Make Your Job Work For You

Everyone wants to be challenged and fulfilled in their work. For many moms, flexible hours in addition to that feeling of fulfillment are a must. There are tons of great options that allow for a balanced home and work life. Maybe it’s time to take the plunge!

By KD Reep

When is it time to change jobs?
 

Do you wake up each day and feel like your life is the equivalent of oatmeal—good enough, but gray and nothing special?

Welcome to the middle-age of your work life. In addition to a family, you have to manage a career that may have been fulfilling at one time, but now is the last thing you want to do every day. If you find yourself living for 5 p.m., and dreading Monday morning with the same loathing as your kids, it could be time to switch jobs.

While that all seems fine and good for others, you may be thinking that taking on one more thing is beyond your ability. However, seeking a new career and pursuing something that really energizes you will improve every aspect of your life.

“The United States Department of Labor notes that American mothers make up 40 percent of the sole or primary breadwinners in this country,” said Dr. Brittney Schrick, assistant professor and family life specialist with the UA Cooperative Extension Service. “That’s a more than 30 percent increase since 1960, when only 11 percent of mothers were providing for their families. With this many women in the work- force, it’s vital for the health and well-being of their families, employers, communities and selves that their work is fulfilling.”

Subconsciously, you know when you are ready to move on. However, Forbes magazine reports that these signs are certain indicators a career change is right for you.

First, you are chronically exhausted. This means high stress, low-grade illnesses and no energy.

“We spend a huge amount of our time working, so if we are under lots of stress or we dread our work, it can have an impact on our overall health and wellness,” Dr. Schrick said. “Aches and pains, stomach or other gastrointestinal problems, sickness, headaches or back pain are all common responses to chronic stress.”

Like everything in life, your skills and responsibilities evolve from  when you enter your career. What you never thought you could do when you first began has now become commonplace and boring. If you find you want more of a challenge in your work, moving to a different career will help.

But one of the biggest reasons moms don’t switch positions is money. If you have become accustomed to the amount of salary you earn or the benefits your workplace provides, it can be hard to rationalize why you should leave what you have for what you want.

“Security can be difficult to let go of,” Dr. Schrick said. “As a parent, the last thing you want to do is upset your family’s way of life; however, changing careers can be worth the risk. Stress, anxiety and other negative emotions affect your family no matter how hard you may try to hide them. If you’re concerned about how a potential job shift will affect things like health insurance, do some research on what may be available to you in another line of work. If you are considering starting a small business, contact local organizations to see what resources are available.

When you are happy, your kids will see it and feel it, and the life lesson you and they learn is invaluable.” Which leads to another profound truth: The career you have could be unfulfilling now because you chose it for reasons other than following your heart.

“Maybe you wanted to be a writer, but your parents told you to pursue a more solid career like accounting,” Dr. Schrick said. “Pleasing them, trying to do the ‘right’ thing or soothing a fear of failure will eventually lead to dissatisfaction. If you find yourself yearning for what could have been, know that there is still time to pursue what you love and be able to provide for your family and yourself.”

What’s the first step in changing a career? Do a little research, then take a test or two. “You need to be honest with yourself and determine what you want to do as a career and what you’re willing to do to make it a reality,” Dr. Schrick said. “Look at your expenses and determine what you must have—groceries, mortgage or rent, care—and what you can do with- out—cable television, gym membership, eating out every weekend. A little financial freedom will help you entertain more work opportunities.”

If starting your own business is what you want to do, the UA Cooperative Extension Service has resources available for budding entrepreneurs. For assistance, visit UAEX.edu and select the Business and Community tab. Regardless of how you decide to change careers, know that guidance and support are available each step of the way.

BEFORE YOU TAKE THE PLUNGE

Here are a few popular jobs for second career moms,according to Monster.com. Many have flexible hours,higher pay or necessary benefits—all things that may guide a mom’s decision to make a career leap:

DENTAL HYGIENIST
Median Annual Pay: $67,300
This position is appealing for the high pay as well as the flexible hours. Many dental hygienists work part-time hours, making it possible to pickup after school and make it to practices.

WEB DEVELOPER
Median Annual Pay: $55,400
This career offers the opportunity for independent contracting and creating your own work hours. Control your own workload with how many clients you choose to take on, plus the creative aspects can be very fulfilling!

FITNESS TRAINER
Median Annual Pay: $43,600
If you have a passion for fitness, becoming a trainer is a great way to share your knowledge with the public and get in that extra time at the gym. Trainers usually schedule directly with clients so they can create their own work hours.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER
Median Annual Pay: $40,600
If you already love being around children and can’t see yourself ever tied to a desk job, teaching can offer a fun workplace where there’s never a dull moment. Teachers also get to keep roughly the same hours as their own school-aged kids with summers and holidays off.

ALSO THINK ABOUT...

REALTOR
Median Annual Pay: $49,720
Real estate agents do enjoy flexible hours, but generally have to put in time on nights and weekends. If you have a spouse that works 9-5 weekday hours, then real estate agent may be a good option.

REGISTERED NURSE
Median Annual Pay: $59,889
If you have a natural inclination to help people, nursing may be a good option. Positions are available in hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes or through in-home care. The options and the flexibility are endless. Baptist Health College Little Rock is a great local resource.

INTERIOR DESIGNER
Median Annual Pay: $45,563
With a flair for decorating, an eye for trends and an entrepreneurial spirit, you can launch your own interior design company. Start with friends and family and gain some word-of-mouth. This career allows you to make your own hours and set your own pricing.