My 5-Step Process for Making a Major Career Move

Here’s what worked for me.

By Brandy Joy Smith

There’s one thing I know to be true: people change. We each experience our own paths of self-discovery, and none of these journeys leave you as the same person you were before. Everything and I mean everything changed the moment I became a mother. Looking back now, my entry into motherhood was such a key period of transformation for me, just as it was for many moms. And when it came to my professional life, how to shift careers after becoming a mother was top of mind.

I have a lot of compassion for the woman I was before I had kids. Throughout my 20s and 30s, I defined myself by my career and successes, including how much money I was making and the community I was growing. My motivations were completely outside of myself and entirely rooted in what society expected of me. But when I look back on that version of Brandy, I have nothing but love for her because she was doing what she thought was best for herself while trying to make the most out of her life.

Isn’t that what life’s all about? Constantly evolving and learning to have patience for the path you took to get to where you are now? 

Brandy Smith holding cup of water_how to shift career
Image by Riley Reed

I remember my first year of motherhood like it was yesterday. Every day, I was fighting a battle deep within myself to maintain the person I was before I had children. And to be honest, I felt like I was losing. Deep down, I knew that nothing would ever be the same. The time I once had to focus strictly on my career was gone, and with that, so was my energy.

During my maternity leave, I was shocked by the lack of resources available for new mothers to manage the changes they were experiencing with their identities, work-life balance, and shifting family dynamics. I knew I wanted to do something about it, because I didn’t want other women to have to experience the same feelings I was having.

Feeling inspired, I decided to dive into the world of maternal wellness coaching. I loved this path for myself and found more passion with each client I had. But I still found myself holding the same expectations for success that I had for myself pre-baby. I wanted to be as busy as I could so that I had something to show for it.

Lauren Gores Ireland with baby son_how to shift career
Image by Emma Bassill

Finding an Answer to the Question: How to Shift Careers?

But just as that success was growing, my world shifted again—I was pregnant with Norah just four months after having Liam. After 11 years as a stylist, one year as a coach, and a newly-expecting mom of a baby, I was burning out… fast. Around this time, I was writing about motherhood, coaching, and creating content. In fact, two days after giving birth to Norah, I had a full photoshoot scheduled. I remember waddling around in pain to clean the house, dress the kids, paint my face, and pretend like everything was fine.

When Norah turned 1, I couldn’t keep up the pace any longer. The impact of burnout had set in, and I no longer felt the same compulsion I once had to be busy. Any mental space I had leftover was being directed toward my clients when it really needed to go to my family. The work, though extremely rewarding, was taking up a ton of mental space that I didn’t have to give.

One night in bed, I was talking to my husband about our goals and what we wanted from our lives. That conversation changed my trajectory entirely. It had become clear that the career-obsessed person I once was no longer was here, and I wasn’t even grieving her anymore. My idea of success had changed with my kids, and I knew that my purpose was rooted in the desire to be present for them and my husband. This was the pivotal moment when I knew I finally needed an answer to the question that had been at the back of my mind: how to shift careers?

So, I did something I hadn’t even considered until that moment: I became my own client. Here’s how.

Megan Roup holding baby_how to shift career
Image by Michelle Nash

Step 1: Writing Out the Pros

The first thing I did was make a list of everything I wasn’t loving in my life. It was sobering to see it all written down on paper. When I gave myself the opportunity to be honest without judgment, my thoughts flowed effortlessly through the ink and onto the paper. 

Of Course, Then Come the Cons

Once I had that, I wrote a contrasting list of all the things I actually wanted out of my life. This exercise was clarifying for me and allowed me to honor myself in a fresh and totally authentic way. It was like I had Mari Kondo behind me, helping me sort out what was and wasn’t bringing me joy. And if it didn’t bring me joy? Then I wasn’t going to let it be a part of my life any longer.

Learning to Balance My Needs

Next, I evaluated my finances-to-time ratio. How could I still generate income for my family by putting less time in? It helped to write down how much money I wanted to make and worked backward. From there, I began with the things I enjoyed most and tried to figure out how I could maximize my income by doing those things.

Ariel Kaye in kitchen with daughter_how to shift career
Image by Teal Thomsen

Follow the Flexibility

I knew I still wanted to support mothers, but I had to do less client-facing work and look for opportunities that gave me more flexibility. I quickly realized that companies had more money to spend than individuals, so I focused my efforts on writing and content creation, making sure the brands I partnered with aligned with my values and messaging. 

Embrace the Person You’re Becoming

A truth I’ve come to learn is that my career doesn’t follow a linear path, and the time and attention I can give to my family will shift with the seasons. I know I may want to devote more time to my career, but for right now, I’m pursuing and seeking to maintain a semblance of work-life balance (aren’t we all?). Sure, I’m still a work in progress, but so is my career. I don’t find myself aching for the woman I once was. Instead, I’m fully committed to the woman I’m becoming.

Kimberly Snyder holding baby walking through backyard_how to shift career
Image by Teal Thomsen

I want to note that learning how to shift careers after having children is a privilege and a luxury that not all can afford, and I’m brimming with gratitude that I had the opportunity to do so. Through my period of self-discovery, I’ve been able to strike a balance between my career and my family, and I’ve formed a strong community out of it, too!

This isn’t always an option for every family, but you can still apply these steps to help you get clear on what you want for yourself. Plus, you’ll be able to take those baby steps toward your goal until you’re in the position to make that jump.

Remember: Working toward your goal will always be rewarding and what you want for yourself and your family will constantly change. After all, that’s what life’s beautiful dance is all about. Growth and change.

I have my kids to thank for this shift in priorities and for helping me come into greater alignment with myself. How did your priorities change after having children or in the process of getting older?