Nadia Sayeh is the Executive Director of the ANNISAA Organization of Canada, and Manager of Volunteer Programs and Human Resources at Dixon Hall Neighborhood Services, a leading organization in creating solutions to poverty, social injustices, and isolation in Toronto. Strong professional with over 8 years of experience providing leadership, coaching, and support to staff and volunteer teams in the non-profit sector and over 15 years in customer service. An outstanding facilitator who is able to engage diverse stakeholders to build organizational capacity. A seasoned expert in helping Muslim women and girls providing a significant benefit to the community by empowering women and girls to effectively address the challenges of integration and self-empowerment, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women and girls to reach their full potential. Her background includes a post-graduate certificate in Non-Profit and Social Sector Management, certifications in Social Change and Entrepreneurship Development Program for Not-For-Profit Organizations, along with years in the volunteering sector and community building.

Here, she answers a common question so many mothers grapple with as they shift their focus from being a primary caregiver to their children back to cultivating an exciting and fulfilling career. 

Q: After taking time away from my career to raise my family, I’m now looking for my next position—and a new challenge. I feel so intimidated and overwhelmed as I look to re-enter the workplace. What I used to want out of my career has changed dramatically, given that I’m at a different stage of life. Where do I begin?

This is a great question that many female professionals decide to get coaching on. Many women take a break from their career to raise their family, and when they decide it’s time to come back to work, everything has changed. Here are the steps I recommend to get yourself started on your new career journey:  

1. Get Clear on Your Ideal Job Criteria

During a recent coaching call, I was working with a client who was interviewing for a position that would require an hour commute to and from the office. She is the mother of two small children and if she got this position, it would require her to add after-school supervision and nanny services to her budget just to ensure she had proper care for her children during her extended workday.

I noticed through the conversation that the idea of her getting this position was causing her a lot of stress. We needed to step back and get clear on her “Ideal Job Criteria.” We decided that for her to feel excited about a position while honoring her commitments at home she would need local work or a position that allowed her to work remotely. We also decided that it would be critical for her to have flexibility to stay home when her children were sick. Finally, her ideal job would allow her to work a 30 hour week as opposed to the standard 40 hour week so she could avoid having to pay for additional child care services.  Once we got very clear on her needs, she was able to proactively discuss these criteria with potential employers rather than interview for positions that were not a good fit for her given her responsibilities.

2. List Your Transferable Skills

This client also felt very stuck given that her former job title was very specific to a niche industry. The more she looked for positions of the same title and industry, the more hopeless she felt. In another coaching conversation, we spent time diving into her transferrable skill set. It was interesting to see that in her former position, she had extensive business development experience, success in building relationships with key accounts, and she had demonstrated very strong project management skills. 

When she realized how many employers are hunting for these skills, she could quickly see how she could confidently apply for more positions outside of her current industry and know she would be a great fit for them.

3. Know What You Love Doing

We spent some time talking about what she loves doing. This part is important and often overlooked. Because she was unemployed and looking for a new position, she felt at the mercy of employers. When we focused on what she loves doing, it helped us select a handful of positions for her to pursue that she was not only qualified for, but that she would also thoroughly enjoy doing.

4. Create Your “Best and Worst” List

Finally, I invited her to do a fun exercise. She created a list of every position she’d ever had (yes, including the babysitting job at age 12 and her days as a dairy maid). In columns, she captured the aspects of each position that she really enjoyed as well as the aspects that she really didn’t enjoy. When she reviewed these observations, she found that she had new items to add to her “What I love doing” and “Transferable Skills” lists, and she had new “Ideal Job Criteria,” based on all that she didn’t enjoy about her previous jobs.

I’m happy to report that this client has found a position that meets her criteria and truly leverages her skills. She’s very excited about this position and I am sure she’s aligned for success. Follow these four steps yourself and watch how quickly you start to see new opportunities opening up before your eyes!