One of our top tips for women returners is to remember that you are the same professional person you always were, you are just out of practice. But why is it that you need reminding, and how do you gain back that easy confidence that you used to have in the past? Let’s have a […]
One of our top tips for women returners is to remember that you are the same professional person you always were, you are just out of practice. But why is it that you need reminding, and how do you gain back that easy confidence that you used to have in the past? Let’s have a look.
Why do we need to be reminded of this?
There are many reasons why, when we take a break from our career, we can develop a diminished view of ourselves from the one we held when we were working. In the mix are:
- a change in priorities (our career is no longer our sole focus and might not be as important as it once was)
- a shift in identity (taking a long break, especially when it involves taking on new responsibilities, changes our daily activities, what we think about and talk about)
- refocusing of values (where we once valued position, responsibility and status, for example, we might now be more concerned with creating strong family relationships or working for a purpose).
All these changes can mean that we no longer recognise the previous professional version of our self, or doubt whether we can be like her again.
Remind yourself of the professional you were
Even if your perspective and priorities have changed in the years you’ve been away from your career, the things you accomplished during your career and the skills you gained have not. You are still the person who built strong client relationships, managed a team, delivered complex projects, won sales pitches and gained qualifications. These experiences are still part of you and you still have those skills and abilities even if you haven’t used them (professionally) for a while.
You may find it hard to recognise and value your former self because the work you did before didn’t fully fit you at the time. Maybe that professional identity felt false. Even so, you still achieved and gained experiences which you can take forward into a new role that will feel more authentic.
Regain your professional self
This is a really important step to take as you plan for your return to work. It will help with developing your self-belief (if you need it) and will provide content for your CV, LinkedIn profile and your interview answers.
- Reflect on what you consider your career highlights and think about what qualities you exhibited. Are those qualities still part of who you are today?
- Talk to former work colleagues, who remember you as the professional you were, and ask them for some feedback on what they saw you doing well or admired about you.
- Practice your career story, starting with your professional background and expertise rather than your career break
- Find a project or volunteer position which allows you to refresh your skills (Read more on Strategic Volunteering)
- Subscribe to the industry journals you used to read and join on-line forums which are relevant.
- (Re)join professional networks and attend relevant conferences. You can find a good list of events, many of which are free on the Mum & Career event-listing.
- Take refresher courses in your area of interest or expertise.
If you are still finding it difficult to re-connect with your professional self, then you might like to consider working with another returner or a career coach to give you the boost you need.
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.
Two recent conversations with returners have reminded me how difficult it can be for women to focus on their return to work activity: there always seems to be something more important or time-consuming for them to do.
As former professionals used to managing busy careers, women on career break often fill their lives with activities that keep them busy, engaged and feeling productive. As well as looking after family and home, they frequently take on voluntary roles or small paid projects, develop new hobbies and simply ‘help others out’.
The difficulty comes when trying to return to work: how do you fit a job search into an already busy life? The truth is that finding a new role, especially when you have left the workforce, is a job in itself. Your return to work will only happen with dedicated time, energy and commitment.
Why it’s hard to find space
Somehow, it’s especially hard for mother and this is why:
- you might not be sure whether you are ready to return, so you don’t give it your attention to avoid having to make a decision
- you don’t know how to get started on your return to work, so you procrastinate
- you’ve made some small efforts and have been deterred by the response (or lack of) you’ve received
- it’s the wrong time of year (eg pre-Christmas/Easter/summer holiday)
- it feels selfish to be focusing on yourself after so many years of putting others first
you don’t know which of the other activities to cut out, in order to make space for your return to work plans
How to create space
Here are some ideas on how you can start to create time for yourself, so you can address some of these barriers, both practical and psychological:
- start small – make a date with yourself! It could be sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour after school drop off, on your own with the purpose of doing your own thinking and planning. If you can do this once, you can start to make it a regular habit and then expand the time you devote to it
- enlist a buddy – this could either be someone in the same position as you with whom you can meet regularly and share experiences and ideas. Or it could be someone who is simply there to support, encourage and celebrate with you and keep you on track
- give your search a project name – to give it focus and make it more like a work project
- sign up for a relevant course – this will enable to you dedicate time to your new direction, introduce you to others who might be helpful to you and signify that you are taking positive steps for yourself
- address your reluctance to put yourself first – by trying it out! This post on Banning Selfish may be useful
- delegate – perhaps you don’t have to keep doing all the things you currently do whether at home or elsewhere
work with a coach – this will commit you to spending time (and money) on your return to work in a structured way and get you into the habit of giving time to this activity.
Remember that no-one else can do the work required for you, so your return to work will only happen if you give it – and yourself – the time and attention you deserve.
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.
The legislation changes in the UK around giving more employees the option for flexible working hours explained in a very useful infographic. The legislation became effective in June 2014. Do click the infographic to find out more on the following key areas:
- What does this change of legislation mean for UK employees
- The benefits of a flexible workplace. Great to weave in a conversation about your flexible working request
– How to make a request for flexible working hours as an employee
– How to handle a request for flexible working hours as an employer
Holly Easterby is a fashion blogger who loves taking pictures of kids in fun outfits. She shares fashionable kiddie items at Bonza Brats for parents to see and also takes the time to write about family stuff for blogs such as this one. In this article, Holly talks about the benefits of working from home especially for mothers. Of course it’s brilliant for fathers too, and you may wish to let this article drop onto his radar.
Working from home is now fast becoming a global phenomenon that’s getting a lot of people hooked. Is it an empty promise of better income? Or the answer to a mum who needs a job but has to take care of her kids at the same time? See these pros and cons and you be the judge if you are better off working as one.
Benefits to the Working Mothers
1. You need not put up with traffic. With a traditional office job, you will need to allow for traffic and travel time. A work at home job will allow you to fit in the school run, and will certainly allow you to be home before bedtime, rather than being stuck in traffic and missing it all together.
2. No office politics to think of. You pretty much work alone in front of your computer. Although you may be working with other virtual employees, you don’t see them face-to-face. The good thing about it? No need to worry if they will be playing politics within the organisation. Even if they do, you won’t be hearing much of it, which will let you keep your own happy bubble intact.
3. Kiss standard black pumps goodbye. Your boss will probably not be asking you to wear them, but you know how it feels like when the others are well-dressed and you still showing bits of the children’s breakfast on your lapel. In front of your own computer at home, you can ditch the standard office pumps goodbye (although it’s okay to keep several just in case you feel like drinking tea in a posh restaurant somewhere with your friends).
4. Ability to breathe when you need it. Your employer behind your back will prevent from giving in to your body’s natural instinct to sigh when you’re frustrated. When you feel like the need to stretch your shoulders, you can do it anytime without a pair of eyes waiting for you to make the slightest mistake.
6. Closer to your kids. Now among the pros of working at home, this could be the top reason why Mums are doing it. Although you may have a nanny, au-pair or childminder, it’s still different when you can be there personally to take care of their needs when you feel like it. You could also save on childcare costs by working more flexible hours and using less childcare.
7. Control fashion splurges. Women have the tendency to make splurges on clothes and this becomes tempting even more when passing by a boutique. Since you no longer work in an environment that often encourages you to think how people see the way you look, the need to buy more clothes and accessories is also reduced.
9. Lets you save on gas. You’re not only being friendly to the environment by making it a less polluted place to live in. You get to save a bit too on gas, tube or train fares. Not a hefty sum of money, but it’s still considered saving nonetheless.
10. Offers growth. By working at home, you may find it easier to create opportunities for yourself. Working at an office will let you wait for several years before you can get a promotion. With a given unique skill, you can choose when it’s time for a career change and opt to work for another provider that offers better rates, or put up your own business for an upgrade.
11. Healthy eating. While bringing packed lunches is okay, there will be days that you will also need to eat together with your workmates at fast-food chains out of courtesy. With this said, fatty foods become unavoidable. Working mums at home don’t suffer from such dilemma (although the biscuit jar is always near..)
Downsides to Consider
Working from home is of course it’s not all rosy and perfect. If it was easy everyone would do it! There are certainly downsides, and it’s wise to be aware of them from the start.
1. People think you’re always available. Your in-laws or neighbours could distract you from working and pop up in your home office any time of the day. Some people misunderstand that working at home does not require deadlines. Your partner may also think you now have time to drop off his dry-cleaning, walk the dog and do all the jobs he didn’t get around to over the weekend.
2. Tendency to follow your own pace. Since you don’t have a supervisor watching you, there is a tendency to slack off at the job. Especially at the start you need a huge amount of initiative, positivity, self-belief and persistence , as you don’t have clients yet that have given you deadlines and it may feel like no one cares about your progress.
3. You could neglect your looks. Many of those working at home, especially the individuals who do not need to see their virtual bosses or clients on-line video, end up neglecting their looks. Putting on make-up and visiting the hair salon as most office-based working women do could become alien things.
4. Lack of people to compete with. Unless you work for an organisation that keeps a roster of virtual employees, you only have yourself to compete with. A competitive environment will always keep you on your toes, trying to best each other. You will need to discipline yourself and beat your last performance in order to improve your skills.
5. Other investments to think of. Prepare your wallet for a bit of expense. If you will be working at home and you need to research online, a slow Internet connection will not do. Photo and video editing will require you to buy a high-end laptop, or a desktop with great specs.
6. Isolation. It could start to feel quite lonely, when you work from home and don’t see a living person for hours and hours. There are no colleagues interested in your progress, no one to ask for help. No one seems to be waiting for your results, especially at the start. Once you have build up a new routine, it’s easier. And later it may feel less lonely once you have joined a networking group, created your own support network of mentors, coaches and business partners or have connected with virtual colleagues/competitors.
Many would rather opt to work in government or corporate environments because they think these offer better stability. But working at home could also offer the same benefit if you have the right skill, services or products to offer. But as you can see from above, it may or may not be for you depending on the way you see it.
Author: Holly’s love for children has seen her featured in many education and children websites, whether talking about healthy snacks, motivating students or children’s fashion at Bonza Brats. Holly loves reading books, and shopping is her way of spending time with her young family. If you would like to catch her, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @HollyEasterby
Between all the work that goes into being a mum and balancing your career, chances are you haven’t written something, even just for yourself, in quite a while. That is, of course, unless you’re a writer by trade, be it freelance or full-time. Even so, the kind of work you’re doing probably isn’t in line with what’s required in a truly remarkable MBA or university essay. That’s where this article can help.
If you’re a mum returning to school for an MBA or similar degree, it’s very likely that you will have to write an essay explaining why you should be accepted. And with these tips, I’m hopeful that you can win over the board while maintaining what is surely a hectic every-day schedule.
Know Your Audience
This can vary for each individual, so I’m not going to narrow down exactly who you should be writing for. Why? Because that’s up to you! If you’re returning to school for a business-related degree, then you will need to write for that particular audience. As noted here by Business Insider, keep your audience’s demographic in mind by doing the following: “Identify the purpose of your communication, consider the context of the situation, and then select the message accordingly.” This may sound obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough, hence its position in this very article.
If an MBA is your goal, it’s rather likely that you’ll be asked to address weaknesses and failures from your past. While that may seem difficult at first, there’s actually a way you can do this while greatly impressing your audience. Basically, don’t go for something cliche, meaning don’t try to mask a success as a failure because the reader will see right through it. Instead, search through your work and education history to find a flaw or weakness and then describe how you learned from it. Alice van Harten of Menlo Coaching addresses that upfront in a blog post on this very topic, noting that you need to have “the courage to write honestly and directly about your failures, and then [show] how you have put your learnings into action after the failure.”
Get To The Point
This is a tip I had to learn the hard way in writing my own MBA essay. Basically, I struggling with finding a balance between writing too much and too little, as I either got longwinded with my prose or summed things up too quickly. While you want to be brief, don’t sell yourself short. The easy way to do this is as follows: Let’s say you have to give examples of your best accomplishments. Figure out five to seven of them, write about them, and then cut it back after figuring out which several are most indicative of your talents. To that point…
Edit, Edit, Edit
A.B.E.—always be editing. Never, ever write on a whim, even if that’s your style. Believe me, I have done so in the past, too, and I know it can work for certain assignments. But this is not your typical project. A great way to edit yourself is to take the following bit of advice from this U.S. News article: “[T]ake a pen and check off “all-star sentences” that are necessary for the essay. Anything without a check mark can go.” While they also say that you should be your own editor—and that’s definitely true!—you should reach out to friends and family to give your work a read. They’ll catch things your eye may miss while perhaps offering suggestions on where to whittle down or beef up your essay.
Author: Patti Conner is a freelance writer and mother of two from Seattle, Wash. In her time away from writing about higher education, she tries to hit the famous Puget Sound.
For most women heading off on maternity leave, their return to work feels far in the future. It certainly felt that way for me. But as all working mothers know, that time off passes quickly in a blur of sleep deprivation, new routines and coffee mornings. Before we know it, the moment has come to dig out our work clothes, switch our brains back on and try to mentally separate the career woman from the exhausted mother. But what if that break makes you realise that your former career just isn’t what you want anymore?
One of the greatest benefits of maternity leave is an opportunity to evaluate what we want from life, and our careers are a big part of that. Some women prefer to return to the exact same role, content with familiarity and working with colleagues they know and trust. Some women return to work determined to secure a promotion and progress up the ladder. Many women come to the realisation that they haven’t felt fulfilled at work for years, and decide to embark on a complete career change.
My first project on returning to work was developing a new careers advice and information website called Careersmart. I had to research and write about everything from career change and getting a promotion to freelancing and equality in the workplace. Being a professional working mother, and being friends with many other working mums, certainly helped me generate a lot of content for the site, and I thought I’d share just a few tips from the site that you may find useful.
Working around your family
An inevitable obstacle for most working mothers is that of trying to secure more flexible working hours. Thankfully, most workplaces are today happy to offer their staff hours and days that marry best with the family’s routine. Despite this, some women are inadvertently made to feel bad for receiving ‘special treatment’, and worry that their reduced or flexible hours label them as different to their colleagues. One helpful article I wrote which is published on Careersmart looks at how to ask for a change in working conditions, you can also read up on your legal rights in this section on Mum & Career, or check the ‘Ask the Expert‘ section for issues other mothers have encountered, including being made redundant whilst on maternity leave, changing job conditions once you return, and studying on maternity leave.
What about returning to work after a long break?
For women who choose to give up work indefinitely to be stay-at-home mothers, the decision to return to work isn’t always an easy one. While the prospect of having some relative ‘alone time’ after years of full-on childcare is certainly attractive, many mothers find they’ve lost confidence in their abilities and aren’t sure how to get back into the workplace. In my experience, a large number actually decide that a complete career change would be more exciting and fulfilling than returning to the same job they’d done before. You can find more on changing career in the sections on Find your Passion , Find a new Job, or read about Mothers Real-Life Stories on Changing Careers. You can also find a piece on the Career Smart website how to go about career change, which you may find interesting.
A sad fact for some working mothers is discrimination – something a number of my friends have encountered after returning from maternity leave. Unfortunately, it’s certainly not unheard of for a mother to be overlooked for promotion in favour of a colleague who’ll never have to suddenly leave the office to collect an ill child from nursery. I put together this useful guide that is published on Careersmart, that defines discrimination and looks at how to tackle it, should you find yourself at the receiving end.
The main thing for working mums to remember is this: you are not alone! There are tens of thousands of us out there, frantically juggling our home and work lives, and only we can understand just how difficult this (often overwhelming) workload can be. There is plenty of advice and support out there for you – don’t be afraid to seek it should you find yourself struggling.
Author: Suzanne Rose. Suzanne is a freelance writer who contributes to Careersmart, a careers guidance and information website covering many issues that working mothers will find helpful, from freelancing to career change and getting a promotion.
When was the last time you were interviewed? For women returners it can be five, ten or fifteen years since you last spoke about your professional achievements, and facing an interview can be a daunting hurdle. With the arrival of ‘returnships’ in the UK, we are being asked increasingly for advice and support on interviewing skills from returners applying for these programmes. Morgan Stanley, for example, recently conducted 150 telephone interviews, with follow-on face-to-face interviews for successful applicants, to select their returnship programme participants.
While styles of questioning have become more structured, the basic goal of the interview process remains the same: the employer is trying to assess your suitability and fit for the role and their organisation. At the same time, it is vital to remember that you are also assessing the organisation for its suitability and fit for you.
The two key ingredients of successful interviewing are passion and confidence. Both of these come from being clear about what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. If you believe you’re a good fit with the role and organisation you’re applying for, it will come across.
Six Essential Steps for Interviewing when returning to work
You need to research all you can about the role, the organisation, the industry and the people interviewing you. There is so much available online: company website, LinkedIn and Facebook pages; corporate videos; news articles; Twitter. Your network can provide other sources of information which might not be publicly available whether your contacts are employees, suppliers or customers of the organisation, or in the same industry. The more knowledge you have and can demonstrate in your interview, the more impact you will have. For example, reading a LinkedIn profile will give you some idea of the interviewer(s) and could help you to find common ground.
2. Develop examples of your skills and competencies
You will talk most eloquently – and passionately – about those roles and experiences which are the highlights of your career, so pick one or two and decide what you want to say about them. The biggest change to interviewing in recent decades has been the prevalence of the ‘competency-based interview’. You are likely to be asked to demonstrate the specific competencies or skills that the role requires (such as analytical ability, influencing senior stakeholders or teamwork), through detailed examples. Read carefully through the job description, identify the job requirements and think back through your experience to identify examples of your achievements which show these competencies. Examples don’t all have to be work related: they can be equally valuable if they have come from education, sport, voluntary work or community activities.
Avoid doing the following:
- apologising that the situation was a long time ago or saying ‘Back in 2001′, just say which role it related to
- spending too long talking about the detail of the issue you faced and not long enough about the successful action you took. Your interviewer is more interested in what you accomplished than the intricacies of the background story.
- talking in the third person when it was you who did the work (and not your team)! Use ‘I’ as much as possible, otherwise you can appear overly modest, even unconfident.
3. Prepare answers to typical questions
- Why do you want this role?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and development areas?
- What else would you like to tell me?
These questions have two things in common. They are all open questions and they are all an invitation to you to say precisely why you are the right person for the role. In preparing your answers, think about what you most want the interviewer to remember about you when you leave the room.
If you’ve not been to an interview for a while, it can feel strange to be talking about yourself in the way that an interview requires, so it is a good idea to practise saying your answers out loud. You may find it helpful to role play the interview experience with a friend or another job seeker. If you have someone whose perspective you trust, feedback on how you are coming across will be useful.
5. Prepare your own questions
Remember that interviews are a two-way process. While the interviewer is assessing your suitability for the role and organisation, you need to be doing the same. Make sure that you ask the questions that will help you to decide if the role and organisation is a good fit for you and your requirements. You will also show that you have done your homework.
6. Send a Thank You
Always send a thank you email. Not only is this good practice, but it gives you a further opportunity to reinforce your suitability and enthusiasm for the role.
- More job interview tips for mums returning to work
- What to say about that dreaded question about your career gap
Author: 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. Women Returners now offers interview skills coaching.
Starting a business is a daily uphill struggle, or at least it can feel like that at times. Working mother and entrepreneur Michaela knows exactly how that feels and gets inspiration from an unlikely source: Simon Cowell. Can he help you too?
I’m taking my first, clumsy steps into the world of starting a ‘business’ – a world that for the longest time has (in my mind) been the domain of Other People. A world inhabited by those who know things I don’t, who know exactly what it is they’re offering, and how they’re going to go about asking people to pay money for that.
And as I stumble out of the cosy, yet constrictive, world of the employed into the harsh, exposing light that shines on those who want to get paid for doing something they love, the feelings are totally reminiscent of when I had my first baby.
It’s all so painfully familiar. I may be less sleep deprived, and truth be told, the physiological stuff is a heck of a lot less brutal. But the struggle, the self doubt, and the desire to do it my way (when everyone everywhere seems to be telling me how I ‘should’ be doing it) echoes a reality I thought I’d left behind nearly a decade ago.
When I’m all at sea and unsure of myself, I start searching for a guru or a book with Answers. And I’m finding them left right and centre right now. There’s some amazing stuff out there for people in my position, with awesome advice and resources. There are people writing books, e-books and articles that are inspiring and exciting me, and having me try things differently, and see things a different way. And my head is full of them, just as my head was once full of ‘new baby’ advice about feeding schedules, and approaches to sleep.
But right now, these ideas belong to other people. They’re great, but they’re not mine. They live in my head rather than my heart. And living out other people’s ideas about what I ‘should’ be doing is as exhausting and distracting as it was when I was lugging around a screaming infant in my arms for the first time.
It’s precarious when you’re living out someone else’s ideas of what you should be doing, or being. You’re on flimsy ground when your head is filled to the brim with the ideas of others. You’re utterly disconnected from your own intuition, your own resourcefulness and your own useful life experience. It’s like you hand yourself over to whoever you pick as your guru, and let them push you around, wagging their finger at you, telling what you ‘should’ be doing, how you ‘should’ be going about it and the mistakes you ‘need’ to avoid.
And if you’re anything like me, when you’re in this way of being, your source of support and inspiration can quickly become a gremlin, a saboteur – a pain in the butt inner critic. Inspiration quickly morphs into self recrimination. A potential leader becomes a punishing teacher. Not because of anything they’ve done, but because it’s still early days. Because you don’t yet know where you stand, or indeed what you think.
And as I did when I was a new mother, I feel enormous resistance to this process. As I did when parenthood was new and bewildering, I feel resentful and frustrated by how little I know, by how far I have to travel, and by the reality that no bugger out there is going to hand me a tidy answer on a plate – however hard I wish they would.
And at times like this, I am prone to handing my power over to others on a plate. I am prone to turning away from myself and toward those I think will help me get where I want to go. Which leaves me all destabilised and out of sorts. None of which is conducive to building something awesome, which is ultimately what I’m trying to do.
My favourite, and most unlikely guru in moments such as these is Simon Cowell. Really. Despite his monumental successes, he is clear that “the fun bit” was “getting there” not the successes themselves.
I like that. So much. It grounds me in the here and now. It soothes my agitated mind. It reminds me that what happens today, however inept I may feel, and regardless of where it is I’m aiming to get to, matters too. Better than that, it’s the “fun bit”. And I’d be crazy to squander the fun bit in a puddle of angst and self doubt.
I need that Simon Cowell wisdom now, and I sure as heck needed it in the early days of motherhood.
So if, like me, you’re starting something new (whatever it may be), and like me, you’re weaving and wobbling all over the shop, and living in the future rather than the present – turn away from the ‘experts’ in your field for a bit. Then suspend your disbelief. And turn toward Simon Cowell’s unexpected, but bang on insight. Even if its just for a moment.
Sit with it for a minute.
He’s onto something.
Sometimes help lurks in the most unlikely places.
Author: Michaela Horan, Founder of Parenting in Public. Michaela writes a blog about her experiences as a business owner and mother of 3. She shares insights on life and has a refreshingly honest style, guaranteed to make you feel better.