After fifteen years in marketing and being the “kind of gal who was married to her job”, Melissa Grant experienced an unprecedented change in mindset while expecting her first child.
As she puts it: “I was completely unfazed that I had driven a major rebranding project at work for a year and someone else was going to deliver it and manage it going forward.”
Meanwhile Natalie Dinsdale did go back to work for six months but resigned because she wanted to start her own business. “I was constantly thinking about how I could do my own thing and kept returning to the same two issues; flexibility and frustration,” she says.
Disdale and Grant are among the growing number of women who decide to take career breaks after having children (beyond their maternity leave) to explore alternative paths.
Kathryn Hocking, entrepreneur coach and founder of Reverie Coaching, says many mums opt to take career breaks due to a number of factors — often relating to a lack of flexibility and support from employers.
“Taking a career break can be an excellent thing if you know you are unhappy in your role but are not sure what do next and don’t want to just ‘jump in’ to something new,” says Hocking. “The time-out can help you to re-evaluate what you really want to do with your life. I would recommend that women think about what their key strengths and passions are and build a new career or business around this.”
Match ideas with strengths
So what should you do if you’ve chosen to take a career break and are considering going out on your own? Hocking recommends finding a business or opportunity that matches your strengths, skills, passions and experience. It’s obvious advice, but given micro businesses account for around 84.2% of all active businesses in Australia and fail at a similar rate according to ABS figures, it’s important to recognise the niche in which you’ll excel. On the upside, Hocking says having your own business that you invest in part-time or in a full-time capacity can have enormous benefits in terms of ongoing learning, enabling a creative outlet and a sense of achievement. Natalie Dinsdale agrees: “Initially, I was worried about putting my career on hold, but I’ve learnt so much while running my own business and developed lots of new skills that I’ve definitely not gone backwards in terms of self-development”.
The ‘perfect’ idea
Often the right business idea will be based on your own experience as both Grant and Dinsdale discovered while pregnant. Grant remembers working long hours while pregnant and struggling to find classes that fit into her work schedule. Her experience led her to launch Nourish Perinatal Wellness which offers busy, pregnant women antenatal videos and podcasts which can be downloaded and watched at their own convenience.
Dinsdale, who prefers online shopping, often found herself going to multiple shops and trying to compare deals for baby products. She remembers thinking how much easier it would be if all these shops joined together to offer a one-stop service for mums. This idea sparked MAMADOO a website that allows mothers to view and buy baby products from multiple sellers in one place.
Five tips for making the most out of a career break
- Plan for this time off financially and consider how an alternate career could support you and your family.
- Use the time for thinking: find inspiration in take a holiday or just being with yourself. If you’re a busy mum, consider doing your thinking when you’re out and about taking the baby for a walk or when your partner is looking after the children.
- Buy a journal and take note of your thoughts, dreams and desires — what do you daydream about doing? Could this translate into a project or new business?
- Determine you key strengths and consider how these could be channelled into a new career or business (Hocking recommends using the Strengths Finder 2.0 book).
- Up-skill in a different area by doing an online course or getting some work experience in a new field without a long-term commitment.