Archive for May, 2011

Look and feel professional for your return to work

Look and feel professional for your return to work

How will you juggle dressing for baby and work – keeping your wardrobe professional and on trend while showing you’ve not turned all mumsy?

For many women becoming a mum can mean putting on weight, a change in body shape, a change in lifestyle and a whole new identity – all of which can both knock your self-esteem and present a number of style dilemmas when you’re going back to work. You may think you’ll just wear your pre-pregnancy clothes, but are they actually right for the new you?

Just as you didn’t put the baby weight on overnight, you’re not going to lose it overnight.

Embrace your post-baby body and find clothes that make you feel beautiful and confident.

As a mum you need a very specific wardrobe – one that allows quick and easy feeding, is easy to move in, is machine washable, and flatters your new figure.

Learn what styles will flatter and fit your new body shape and clarify what you really want from your work wardrobe.

A new capsule wardrobe in flattering colours will make it quick and easy to choose a stylish and practical outfit each day. Avoid those colours which make you look tired or bloated and create complete outfits for different occasions such as the run to the child-minder, business meetings or evenings out (should you have the energy for them!).

Perhaps develop your personal style by focussing on a more refined image and investing in key pieces for a more sophisticated wardrobe.

Essential items may include a knee-length skirt, colourful blouses or tops, a simple fitted day-dress (a soft, knit wrap dress will grow with you during pregnancy and shrink with you after it), stylish and flattering trousers and a tailored jacket. Waterfall or open cardigans make excellent transition pieces between your pregnancy and maternity leave, when they can be worn with a pair of leggings, and back to work when they can double as a comfortable or dressed down jacket. Just add a pair of oversized earrings or some chunky bracelets for a night out.

Classic accessories such as a functional leather bag – large enough to hold files, your phone and laptop or iPad – soft leather or patent pumps or kitten heels and long print scarves that you can wear long and loose around your neck to hide any post-baby bloat will all add to your new personal style.

Most importantly buy outfits that fit you now. Not maternity clothes, but larger sized clothes, if you need to, that you feel comfortable in. Don’t think about the size. You’ll get back to your old size someday… or maybe you won’t. As long as you feel comfortable and confident with the new you, you’ll shine.

Finally treat yourself to a new hairstyle and update your makeup to a look that is natural, polished and quick to apply.

Rachel Lynch is the owner of Personal Best Colour and Image Consultancy ( If you want to find out how to dress in the most flattering way to create presence or a signature style spend some time with Personal Best – because women who look fabulous don’t leave their personal brand to chance.

Sarah Bennett talks about returning to work

Sarah Bennett talks about returning to work

I changed direction from a senior marketing position in the city to running my own company – a family run, friendly practice which provides accountancy, tax and bookkeeping services. I have one daughter and another baby on the way.

Why did you go back to work after having a baby?

I needed to return to work for a variety of reasons – to regain a sense of myself, independence and purpose

How did you decide this was the right direction for you?

I returned to my work in the City as a Marketing Manager in a B2B publishing company, part-time after 10 years + of full-time work there. I did not consider a career change at that point as I held a senior management position as Head of Department and really enjoyed my work and responsibilities.

Although I still enjoyed my work in publishing when I returned after maternity leave to work 3 days a week, I found that my priorities had changed. It was hard switching over from having a “Mummy head” on to a business head and some of my colleagues used to comment that my days spent at home were like holidays, when for me it was actually easier and less stressful being in the office, compared to looking after a demanding, sleep averse 18 month old at home!

Ironically I also found that going back to work gave me less contact with other people, even though I was in a firm of over 100 employees. After I had come to enjoy direct contact with others through various local Mother and Baby groups (such as church groups and Buggyfit), or even chatting in the park to new people, I realised that I no longer enjoyed working by myself in front of a pc. I also felt I was not learning anything new.

I started to do some local networking for my husband’s accountancy practice part-time and came to realise that I so much preferred meeting motivated local businessmen and women face to face, solving problems within a supportive dynamic and positive local environment (groups such as Athena in Ealing/Chiswick, Ladies at 11 in Richmond, Coffee with Jo in Chiswick, Hounslow Chamber of Commerce).

Meeting people with different ideas has also made me new friends, taught me about these new businesses and also made me use my brain more laterally, so I decided to leave my job up in London and concentrate on our family accountancy business instead.

Being results driven, I thrive on being able to help people save money and sort out their accounts worries – I really like the fact we can make a difference to clients and their businesses, showing them how we have saved them money in areas they had not known about before – money that they can re-invest in their businesses and help them reach their goals.

Having a child made me realise that life is too short to spend time working on something you are no longer passionate about and that money is not everything. Now I really love what I do. I love meeting business owners and entrepreneurs – I am constantly amazed by the variety and ingenuity of new local businesses starting up. I enjoy applying my brain to help others – whether it is taking the jargon out of accountancy speak, helping business owners make more profit, pay less tax and plan for the years ahead, or simply putting people in touch with like-minded others who can help businesses grow and prosper.

How do you organise child care?

Initially, I shared the childcare with my husband until our daughter was old enough to go to nursery for a few hours a week. We do not have any other back-up for childcare aside from the nursery, so we alternate childcare and work between us on the days she is not in nursery until she goes to school. Our family all live in the north of England or in France, not near enough to help with occasional baby sitting.

What do you hope for the future?

To continue to grow our practice in West London and help local businesses prosper in a tough economic environment.

Author: Sarah Bennett, Marketing Director of Bennett and Company Chartered Certified Accountants, if you are looking for a friendly tax, bookkeeping or accounting service feel free to contact her by e-mail at She is based in Ealing, West London. The company offers competitive fixed pricing so you will always find someone available to speak on the phone or e-mail at any time of day at no extra cost for your company.

Setting up a business in a recession – madness or genius?

Setting up a business in a recession – madness or genius?

Is there ever an optimum time to start a business? Nicky Rudd, managing director at Padua Communications, did it when she was made redundant two years ago at the start of the recession and shares some valuable lessons.

I was pushed into starting my own business when I was made redundant. Although, looking back, it was on the cards for much longer as I had owned a company name and website domain for seven years already. It just took a bit longer to finally have the courage.

Working for yourself, particularly when you are starting out is a very strange feeling. I remember going to a family dinner and of all the other people around the table, the only people who were not working in a ‘proper job’, apart from me, were my mum, dad and nana – all of whom had worked and were retired. I felt like a label was missing as it’s only when your business has been running a while (and dare I say it, you’re bringing in some money) that it feels like a real job.

Setting up on your own is the scariest and most exhilarating thing you can do but it does take a while to relax into your own skin. For me it took about four months of networking meetings and saying my 60 second pitch over and over before I felt like I had gone to a meeting with clothes on! That is how it feels. I suppose because you are vulnerable, it does feel like you are naked. You have to trust and believe in yourself. If you don’t, why do you think anyone else will?

So my first big tip is: get some support – big style! I am very lucky in that I have an extremely special husband (and business partner), who was and still is, fantastic at supporting me emotionally as well as financially. I also found my networking circle invaluable. I joined a group called ladies at 11 and the women I have met there have been fantastic for a whole range of reasons – support, advice, feedback. It’s great to meet other people like yourself in a similar place to where you are. None of my friends work for themselves so getting some new friends who understand where you’re coming from is crucial – otherwise it can be a very lonely place.

So what other top tips?

  • Beware of boring other people! This is what I fear I do all the time but that’s because setting up a business is all-consuming. You will think, talk, breathe, and speak about it all of the time – guaranteed! I don’t have children myself but have friends who do. You know sometimes mums can completely change so that all they talk about is the baby – well it’s like that, only worse as you don’t have a cute newborn or toddler with you to show off! My own offspring, Padua Communications, is 16 months old and I do have some things to show for my hard work.
  • Make sure you take breaks from your work to relax. As someone pointed out to me, when you work for yourself, if you get sick, there is no-one to do the work, so make sure you keep healthy. Time away from your desk is important physically and mentally and it also means you give yourself and others a break from your business.
  • Be prepared to evolve – your business idea will change from what is in your head when you first start. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to remain flexible and not to be too scared about adapting my business offering. No-one expects you to get in a car and drive first time. You have to learn what everything does and being flexible and easy on yourself when you first start out is absolutely key – especially if you’re a perfectionist!
  • Set realistic goals, and go with a pace that suits you and your business. Don’t get too disheartened if things don’t move as quickly as you want them to, just keep at it.
  • Be aware of the competition but more aware of your own business, your own goals and what you want to achieve. Stay focused.
  • Be critical of your strengths and weaknesses – we’re not all great at everything so put some plans in place that work with your strengths and look at options for the things that you aren’t as good at or that you don’t enjoy.
  • Get out and do it. My only regret is not starting my business earlier. If you have an urge to work for yourself, take a breath and a leap of faith and do it. What is the worst thing that can go wrong? You will have to make sacrifices but they will be worth it and the rewards are amazing. If it doesn’t work out, you will have acquired a range of new skills and you will have learned a lot about yourself if you need to go and work for another employer.

Hard work, some smart marketing and good customer service will take you far though and remember that quote from Maya Angelou, “Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure so that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.”

My final tips; learn whatever you can from others around you. Ask lots of questions and get a mantra. Good luck!

Author: Nicky Rudd is managing director of Padua Communications, which offers you support for PR, copywriting, marketing and events.