color is Your Parachute contains more suggested questions and information on how to do an informational interview.
Be considerate and send a handwritten follow-up note to thank the interviewee for their time. This simple courtesy will set you apart and make you more memorable. Ideally, you will do at least two or three interviews with people in the career you are considering.
Choosing Your Path
Once you have this information, ask yourself if you are willing and able to do what needs to be done to succeed in your chosen career. For example, if you want to own a business, are you self-directed and willing to work long hours to get the business started? Are you emotionally able to deal with a variable income? If you want to be a physician, are you willing to invest years of your life in training for a career living on a student’s budget? Do you have the intellect to make it through medical school?
I believe everyone can have a job that she enjoys. Choosing a career, whether it is your first career or you are changing careers, is difficult. However, it is also exciting. Begin this exciting journey by asking questions–of yourself and others–today.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” -Frederick Buechner
My Career Transition Board on Pinterest has ideas on how to transition to a different career or start a side hustle to make money. My Career Pinterest Board has more ideas for careers. Dick Bolles’ website thejobhuntersbible.com is a good supplement to his books.
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