Photo of Books by Ahson WardakBeing home with kids as a primary caregiver means you make different financial decisions. I didn’t return to my corporate HR job after my maternity leave. Upon making that decision my husband and I slashed our household budget. Ok, I can drop the expensive vacations (sob!) and eat less frequently at restaurants, but the biggest cumulative loss was the professional development fees we eliminated. I used to shell out over a thousand dollars annually on courses, certifications, conferences, etc.

I love learning and didn’t want to stagnate. I wasn’t sure when I was going to return to work, but I knew I wasn’t going to stay at home forever. I challenged myself to uncover free professional development and learning opportunities.

When your main job is caregiver to your delicious little kids, you should also carve out time to stretch your mind and enhance your knowledge. Many of my clients who want to return to careers after years spent out of the workforce don’t know what type of job they’re even interested in. Investing time into developing your interests and wisdom will make the career transition process so much easier. You’ll have a better sense of what interests you and will already possess many of the skills required to land a job in that area.

Here are five ideas to get you back into learning – FREE of any costs!

  1. Read books borrowed from the library or from friends.

If you read one book a month on a professional topic that interests you, can you imagine how much knowledge you would gain in a year? My goal in 2016 is to read one health book and one career/business book a month. I recently heard that if you read three books on a topic you will have expert knowledge of that subject!

Check out books from the library or ask friends for their recommendations (and to borrow/exchange books with them). Looking for a good list of personal development books? One of my favourite career coaches, Dan Miller, has a very comprehensive list.

Another idea to enhance your understanding is to meet up with friends to discuss a book you’ve all read. A more professional take on your traditional book club (or as we call ours, “Snack Club”), you will benefit from what others got out of the reading. One of my clients started a book club where the members took turns reading and summarizing a book for the other members each month. This might work for you if you’re finding it challenging to get through even reading the newspaper. I know that was my situation when I was caring for my toddler twins!

  1. Listen to Podcasts

I discovered podcasts a year ago and fell in love with the amazing free content I could find everyday. I use the Apple Podcast App but there are others for Android  and iPhone.

Download an episode for when you’re out of the house – I play them via Bluetooth while driving or listen on headphones when I’m walking to pick the kids up from school. I also stream podcasts during my “dead” time: when I’m folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen and working out. It makes those tasks more bearable!

Not one episode goes by where I don’t pick up:

  • another book to add to my reading list
  • a productivity hack like a new app or online resource
  • an inspiring idea to take action on

Listening to podcasts has really changed my perspective on a lot of things. I love the thinking time I get while absorbing the information and much of what I’ve learned I’ve been able to share with clients. We all benefit!

My Favourite Personal Development Podcasts:

  1. Read blogs

There is so much content available online and following blogs gives you an efficient way of capturing great information. Feedly is a good app that organizes the online content you’re following so you can quickly scroll through and share on your social channels. If reading a whole book is too much to fit into your busy schedule, try reading blog posts instead.

LinkedIn “Pulse” offers news and blog posts that you can customize to your industry so you stay on top of what’s happening. You can also follow what your connections have posted within LinkedIn and ‘Like/Comment/Share’ on the LinkedIn platform – another easy way to nurture your network.

My Favourite Bloggers:

  • Doris Clark – she writes about personal branding
  • William Arruda – another personal branding “guru”
  • Fit is a Feminist Issue 
  • Phil Brown – my father-in-law: a talented writer and overall cool guy
  • Jenny Ellison – a client – Jenny is really smart! She brings historical context to women’s sports, body image and health in Canada. I wish she could have been my prof at Trent University but our decades didn’t align!
  1. Create a Mastermind Group

Barbara Sher, the author of I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was calls these groups your “Success Team”. Find a group of likeminded moms with a similar schedule and arrange to rotate a meeting at each other’s homes once a month. Discuss your goals, ask for resources and help. These ladies will keep you accountable to your goals, ask you the tough questions you need to consider and push you to be better.

I developed really strong friendships with a number of women I met at a mom’s group and we’d meet regularly at parks or each other’s homes for playdates. It’s because of Brenda and Melissa that I actually started my CareerFit Mom business! (Thank you ladies!) They saw the skills I had and the potential to turn them into an entrepreneurial venture. They brainstormed the name of my business and tag lines, helped me choose my logo and promoted me endlessly. I’m forever grateful.

I have participated in other Mastermind groups with some very talented colleagues: Joanne Collins and Isabelle Moreau. I just hope I offer as much value-added insight to them as they provide me!

Surrounding yourself with positive people is key to your success. Find women who will help you not only with your parenting dilemmas but the ways in which you can self-improve. It feels good to support others in their goals and play a part in someone else’s achievements.

If finding “real” people is tough based on your schedule or location, try finding a Facebook group that you can join and interact with. Or join Groups within LinkedIn. There are thousands available and you can search for them by industry or job function. Recruiters also troll Groups to find suitable candidates for positions they are filling. It’s a great way to profile yourself, as long as you’re adding value. Start a conversation or contribute to one. Read the discussion threads to learn about a new sector you’re interested in.

More tips on starting a mastermind…

Continuing to learn will help you stay current for when and if you do return to work. You won’t feel out of the loop, you’ll have more knowledge and you’ll be more credible. Choose one of my four ideas and take action on it right away. In less than a month I guarantee you’ll have advanced your understanding of a subject and you’ll feel more ready for a career transition when the time is right.

To get the most out of your content check out these tips on how to absorb and utilize your learning

Happy learning!