Why making a career pivot in early motherhood can be a good thing

May 1, 2024

One of the best times to recalibrate your career goals could be after becoming a parent.

Think about it: entering parenthood often prompts reflection on priorities. It impacts us both personally and professionally, and for many mothers especially, making a career pivot during this life milestone can be incredibly rewarding.

We discussed the impact early motherhood has on career pivots with Jess Galica, author of Leap: Why It's Time to Let Go to Get Ahead in Your Career.

Drawing from stories of many women who reinvented themselves and their careers after becoming parents, Jess’s book covers the feelings that lead women to want to pivot and the fulfillment they’ve felt from making the leap.

Here are three key takeaways from our conversation:

E18_JG-newsletterTakeaway #1: Big pivots come with big feelings

Jess highlights five core emotions women feel leading up to a career pivot at the beginning of her book: dissatisfaction, isolation, guilt, reluctance and fear. 

While women sometimes experienced several of these feelings at once, dissatisfaction was one of the biggest emotions discussed among the women Jess interviewed – especially for those reaching the midpoint in their careers. 

Much of these emotions came down to women not feeling like they received the recognition and compensation they deserved. Women also reported feeling they couldn’t be their authentic selves at work. 

Once a child enters the picture, Jess believes many women gain clarity on what they need professionally:

“Now, maybe it’s time to think about doing things differently if the [career] path that I’m on isn’t rewarding me the way that I want it to be,” Jess said. 

Takeaway #2: It’s not about what you’re giving up

One of the biggest surprises Jess found when writing the book is that people assume making a career pivot results in giving something up. 

In actuality, it’s less about what you’re saying “no” to and more about what you’re saying “yes” to. 

We tend to perseverate on stories of risk and fear when it comes to big change. But in many cases, women use their pivots to gain momentum and find more purpose, meaning and success in their careers. 

“We think of it as letting go, but it’s actually this opportunity to get ahead,” Jess said.

Takeaway #3: All leaps don’t have to be huge—or immediate

When thinking about a career pivot, many tend to assume it needs to be a huge or immediate change.  But findings from Jess’s book actually show that the process can take time—even years. 

For instance, a mother could potentially plan to stay in her role for a year but then make a change once her child is a little older. 

And once a woman decides to pivot, the change isn’t always dramatic.

 One more risk-averse option to pivot is to stay within a company – but apply for a role that is more aligned with new goals and aspirations:

“Having a strategy and knowing how to pivot is incredibly important to navigate your career and also have the power to make choices, and feel that you can walk away from situations that are no longer serving you.”

Learn more takeaways from the book—and hear about Allison’s and Jess’s own career pivots—in the full episode of The False Tradeoff.