One of the biggest privileges of being a careers coach is witnessing the journeys and successes of my clients. Being able to offer professional assistance to help out a family member is even more satisfying. In this blog, I share the story of my sister Myee’s incredible journey to take back her life after motherhood, and to carve out a satisfying and rewarding career in the Queensland Police Service.

For more than two decades, Myee was employed by one of the supermarket giants, mostly working in the delicatessen. With her focus primarily on bringing up her two children, the job served her well because the flexibility of her role which allowed her to be the hands-on parent she wanted to be. She would often be seen at school reading groups, managing the soccer team, and cheering on the sidelines of her children’s sporting activities.

Like so many mums, Myee looked after everyone except herself. She never lost that extra baby weight, and nurtured herself with comfort food rather than healthy eating and exercise.

Myee and me a few years ago after a walk in Noosa National Park

Myee’s life changes began when she joined a local gym and signed up for a weight loss challenge and won. She then started the first ladies Grid Iron team on the Sunshine Coast, and played representative Oz Tag. As her confidence grew, she started to feel that she was capable of achieving more in her life. Over the past few years, Myee has lost around 45kg and got to know and like herself much better.

When her children left school and embarked on their adult lives, Myee decided it was time to fulfill her own dreams. Through several career coaching exercises, she determined that she was most suited to a job serving the community in some way. Initially she liked the idea of working in the police force, defence force, or prison system.

As I often suggest to clients, Myee spoke to people in these careers to learn more about the roles, and to get a sense of their fit for her. Through these conversations, it became clear to Myee that working as a police officer would give her the greatest career satisfaction.

But how do you transition to the Police Service at 45 years of age after a long career in retail? Myee started with a fitness regime to prepare for the recruitment process. She’d been training for a while, but she got even more focused, working in the gym and with a trainer. She put affirmations on her fridge to motivate and remind her where she was heading.

The affirmations that kept Myee focused on her goals.

With my professional guidance, she worked on a resume that communicated her transferable skills in customer service, problem solving, and communication. Having spent fifteen years as a union delegate, she was able to talk about her knowledge of applying legislation. She presented a range of different achievements that demonstrated her fit for the role.

In mid-2018, after a lengthy recruitment process, Myee was accepted into the Queensland Police Academy. While the training course was intense, especially for someone who hadn’t studied since high school, Myee worked hard. She was even awarded Dux of her unit.

Myee and I celebrating at the Elixir Ball halfway through her police training

By the following year, Myee had graduated into the ranks of the Queensland Police Service. It was so heartwarming to see her dream become a reality.

Myee’s success can be attributed to the structured approach she took to changing her life. Here’s my top tips for those wanting to transform their career:

  • Find direction –  setting a clear goal gives you something tangible to work towards. Often the pathway may be a bit windy at times, but having a clear understanding of where you’re headed keeps you on track. Don’t compromise on your dreams. Find out what your passion is, and what careers are out there that will ignite your spark. Going after something you know you will really love doing will give you the motivation you need to keep going.
  • Put in the groundwork – change is never easy, nor does it happen overnight. Myee recognized that she needed to work hard on a number of different aspects of her life to reach her goals.
  • Recognise your transferable skills – when making a complete career change, or returning to work after a parenting break it can seem like we have no relevant experience at all. But our previous jobs, parenting and volunteer roles can all add to our knowledge bank, giving us transferable skills we can draw on in our new career. Identify what your skills are, and make sure you present them to a prospective employer.
  • Stay positive – career change can be a long road, and sometimes it’s difficult to sustain your efforts along the way. Positive thinking, prioritising your own needs (including your own health), and celebrating your successes at each milestone are vital to your success.

If you’re a return-to-work mum who is in career transition, or you’re feeling lost or stuck in a rut, we hope that Myee’s story will inspire you. Just think: what might be possible for you if you dare to go after it?

Donna Thistlethwaite is a professional career coach who provides career help for mums. Donna helps clients develop the practical skills and motivation they need to pursue a career they love. You can sign up to the CareerSmart Mums monthly newsletter for information, resources and inspiration at www.careersmartmums.com.au.