From education to employment

Career Tips for Women from Jane Knight on International Women’s Day

Jane Knight

Jane Knight is a leader in the education and employment sector with expertise in women returners, having supported thousands of mums back to work since 2014. In National Careers Week (4-9 March 2024), Jane has wisdom and guidance for jobseekers looking for their next role.

Key Considerations When Exploring Career Options

First off, the best piece of advice I can give to job seekers who are exploring career options is to take time to reflect on their past roles. Ask yourself – what things lit up my work days? Make a note of all of the aspects that you enjoyed and challenged you positively. Equally, consider the things that you didn’t like – what made your Friday afternoons feel like the uphill slog of a Monday morning? Noting down your professional highs and lows will help to guide you as you navigate your way through the job market.

Now, let’s talk about values. Your work should align with your core beliefs. For example, if integrity, continuous improvement and work-life balance are important to you, then finding an employer who shares the same values and offers transparency, training and flexibility is key. When values are out of alignment, people work with different intentions and with different outcomes. This can damage work relationships, productivity, job satisfaction and creative potential.

Your values may also help shape a complete career change. It may be that you value caring for the planet and therefore a career in sustainability is the way forward for you. The sustainability sector is poised for strong growth over the next decade – who knows you could find yourself engineering the next big electric car!

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Over the past 10 years, I have supported many women who have fallen foul of the common pitfalls that I am about to outline here. One which I see happening all the time is the pull of returning to the same role or organisation before taking a career break. This is often out of fear of the unknown or trying something new. If your former role wasn’t something you enjoyed consider using your career break as a springboard into something you are passionate about. Your transferable skills are strengths so apply for positions outside of your comfort zone.

So, you’re thinking of applying for a job and those around you are dishing out advice left, right and centre, coupled with anecdotes of their own work experiences. While other career advice can be gold, it may be worth taking a step back. Let’s be honest, times have changed. What worked for individuals decades ago, might not be right for you today. Industries evolve, job markets shift and the skills in demand may change due to technological advances. Don’t be swayed by advice based on their career ambitions or the temptation to play things safe.

Following someone else’s path might lead you to a destination that doesn’t quite fit. Some might push for stability, but from my experience, happiness should be the ultimate factor to consider.

Although it is sometimes necessary, where possible, I would also urge caution when applying for a role purely based on salary. In a world where costs are creeping up and we’re all feeling the pinch, it’s hard not to be tempted by the relatively short-term lure of more money. Think long and hard about whether this role can offer you the progression opportunities, sense of purpose, flexibility and overall workplace well-being you want and deserve. If you find yourself accepting a role solely based on the financials, I’d always advise you to have a long-term plan to move into a job that you will (hopefully) love and will give you more career satisfaction when circumstances allow.

Lastly, don’t be hasty to leave a role because you think there are no opportunities or flexibility. Your boss is not a mind reader – if you want to make a change, be brave and make your desires known!

Skills Assessment Tips

Next up, skills! What are you bringing to the table and what do you want to sharpen? Sometimes it can be hard to personally identify what we’re good at. And to write a strong job application or compile a glowing CV you will need to sell yourself – Don’t forget to include any life and or parenting skills you have. This is where skills assessment and career questionnaires can help. There are plenty available for free on the internet which will give a deep dive into your professional toolkit to help you identify your strengths and areas for growth. Employers gravitate to people who know their stuff and these assessments guide you to showcase exactly that.

And here’s a little bonus tip – try quizzing your friends and if you have children, ask them! They know the real you, so ask them what makes you tick, what your strengths are and from an outsider’s perspective, what they view your passions to be. This is a great way of authentically helping you to shape your brand. By taking these steps you are certain to shine!

Identifying Fulfilling Career Paths

So, you’ve developed your brand and made a note of your transferable skills. But how do you now identify the most fulfilling career path? You may want to consider a career coach to help you determine your next career move. Look for someone who has dipped their toes in various sectors and can provide valuable insights to help guide you through. Again, consider your values and identify organisations that resonate with your core beliefs.

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, cast a wide net among your network and get talking. Who has a job that makes you think, ‘Wow, now that sounds cool’? If you admire someone’s career journey on LinkedIn then my advice would be to reach out, grab a coffee and pick their brains. How did they get there? What words of wisdom can they share? Personal connections can unveil hidden gems of career paths that you never knew existed. You are in charge of your destiny – if you don’t ask you’ll never know!

By Jane Knight, Founder, Successful Mums Career Academy

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