5 ways to restart your career after Motherhood
Does your job fit your life? More and more new mothers are wondering how they can sidestep into a flexible and fulfilling new career, without retraining. Nikki Walsh asks career experts and smart mums for pointers.
If you consider that 50 per cent of Irish jobs are gained through the use of a personal or professional network, rather than through standard job applications, you cannot fail to appreciate the importance of networking. Occupational Psychologist Sophie Rowan at Pinpoint.ie is the author of Brilliant Career Coach, how to find and follow your dream career, Pearson. “People generally balk when you mention the word networking,” she says, “and although Irish people are known to have ‘the gift of the gab’, they can be slow to make use of their most powerful career change tool.” Networking doesn’t have to be as cynical or as strategic as you might think: making the effort to keep in touch with family, friends and friends of friends, and spreading the word about what you would like to do can have just as much of an effect as cold calling a CEO. You never know when your name might come up in a conversation. Once you have built up a network, don’t be shy about contacting people in your target industry and asking them for coffee. People love to talk about what they do and to impart knowledge and experience. “It often helps to say that you will only take up 20 minutes of their time,” says Sophie, “and arrange to meet at their office to make it ultra-convenient for them. If they can’t spare the time for a meeting, email or phone will do too. When you do get to talk be positive – whilst this isn’t an interview, if you make a positive impression at this meeting you can be sure that you will be the first person that they think of the next time they’re hiring. And remember, a good networker will always leave a networking meeting with another contact so be bold when it comes to asking your contact for the number of someone they may have mentioned during the conversation.” As well as creating your own tailor-made network – there are plenty of networking groups you can join such as Simply Networking Salon, e-networking and LinkedIn.
All too often it’s not a 360-degree turn you need to make in your career, but something a little more 180, and learning a complementary skill can allow you to think outside a single defining role. You have no idea how your new skills might make you attractive to a new employer, or how meeting new people might broaden your contact base. If you want to upskill but are short on funds, check out springboardcourses.ie, which offers a range of free courses at a post-grad level on everything from cross-enterprise skills to IT management.
3. Go it Alone
Sometimes the solution to greater flexibility in work is to create the job – and the life - you want yourself. Marketeer Maeve Buckley is MD of Line Up Sports, a sports, media and Entertainment Consultancy (www.lineupsme.com).“I made the decision to go out on my own when pregnant with my first child. I was CEO of a small company with no maternity pay, no maternity policy, no experience of it, and, as a result, no understanding of the situation and how a good workplace responds. I realised everything would be a struggle from there on in, and decided if work was going to be a struggle, at least I should be doing that struggle for myself! Now nearly six years and another child later, I haven't looked back. I have kept my career and business identity, while also (and more importantly) having two super kids who I get to see a lot of and spend a lot of time with.”
According to a survey carried out by TimeBank some 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without, 94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills and 94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted. So if you are trying to find your way back into the workforce consider signing up for a community project such as www.socialentrepreneurs.ie or www.ashoka.ie, which support people who provide solutions to Ireland’s social problems. Not only are these places positive and invigorating places to work, they are also good places to meet people and learn new skills.
5 Get a coach
Lost your confidence? Feeling stuck? Unsure which career path is the right one for you? Hire a career coach. They will work through your blocks, give you objective feedback on your skills and passions, strategise with you on how to make changes, help you to stay on track with goals, explore options, and handle different elements of a job search. Dearbhalla Baviera is MD of Clearbird, a coaching and consulting company for women in transition, (www.clearbird.ie). “I do a lot of work around building confidence and helping women get a grasp of the importance of influencing, stakeholder management, and taking responsibility for raising their own profile and driving their career,” she says. “”Part of that conversation may be about gaining flexibility, and setting themselves up to have that conversation. But it’s also true that many of the mums I have worked with have negotiated some kind of flexibility and the bigger issue is managing the impact of that flexibility on their career. Many mums who have been at home think it will be impossible to find a job with flexible/shorter hours, but I know many who with clarity and focus have found reduced hours roles. It often comes down to the confidence thing again - believing and asking!”
Nikki Walsh is a writer and editor with a passion for what makes us tick. She lives in Dublin with her husband, her son and a heap of books, mostly on psychology.