Tag: "featured"

Using Maternity Leave to re-assess your Career – What do you Really Want?

Using Maternity Leave to re-assess your Career – What do you Really Want?

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.

Unfair treatment

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.

 Six Essential Steps for Successful Interviewing

Six Essential Steps for Successful Interviewing

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


1. Research

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

These include:

  • 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.


4. Rehearse

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.

Additional resources


julianne&katerina 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.

Motherhood, Starting a Business and Simon Cowell

Motherhood, Starting a Business and Simon Cowell

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.

Go figure.


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.

Freelancing as a return-to-work option

Freelancing as a return-to-work option

There are a variety and range of possible routes you can take back to work after a career break. If you have always enjoyed your work, and are passionate about what you used to do, free lancing using your old skills, experience and network may just be the thing for you. Read more to find what free lancing is and how to get started.

What is freelancing?

The essence of freelancing is that you offer your skills to companies or individuals on a project-by-project basis.  As an independent contractor, rather than an employee, you can control where, when and how you work. Freelancing therefore gives you more flexibility than any part-time working request is likely to do and more freedom than owning your own business. It can be a perfect set-up for parents wanting to fit in work around school hours.

If this all sounds too good to be true, the downside is that there is much less security than in more structured employment: most freelancers have peaks and troughs in their work. You’ll also need to be self-motivated and comfortable with using your sales skills, particularly when you’re getting started and targeting your first clients. Once you have some client referrals and start to build a reputation you will find it much easier as word of mouth is likely to become a key source of business.

How do I get started?

Before you get started with looking for freelance work, there are some important questions to ask yourself about how and where you are going to work and what kind of work will you do.  If you don’t get these clear, you might find yourself taking on work that you don’t really want to do because of the content, hours or location, but you only discover this once you’ve started the project.  Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are the specific skills I want to offer my clients? What is my niche? Think of yourself as a brand: what are my Unique Selling Points?
  • What are my non-negotiable requirements on working hours and locations? How does my ideal working week look?

The key to success as a freelancer is to understand and believe in the skills and experience that you offer and your ability to provide value to your clients.

How do I find clients?

According to Lyndsey Miles, founder of Freelance Parents, there are 7 ways of gaining clients:

  • Approach your former boss or work colleagues (a very common way for returners to dip a toe in the water)
  • Referrals from your network
  • Freelance job sites
  • Low-cost advertising
  • Offering a free trial
  • Cold calling
  • Using social media as a marketing and networking tool

You might find some of these methods easier than others and they each have their benefits and drawbacks, but they do can work, as the stories on Lyndsey’s website show.

What if I don’t enjoy selling?

Another option for freelancers is tying in with one or more larger organisations who take on skilled and experienced professionals for freelance projects. This may be particularly appealing if business development is not your strong suit! Look for businesses in your sector which take on ‘consultants’ or ‘associates’. An increasing number of ‘virtual’ professional services businesses are resourced largely by independent freelancers, for example:

Freelancing can either be a long-term option, a stop-gap while your children are young or a way to ease back into work. I started out in my new career as a freelancer and was able to create a working life that fitted with my family and kept me stimulated and engaged.

julianne&katerinaAuthor: 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.

How To Get Into Business As A New Mother

How To Get Into Business As A New Mother

It might sound crazy but being a mother is similar to being a businesswoman. Your business is your baby and you do everything in your power to nurture and take care of it (except a business doesn’t come with copious amounts of bodily fluid). Being a mother is scary, but so is starting up your very first business, which is why you need to plan and plan again before you take that all important leap. It’s made even more scary for women who try to do both simultaneously, running a business whilst changing nappies. But rest assure it can be done, it just takes a lot of commitment and faith in yourself.

business-new-motherSo, let’s look at those entrepreneurial mothers that want to venture into the business world. It’s not going to be easy, even for those who have previously had children it can be a very difficult process. People without children can struggle to get their business off the ground, which makes it so much more impressive when a new mother can. You need to remember that no matter what, your baby or babies come first. It sounds pretty standard but it can be very easily to slip into the business mindset and forget who you are, even just for a second.

You can get help from almost every corner, you can start making your business plans whilst your bump is growing. 9 months is plenty of time to make all your business plans, make sure you’ve done all the research you need to take your business to the next level. You can use helpful websites and forums for women in business to not only read articles but to also talk to other working mothers making a name for themselves. Sites such as this one (Mum & Career), Prowess, Net Mums etc are all great for any female entrepreneur.

There are also plenty of apps you can use to help keep track of your business plans or make notes. ColourNote on Google Play is a nifty little tool that allows you to write memos, lists and also includes a helpful calendar. This means that you can keep up to date with your plans, using your phone to make quick notes to add into a bigger overall business plan later on. You can also find apps to help build your business plan from the ground up such as Business Plan Premier and StratPad for the iPad. You can also use an online business plan builder such as the critically acclaimed Enloop, which helps to generate financial data about your business.

But what if you don’t have the funds to start the business? If you’re unable to start because of a lack of funds, then you should perhaps invest in a short term business loan. I’m not talking about horrible loan sharks and those who care solely about the money side of things, I’m talking about lenders who want to help small businesses grow. Merchant Money, for example, have specific low start business loans aimed towards women who are new to business. You don’t need in depth business plans and you don’t need to go to dozens of meetings, all you need is a great business idea and a passion for what you do.

So you’ve sorted your business plan and got the funds to begin your journey, but who is going to look after your child/children when you need to go to meetings etc? Well of course you could get help from friends and family members, but they won’t always be free. This is where helpful websites such as Sitters.co.uk and Childcare.co.uk come in. They list local babysitters to you that are trusted and approved, so you can be sure that your child is in safe hands.

So there you have it, a beginners guide to being a new mother and a new businesswoman! Now you can go into the world and show ‘em what you’re made of.

Author Bio: Jade Waddy is an experience writer with an NOCN in journalism. She writes on all manner of subjects but specialises in the business sector. She has previously written articles for Prowess and for Merchant Money.

Returning to work - Brush up your Social Media Marketing skills

Returning to work – Brush up your Social Media Marketing skills

When you are returning to work, it’s key you regain your competitive edge in the workforce. Having a few technology skills in your tool set, will make you stand out from other candidates, as one of the most desirable skills for employers is marketing with social media. While founded in the traditional marketing realm, it’s still worlds away. Professionals who have a background as marketing directors and such titles in the past need to freshen up their skill set to apply it to the digital world.

Social media marketing requires ongoing analysis, being able to market to a number of demographic groups, and being an expert on a variety of platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Mothers who are considering re-entering the marketing field after some time off can just focus on the major platforms for their industry. Research and know which social media sites are most fitting (not every business belongs on Facebook). Once you narrow it down to LinkedIn, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, GooglePlus or another platform, check out some online tutorials to learn the inner workings.

Why social media?

If you’re returning to work and getting ready to re-enter the workforce, start your own business or even consult, one of the first things you’ll need to know is how to build an online presence. Similar to the golden days of marketing when you reached people via newsletters, ads and banners, the same goal holds true (you’re just doing it on a digital platform).

The good news is that there’s plenty of room for practice. It’s actually not a hard skill to learn, it’s just about playing around with the platform first, for instance by setting up your own Twitter or Instagram account. Then starting to watch what other do, then try your own messages. Next, signing on for an “adult internship” or job shadow could be worth it, even though it sounds silly, volunteering to be the social media maven for a non-profit really does help you learn by doing, and will also allow you to practice with analytics to evaluate your on-line impact.

It’s also important to note that social media isn’t going away, although it may change and evolve over the years. Companies are recognizing that it’s often easier, better and more affordable to outreach for PR and marketing in the digital world, even after factoring in what your hourly rate is worth. Soon, more people will use mobile devices than desktops, depending on tablets and smartphones for information (and for perusing social media).

In addition you will find that many people currently working in organisations have not taken the time to keep abreast of the latest developments. Your Social Media skills may will give you something unique to add.

Complementing social media

As a social media marketer, you need to know more than how to work each platform and analytics. Search engine optimization (SEO) also comes into play, which is basically an evolving set of best practices to get websites (including a company’s social media site) higher up the search list rankings on Google and other search engines. For example, if someone Googles “ghost tours London” you want your company’s website and preferably Facebook page to be in the first few search results. You won’t be expected to be an SEO master, but you should know the basics.

Combining social media marketing with SEO savviness can help you compete in the digitalized industry. Plus, with a strong background in marketing to begin with, you bring a crucial set of skills to the table. Capitalize on what you know, such as how to build relationships or woo clients, and bring it into the tech era with social media.

Author: Larry Alton is an independent business conslarry-altonultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.