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Careers Expert Fiona Clark Answers Your Questions For Working Mums Club

Missed our Working Mums Club Facebook chat with careers expert Fiona Clark? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here

Twice a month at Mother&Baby we bring you the Working Mums Club Facebook chat – a chance to get your questions answered about boosting confidence, changing careers or starting a new busines – all while juggling your “other job” - motherhood. This week, careers expert Fiona Clark was on standby to answer questions.

Fiona is a career and confidence coach behind the company Inspired Mums, a coaching company aimed at helping women find fulfilling, family friendly job roles. Inspired Mums offers a range of services including: helping people gain clarity on what they want to do, how to overcome barriers such as low confidence, as well as advice on how to sell themselves in CVs and interviews.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

I wondered if you had any good tips on how to handle the guilt of being a working mum? I've been back at work for six months and leaving my little one at nursery still gets me every time?

I know so many mums who struggle with this. Personally I decided a while ago that guilt wasn't a healthy feeling and it was draining my energy, so I decided to actively choose to stop feeling guilty, or at least dial it right down! A good way of doing this is to focus on all the positives of you working: perhaps it means you really value the quality time you do have together; or that you are more fulfilled having both work and motherhood in your life; or that you can afford to give your kids a better lifestyle; or that you are being a good role model for them. I even think about how much fun they have at nursery with the other kids and lovely care workers. Write a long list – and use that to remind yourself of the positives of you working.

I've come up with a business concept for a service for mums. I really think it could go far, but not sure what my next step is. Do I need to patent the idea? Or do I need to start looking into business development loans etc?

If you haven't already – I would start with some research with mums you trust – for example find out what they think of the idea, how much they would pay, how often they would buy the service. I would also write a business plan to think it all through properly. It will formulate your ideas about the sales and marketing aspects – who is your target market and how are you going to get people to sign up? How many people need to use the service to grow to the right level and so on. This will give you the commercial sense-check of how financially viable the idea is. Patents are expensive so I would get some advice from an expert about whether the idea is patentable and if it's worth it – given your offering is a service, not a product. If you need a loan, your business plan will be your main weapon for securing one so spend some quality thinking time on it! Here's some information on business plans if that helps.

I'm in need of a confidence boost. At home I feel so capable, looking after my baby and tending to her needs. But as soon as I get into work, it's like I don’t believe I can do anything. Why is this happening? And do you have any tips for helping me boost my confidence?

This is a common problem – rest assured you are not alone! Even the most competent, successful women find this hard when returning to work. I would work on your self-belief and tune in to your 'inner gremlin', that is, the negative things you are saying to yourself. Then replace that negative statement with a much more positive statement and then look for all the evidence that it's true. For example, if you’re thinking 'I'm no good at my job' replace it with 'I am great at my job' and then write a list of all the reasons why this new positive statement is true. Keep saying the new belief to yourself over and over for a whole month – so you retrain your brain to think more positively and look for what you can do, rather than what you can't.

I really want to change careers. Do you think it's worth getting 'the fear' by quitting and THEN deciding what to do (otherwise I'll never leave my job!) or should I do a bit of research first?

Interesting conundrum! This really depends on your personal circumstances – such as financial situation and how long you will have before you need to find another role. With the mums that I coach, I encourage them to work out some basics before taking the leap – such as working out what lifestyle choices they want to make (hours, commute, salary etc), what kind of company culture works for them, what types of industries they are interested in. I also have some great tools that help people work out very quickly what their top three career motivators are and what skills they love using – all of which help guide your career choices moving forward.
Either way, good luck with your career change and (whether you resign or not) I would recommend putting some kind of deadline on the career change so you can spur yourself into action!

I've been back at work from mat leave since January and really struggling. One of my colleagues continuously undermines me in front of other people in the office and makes comments when I have to leave to pick up my baby from nursery. Should I rise above the comments or speak to someone about it?

I feel for you – it must be really frustrating and draining. If you are feeling brave, I would give that person some direct feedback (away from others in a meeting room) and tell them how their behaviour is making your feel and what they need to stop doing – they may be naive about how undermining it is. Hopefully that may nip it in then bud. Alternatively – yes – I would definitely talk to a supportive manager or HR person as this kind of office behaviour is not acceptable and can have serious consequences for the business (e.g. retention of staff and then cost of recruiting).

Top tips from Fiona

  • In a well paid job but desperately unhappy or stressed? Ask yourself what would you be willing to sacrifice in order to have less stress and more balance in your life. Sometimes we worry about giving up material things such as posh cars and holidays, but for most people, the value of enjoying life more is priceless.
  • Confidence is a major challenge for lots of mums, whether they have had a short or long break from work. Here's one suggestion on how to boost your confidence. Think of an achievement you are really proud of. Then think of all the positive traits, skills and attitude that you tapped into to make that achievement happen. Write them all down and keep adding to the list when you think of other things you have done (and no, they don't need to be major challenges such as climbing Everest!)
  • Before you spend (waste) hours looking on the web for roles using the search terms like 'part-time' or 'working from home' be clear on what you DO and DON'T want! Think about what motivates you at work and what skills come naturally to you so you are playing to your strengths.


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