School is out for summer!

One of the best parts of summer holidays for me is going on a family road trip.  Leaving the familiar behind, and setting out on a journey to somewhere new – the horizon shimmering out front – full of possibilities. Putting rubber on the road. That feeling you are headed somewhere.

I find one of the most exciting parts is planning the trip. Savouring the options that unfurl as I open each square of the roadmap.  Discovering new and un-thought of destinations. And anticipating all the adventure along the way.

Job search is a lot like a road trip. And plotting your path is an important first step to reaching your destination.

A colleague once said to me: “If you’re on a road trip headed to Sydney, you wouldn’t take the highway to Rockhampton, would you?” What he meant was, you need to decide on your big destination. And stick to it. A lot of my clients are surprised how much time this can take. But it’s important to do the groundwork, and get it right. Explore your options. Research the job market. Find out what you’re good at, and most importantly where your passions lie. This is where career coaching can really help.

Plot your stops along the way. You’re not planning to do the whole road trip in one long drive, are you? Half the fun is in getting out and experiencing the pit stops on the journey. It’s the same with careers as well. Whether these stops translate as study, volunteer work experience, or ‘stepping-stone’ roles, they all are necessary steps on your career path. After taking a parenting break, these pit stops can give you much needed support, and guide your future pathway as you ease yourself back into the paid workforce.

Like any great road trip, the best things can happen when you are lost! It’s ok if you take a slight detour, just so long as you keep your final destination in mind. I find this often happens with my clients as they navigate their way back into the workforce. Sometimes they seize a job opportunity only to find it’s not for them, or doesn’t fit with their family commitments. But these are valuable experiences in themselves. Often they open doors for new opportunities, or help you to build your network, or even just teach you something about yourself and where you’re headed.

And road trips are always easier with a good navigator right next to you in the passenger seat. Having a support network around you is really important. Mums have such busy lives, and being a parent is not easy. Adding work into the mix could lead to a burn out.  It’s important to ask for help when you need it. Your partner, your family, your friends and neighbours are all people you can draw on to assist with day-to-day practicalities. Most people love to help out – they’re just waiting to be asked. Plus, what would a road-trip be without company on the way? Take pleasure in sharing your achievements as you progress.

So what are you waiting for? Hop in the driver’s seat, and get going. Just make sure you’ve got a road map!

Donna Thistlethwaite is passionate about providing career help for mums. She is the professional careers coach behind CareerSmart Mums, a workshop that offers return-to-work mums the practical and motivational help they need to pursue a career that they love. For more information, and to join the CareerSmart Mums network, visit