How to Keep Your Career Skills Sharp While Caregiving

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You probably never imagined that you would have to give up your job or career to be a caregiver, but thousands of Americans are doing just that; quitting jobs to care for ailing parents.

The transition from working a full-time job to being a full-time caregiver is not only stressful, it's life changing. I know, because this is exactly what happened in my life.

In the beginning of my transition, I ignored all the feelings of resentment I had, because truthfully, it was the only way I could deal with it. Ignoring my feelings was not smart, because when I finally acknowledged how I really felt, I was full of frustration and anger.

I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing you might be having some of these same feelings. This is a bad place for you to spend your time. Though it may seem counter intuitive, the truth is that caregiving offers you an opportunity to grow in ways you might not ever have imagined.

What are some things you can do to grow your skills, stay tuned to trends in your industry, discover new career opportunities and grow personally?

We live in the information age and there are an abundance of classes, courses and opportunities waiting for you on the Internet, if you choose to take advantage of them.

First thing's first, it's important to recognize that you shouldn't have to be in caregiving mode 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are, then you need to change what isn't working so you can spend some time each day honing your skills and figuring out what you want to do in your life.

So many people stay in dead end jobs because it's what they know, but all the while they're hoping for something to change.

If you watch the news, it's easy to believe that there is no opportunity for us to change jobs or careers, but opportunity is still available to each of us. Businesses are always searching for talented, trained individuals and that could be you.

Here are some strategies for honing your career skills while caring for a loved one:

Make yourself a priority: Staying on top of your professional skills while caregiving can infuse your life with greater purpose and fulfillment, but doing will require a time investment on your part. You'll have to schedule this portion of your day like you would a doctor's appointment--after all, maintaining your happiness is perhaps the most essential aspect of "caring for the caregiver."

Figure out what you want to do: Narrow your interests down to a few things. Perhaps caregiving is your opportunity to change direction, learn new skills and branch out onto a whole new life path. You can take online courses on practically anything, read books written by some of the greatest teachers who ever lived and listen to podcasts by subject matter experts, all without leaving the house. You may even be able to start your own full or part-time business, or simply learn new skills to take with you when you return to the workplace.

Do the research: Once you've got your list of interesting subjects you want to pursue (no more than 2-3), start searching for information on the Internet. See what's available. Use a well-respected search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing. Gather as much information about the subject that most interests you. Do you need special skills? Is a degree required? What is your financial investment? What can you realistically do? How much time will be required? Can you get a certification on line? What personal skills do you need to master?

Discover new job opportunities: There are countless work from home opportunities for caregivers out there. Consult a search engine to find out what jobs you can do at home, whether full-or part-time. Make the most of your talents. Maybe you have abilities that you can market to other businesses on a part time basis. For example: Are you excellent at secretarial work? Most entrepreneurs need a virtual assistant. We live in the age of rapid technology and many businesses are incorporating opportunities for virtual employees. Just ask yourself: What can I do and who can I help? You CAN earn money while caring for a loved one.

Fine tune your communication skills: Did you ever have an annual review where your supervisor told you that you needed better negotiation or communication skills? If so, start reading success blogs or check out some personal development books. Use interactions with your care recipient or the doctor to fine-tune your abilities. Make it a game. Learning new skills can be fun, if you decide to view it that way.

There's really no limit to what you can accomplish in today's world.

Do you want to start your own business? You might not be able to do it right away because of your caregiving responsibilities, but it can be done, caregivers can become entrepreneurs. I know, because I did it.

What I learned about life, business, communication, failure and success is all because I decided to start my own business.

After caregiving, I didn't want to go back to corporate America. You can do this too, if you really have a burning desire to do so. One word of caution: Businesses can't get off the ground without a big personal and financial commitment. In the beginning, you'll have to work crazy hours (something you're likely already very familiar with) to accomplish your goals.

It's a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity.

However, none of this will happen if you stay stuck in the same mindset. Each and every day we have an opportunity to do something differently; to change what isn't working; to explore our lives and to live them fully.

I understand that caregiving is grueling; and you have to learn how to deal with caregiving changing your life. I also understand that caregiving is not forever (although sometimes it feels like it is) and you are going to resume your life.

So why not start today?

Make this an adventure about you. It's okay to tell your loved that you can't be present every second of every day. It's okay to spend time on YOU. In fact, it's really a MUST. You'll be happier and that will be reflected in everything you do.

So go out and discover your new life!

Cindy Laverty is a Caregiver Coach and Founder of The Care Company, an online support website for family caregivers. Through programs, coaching and products, Cindy is dedicated to empowering family caregivers.

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