Missed our chat with careers coach Fiona Clark? You can find all the expert advice she shared here
The words ‘mum’ and ‘work’ come with a whole set of issues for most of us. Feeling fulfilled and still being you is so important, but striking that work/life balance can also be one of the biggest juggling acts.
That’s why we’ve set up our Working Mums Club, to advise and get behind you every step of the way.
Part of this involves Q&As on our Facebook page with the inspirational women on our Working Mums Club panel. On Thursday, Fiona Clark – work and confidence coach behind the company Inspired Mums – joined us to give her tips.
From career breaks to interviews, find out what she had to say here.
Q: As a mum who is on a career break, is it beneficial for me to be involved in the school PTA, and so on?
Fiona: Yes, it is a great idea to do some interesting/voluntary roles while on a career break. It demonstrates lots of positive qualities in you as a person (wanting to be involved, proactive, help people, etc) and also you may well find that you are able to learn or polish some skills that you can then talk about at interview.
There are other benefits too – many flexible, family friendly roles are never advertised and are found through word of mouth, so the more established your local network is the better for a truly creative job search.
Q: I'm thinking about doing a degree but are there ways to get support for this when I have a toddler?
Fiona: Yes there are funding schemes to help mums study – check out this link to find out what support you may be entitled to.
I would also encourage you to speak the university as they sometimes have subsidised childcare facilities. Good luck!
Q: After several years at home with the children, do employers really want to hear about the skills we've gained at home? Whenever I've mentioned having children in interviews, I haven't heard from them again.
Fiona: Lots of mums worry about revealing they are a parent in interviews. I would really encourage you to talk about your key strengths and skills – some of which will be backed up by examples from your previous career, and some will have been developed as a parent.
I have heard many smaller employers say they want to recruit mums
Employers vary on their perspective of taking on mums, but rest assured it is a positive for many businesses. I have heard many smaller employers say they want to recruit mums because they want someone part time, they are resourceful, can take their own initiative and are very focused because they have to leave at a certain time to pick up the kids!
So, I would emphasise your skill set and be proud of who you are.
Q: I'm restless at work but is it just a phase or could it be time for a career change?
Fiona: When I work with clients who feel like this, I generally start with some key information so that you can evaluate your current situation objectively. First of all, make sure you understand what you are motivated by, as often this is the biggest source of job satisfaction.
Secondly, write down a list of what you do and don't want from a job – include skills you do/don't want to be using, what career progression you are looking for, what type of company culture you want to work in, what type of industries you are/aren't interested in, lifestyle choices such as working hours and salary, and so on.
When you have identified these building blocks you should have more clarity on why you are feeling restless. Sometimes the answer is to work with your current employer to change something about your current role rather than jumping ship!
The key is being able to articulate to a boss what needs to happen for you to feel more fulfilled and happy.
Q: When I'm on maternity leave can I work from home or is it not allowed? I used to do direct selling through Body Shop at Home parties. Would I lose my maternity pay if I did this?
Fiona: You are allowed to have 10 days of paid work while on mat leave without it affecting your maternity pay. These are called 'keeping in touch’ days.
However, in your situation, if you are planning to go back to your employed role remember you may need some (or indeed all) of these 10 days to attend important meetings, get back up to speed or to re-integrate into work before your first proper day back.
So just make sure you think that through before using them up.
Q: I'm at university and would really like to know the best ways to manage my workload and time with my baby. I'm struggling!
Fiona: I would recommend that you try to separate out your time as best you can and have some kind of schedule. Decide what time is 'mummy time' with baby and what time is study time. Sometimes we try to do everything at the same time and feel like we aren't doing either activity very well, as we aren't focusing properly on either of them!
If at all possible, I would also encourage you to ask any friends or family who could help you out looking after your baby for a few hours so you have some quality study time.
Finally, if there is anything else on your usual 'to do' list that you can let go or ask for support from someone to free up some of your time, then do it.