Kim Green is a single mother of two teenage sons, an incident management coordinator, and a Sergeant Instructor with the Army Cadet Force. For many, changing career, holding down a full time job, finding the time to volunteer and bringing up two children all at the same time might seem like an impossible task, but as Kim’s […]
With the rising cost of living and the ongoing challenge of balancing family and work life, it’s no wonder that many mothers returning to work seek an alternative to the traditional 9-5 working life. Over 400,000 people in the UK work as direct sellers, with the industry continuing to grow in popularity.
What is Direct Selling
Direct selling is the term given to any kind of face-to-face selling outside of a standard shop. Many products are sold in this way, however not everyone would think this is direct selling.
Direct selling includes products bought from a catalogue delivered by a direct sellers – like cosmetics or homeware, products bought in a group party environment – like kitchen equipment or jewellery, products demonstrated in a customers’ home such as vacuum cleaners or make up, or products bought direct from a direct seller at events like craft fairs or fitness clubs – like cards or nutritional supplements.
For example direct selling includes Barefoot Books, Forever Living, Avon, Kleeneze, Mary Kay, PartyLite and The Pampered Chef.
What to Expect when Starting out on your Own
When people begin direct selling they purchase a starter kit, which is on average £100 for a business kit and sample products but sometimes is free. They can then begin selling the products to their friends and wider networks, keeping a percentage of the sales they make.
The Benefits of Direct Selling
For many mums direct selling offers the perfect way to balance work and family life. Direct selling is incredibly flexible and you can work as many hours, when and where you choose, to fit around your own life and commitments. When you start direct selling, you are effectively running your own business, so it’s very much a case of what you put in you get back out, as well as giving you a level of flexibility that standard jobs just can’t offer.
There are over 120,000 working mums working in the industry who are attracted by the benefits that direct selling has to offer, including:
- Flexible working – 82% of direct sellers work part time around other commitments.
- Variety – there are dozens of member companies to choose from, with products ranging from cosmetics to kitchen equipment to nutritional supplements.
- Support- all direct sellers are supported by their member company, and the DSA respectively.
- Networking- direct selling enables you to meet like-minded business people and build your business as much as you wish.
Author: Lynda Mills, Director General of the Direct Selling Association (DSA). The DSA was established in 1965 and is the trade body for the industry in the UK. It is responsible for promoting the sector and regulating member companies. All of the DSA member companies sign a code of conduct which ensures they comply with ethical trading standards. For more information and how to get involved, visit dsa.org.uk
Kim Green is a single mother of two teenage sons, an incident management coordinator, and a Sergeant Instructor with the Army Cadet Force. For many, changing career, holding down a full time job, finding the time to volunteer and bringing up two children all at the same time might seem like an impossible task, but as Kim’s story shows, a little self-belief can go a long way.
As a single Mum I have the honour of being both Mum and Dad in our house – hard work but the rewards far outweigh the tiredness. I don’t like to see myself as anyone special; I’m the sort of person that just gets the job done. I first properly learned about the Army Cadet Force when my eldest son joined. He would tell me about all the fun he had on weekends away, what they taught, and all the things he was learning in his unit. I did know the ACF existed before this, as I had tried to join back in 1979 when I was just 11, but at that time girls weren’t allowed to join.
Joining the ACF wasn’t really my decision
When I’d go to pick up my eldest son the other adult instructors would always ask me whether I was interested in helping out and volunteering. After politely declining for two years, one day I went into the ACF stores for a pair of boots and ended up coming out as an adult instructor – I’ve never looked back!
Since joining the ACF, I’ve completely changed career
Before joining, I was working in finance, in a steady office environment. However, through volunteering and teaching young adults in one way or another over the years, I gained the confidence and skills needed to try out a career in the classroom. I then moved onto a career as a curriculum cover assistant within the classrooms at my local secondary school; I loved the moment of realisation when a young person finally sees what I have seen in them all along, and truly believes they can achieve something great. I recently changed careers again, and now work as an incident management coordinator, allowing me to put even more of my ACF experience to use.
Although I love my job now, I know that with the ACF I’ll have earned the skills and experience for a number of other careers. For example, I’d love to work as an outreach worker in the future, helping
those who need it the most. I could even move into the outdoors and adventurous training side of things!
The same skills I have used to raise my sons on my own are the same skills I use within cadets, and it seems to work
As both my sons are cadets, the Army Cadet Force really is a family affair for all of us. I feel we’ve all gained so much out of being in the ACF. My sons have seen me work hard and never give up at my commitments, and I like to think that the combined influence of myself and being a cadet has had a great impact on them both. Watching throughout cadets, I’ve seen them both grow into confident, active young men. For my youngest, I feel that the ACF has given him perspective, and helped him work through difficult situations to see the bigger picture.
This is something I absolutely love doing
I love to help and be of help, and I love being a female adult instructor, as I can roll my experience as a mother and as a mentor into one. I only have one regret, which is coming to the cadet force at an older age. I wish I’d have been involved in this years ago; I know I could have achieved so much more than I already have done.
Author: Kim Green is a Sergeant Instructor at the Royal County of Berkshire Army Cadet Force. Find out more about volunteering with the ACF as an adult
We are often asked by women returners how to respond to the comment from recruiters that they are “overqualified” or “too good” for a position. In this situation, it is worth asking yourself whether you are aiming too low because your confidence is diminished after a long time out of the workforce. However, if you have purposefully targeted the role as being an appealing re-entry point, maybe wanting a less pressured role to better fit with the rest of your life, it is very frustrating to receive this feedback and hard to respond in a way that positively affirms your motivation.
When thinking how to answer, it is helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. Recruiters often make this comment when they are concerned that you will quickly become bored with the role and so will either under-perform or not stay for the long term. They might not understand that you have deliberately applied for a role that is less senior than the role you held before your career break because you are coming back to the workforce with a new perspective on your career.
Understanding the interviewer’s viewpoint, your response needs to include the following elements of reassurance:
- you have thought through these issues
- you have specifically targeted this level of seniority (explaining briefly why)
- you are committed to doing the best you can in the role
- as with any other new hire, you hope that your career will progress over time
Carol Fishman Cohen, who co-founded and runs iRelaunch, our closest US equivalent, provides some recommended wording which you might like to use if you are targeting a lower-level role to provide more balance in your life than your past positions:
One of my top priorities is to deliver excellent results to my employer, while also managing the rest of my life outside work. So while it might look to you like I am overqualified for this position, this level is exactly where I want to be in my current life stage, and I intentionally sought it out. I feel confidence I can deliver excellent results to you at this level of seniority. (You’re Overqualified! Carol Fishman Cohen)
If you think that this might be an issue with your application, it is worth addressing upfront, by including your explanation in your cover letter. You will then hopefully have the opportunity to reinforce your message at interview.
Author: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.
If you’re considering self-employment or starting your own business then you’re not alone. According to a report last year from the Office for National Statistics, self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began, with more than 4.6million people now working for themselves.
Going it alone can be an exciting but daunting task and that’s why plenty of preparation, harnessing your existing skills and seeking as much guidance as possible will all be key to help make your dream a success. Below are 10 tips we’ve pulled together to help you get started on your start-up journey.
- Do something you’re passionate about
It’s very hard work running a business, especially in the start-up stage, so it really helps if it’s something you’re passionate about. Doing something you enjoy rarely feels like ‘work’ and that feeling can be priceless!
- Do something you have experience and skills in
When entering self-employment you will inevitably learn new skills, however always try to maximise your existing skills and experience. Do a thorough audit of your personal and professional skills, and then use them to their full potential to kick-start your business idea.
It’s also great to harness the skills of those around you. Got a friend who is social media savvy? Asking them to give you some tips to help you promote your business online could prove to be invaluable.
- Access as much training as possible
One of the main reasons businesses fail in the first year is due to a lack of business training, so get as much information and advice as possible. The ongoing research for your business should include your own continuing professional development. Attending business training sessions can be tricky if your time is limited. Online programmes such as Outset Online are one example of free training available for those looking to start their own business that contain a wealth of information and can be accessed online, in your own time. Log on and get started.
- Increase your network
Everyone needs a good network of contacts to do well. Map what contacts you already have and let them know your plans, as they can be useful for support, information and a source of referrals.
Seek to expand your network through these contacts and also by attending formal networking events. Some local events can be found at www.findnetworkingevents.com/events. Also think about informal ways of networking, for example social media, social gatherings, clubs and leisure groups.
- Make sure you do plenty of market research
Knowledge is the lifeblood of your business, especially in the start-up phase. Comprehensive research is vital. Know your market, know your customers and know your competitors – only then can you operate efficiently and minimise risks.
Remember, market research isn’t a one-off job; you need to constantly acquire knowledge, anticipate changes and adapt your business accordingly. If you stand still, you could risk being left behind.
- Identify your unique selling point (USP)
You need to explain why customers should buy from you and no one else. Your existing or proposed customers’ behaviour, attitudes and opinions could be very different to your own, so ensure that you really know all about your customers. The more you know, the better you can design and develop your product or services to meet their needs.
- Identify what marketing strategy will be appropriate for your target client group
If you can’t attract customers you won’t have a business. Understand your customer profile. What are their habits? Where will they look for your product or service?
Only then can you begin to compile your marketing strategy. Take careful consideration of your product or service, the place and the price when choosing the most appropriate marketing tools for your business.
- Make sure your pricing covers holiday and sickness
Ensure that you will have enough profit to sustain you. Start by listing all of your outgoings, so you know your survival budget. Do this carefully – too many people overlook hidden payments and costs.
Make sure you build in a contingency, including an allowance for sickness and holiday, and factor this into your pricing from day one. If you’re intending to work five days a week, you might want to try pricing three days’ work to cover five days’ pay.
- Do a cash flow forecast
A cash flow forecast lets you predict how much money will be moving in and out of the business, and when. Remember that it’s normal to be initially in negative cash flow, also that many things in life take longer, and are more expensive, than you originally expect! Plan to cope with these eventualities.
- Set up a bookkeeping system
It may not be the most exciting part of starting a business but setting up an organised bookkeeping system will help keep things flowing smoothly once you’re up and running. Record details of all your business income and expenses, and retain all relevant documents such as receipts and invoices. You will also need to register for tax and submit a tax return, for which you need to keep your supporting records for six years.
Author: Rowena Maskell. Rowena is part of the team at Outset Online, a free online service offering business start-up support. If you would like support starting your own business you can access 12 months free online business support from Outset Online.
It’s no secret that the construction industry is heavily male centric. In fact, there are only around 275,000 women in the entire industry and furthermore, 50,000 of those women work in an office environment.
As there are 2.5 million workers in the British construction industry, this means that women make up for only 12.2 per cent of that figure. Although it has risen from 10.7 per cent in 2010, the UK is still far behind Sweden’s 25 per cent and Germany’s 15 per cent.
But are women interested in joining the industry?
Although there not might be a great rush of female applicants for jobs in construction, according to a 2005 study by the Equal Opportunities Commission, 80 per cent of school girls stated that they would like to train in a non-traditional job. A further 12 per cent of that figure said that they would be interested in learning within the construction industry.
But why are so few women interested in a career within an industry that has proven so lucrative for men?
Katie Metclaf, a senior associate at Gardiner & Theobald, a construction company based in Leeds, said in The Guardian that:
“I don’t know why so few women are attracted to a career in construction but I think it’s partly due to a lack of awareness about the interesting and varied career opportunities, and partly due to the perception of the industry being male dominated and muddy. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Aside from that, there is also another crises facing the construction industry and it is that of an ageing workforce alongside an already present skills shortage, something highlighted in a report by the Chartered Institute of Building last year.
The University of Reading has also looked into the issue in a separate report, stating that:
“Career sexism is an important issue for government, industry, employers and individuals. Occupational segregation is damaging the UK’s competitiveness by contributing to the gender pay gap and preventing it from benefiting from the talents of a balanced workforce. The under-utilisation of human resources dependent on gender patterns is of economic and social concern especially for an economy with an ageing workforce.”
For an industry that needs to hire more than 200,000 workers by 2020, is construction appealing enough to young women?
Indeed, the industry is taking note, despite there still being a 22.8 per cent pay gap between the sexes. Nicky Morgan, speaking at the ‘Chicks with Bricks’ reception at the House of Commons said in January that:
“the gap is too high and I’m determined to see it come down further and faster – because it’s not just women who are missing out.”
According to The Guardian, employers are also taking note, with companies such as Bovis Lend Lease searching to recruit more women within the workplace via mentoring schemes and other programmes.
Speaking to the Jewson Tool Shed, Cara Palmer of Wates Construction Group, upon being asked what the greatest challenges within the industry were, she said that over the past couple of years, the weak economy was the biggest challenge, where:
“young people struggled to get employment and further training was halted for those within employment.” She continued, saying that “[the] sector is definitely picking up, both in terms of winning more work as well as the requirement to employ more people to resource the work.”
Things are picking up for women
The Construction Youth Trust (CYT) has already said that it is “time to think differently” and organisations such as Women and Manual Trades (WAMT) and Women in Building Services Engineering (WiBSE) are pushing for change.
Educationally, institutions such as The Leeds College of Building is also making a stand, training more than 900 women a year, even going on to employ female tutors for all subjects in order to attract more young women into the industry.
In essence, the construction industry hasn’t always been the best place to work for women, but there is change afoot, and it is happening sooner rather than later.
For more information, the Women in Construction, Arts and Technology LTD has a great resource for women searching for courses within construction, arts & crafts and technology.
Author: Jane Wilson is the content executive at the Jewson Tool Shed,who works to help inspire young people into picking up a trade within the construction industry.
This infographic gives a super overview of ideas to market you brand. If you are looking for new marketing ideas, just check out this infographic to know where you are still missing a trick. If you are just starting out, don’t get overwhelmed, pick 3-4 to start with, and once you have got those in your fingers add a few more ways to market.
Author: Jade Sparks who made the infographic to help Superlogo.
Networking is important for a back-to-work job search for mothers wishing to return to work. The value of networking has really been brought home to me by two recent experiences.
First of all, two highly experienced and qualified women who have successfully returned to work, one in investment banking and the other to a senior corporate role, told me how unhelpful headhunters were when they approached them. This included headhunters with whom they previously had relationships during their pre-break careers. The banker – who is now happily employed at Credit Suisse following a placement on the Real Returns programme – was told that her career break of 11 years was too long for the headhunter to place her. She was advised that the only way to find a role would be through her own network.
Separately in a meeting I attended to learn more about a new and growing professional women’s network, my contact told me about two roles that she was trying to fill, in a discreet way, that might be suitable for a returner. These two roles are examples of the true ‘hidden job market’ that really does exist: often managers want to make a hire quickly, quietly, inexpensively and without lots of administration. They rely on their networks to do this as they view their own contacts as reliable and credible sources of talented candidates.
Get started with networking
To access the hidden job market and circumvent unhelpful headhunters you need to get networking. Networking doesn’t simply consist of walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself. More broadly, networking provides you with opportunities to connect with people who have similar interests, talents and concerns that you have. Through your engagement with them you will have opportunities to learn about potential roles and to talk about your own search. Ways to start making these contacts include joining any of the following:
1. Join membership organisations
Go on line and find membership organisations that match your professional interests. Networks exist for people with interests ranging from hedge funds to horticulture, oil engineering to oriental languages. These organisations commonly have informative newsletters, speaker events and training opportunities which you could join to meet like-minded others. If you are struggling to find good ones, ask someone who is currently in a role you would like, just invite them for a coffee!
2. Join relevant LinkedIn groups
Linked In has groups for any interest or job category. Join a number of them and start initiating or contributing to discussions. In this way, you’ll learn more about the issues that are current, raise your profile in the group and gain openings to contact people directly
3. Find alumni groups
All universities and business schools and many employers and secondary schools have alumni groups in place, as they recognise the value of a long-term relationship with you. Many of these groups actively encourage members to talk to each other for employment advice.
4. Join professional associations
If you have a professional qualification, your accrediting body will also have a useful network as well as offering other career support.
5. Find informal networks
Aside from formal routes, you can make valuable connections through broadening or taking a more active role in social or community activities – a community group, a volunteer organisation, a school parent body or a religious community. We rarely know who our local networks are connected to and the ‘hidden jobs’ they might know about.
As you build these connections, remember to talk to them about your background and what you are looking for, so that they will be able to help you. For your networking to be effective you have to be clear and convincing about the role you are seeking.
For more ideas on where to network see also Mum & Career’s page of Women’s Networks.
Author: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.
I always keep my eye out for good resources for women returning to work. This week I heard on Twitter about a free new online course just launched by coursera for fledgling social entrepreneurs, guiding people who want to set up a business with social impact to move from idea to action. This is a fantastic addition to the rapidly increasing number of free online courses run by University-level experts that you can take part in from your own home in your own time. I’m a great fan of these MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and think that they are a wonderful resource for women returners: I’ve heard very positive reports from colleagues, friends and coachees, who have followed courses on subjects ranging from creative writing to medical neuroscience.
There are many ways in which you might be able to use a MOOC when you are returning to work or changing career:
- Testing whether you have the interest and commitment to invest in a masters programme, either to become more specialised &/or retrain into a new field.
- Updating/refreshing/upskilling before returning to your previous field.
- Exploring more creative possibilities, either purely for fulfilment and enjoyment, to investigate whether you want to take your working life in this direction or to finally to write your novel.
- Keeping your brain working & your CV current while you are prioritising caring responsibilities.
Returning to social entrepreneurship, I know that for many women returning from a long career break, there’s a desire to find work with meaning and purpose; if you’ve been wondering how you can combine setting up your own business with doing something more meaningful, the coursera course could give you the impetus you need to test whether your dreams can become reality (see here for more details).
Let us know if you have studied a great free online course – we’d love to receive any recommendations!
Some MOOC Providers
- coursera (courses from 115+ top universities including Yale & Stanford)
- edX (courses from MIT, Harvard, etc)
- Future Learn (range of universities & cultural institutions)
- Open Learning (free learning from The Open University)
- Udacity (tech skills from Silicon Valley companies)
- Course list with individual US universities
Julianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.