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Frances Cushway

Career Coaching



Top Tips For Career Returners to Boost Your Personal Brand

Posted by [email protected] on December 31, 2018 at 8:35 AM

Returning to work after maternity leave or a career break feels a bit like riding a rollercoaster. The most common feelings I hear from mums returning to work after having children are: loss of confidence in themselves, feeling daunted by the idea of being in the workplace again, fear about whether they can do the job again, fear about leaving their baby or children and wondering how to balance work and family life.

Most mums I work with have often forgotten how much they have to offer back at work; underestimating both their skills and experience. This is where reminding yourself about your Personal Brand can help you.

So what is your personal brand and why is it so important?

Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, says that your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. What are you known for in your area of expertise? What is your reputation within and outside your organisation? Having a strong sense of your personal brand can help you:

● talk clearly and easily about your strengths and qualities

● feel more confident to talk about your value in interviews

● demonstrate the value you bring to an organisation

● feel more comfortable talking about your successes in development discussions at work

● be clearer on how you contribute to the overall success of your organisation

● be thought of or found for opportunities inside or outside your organisation

On returning to work after a break, many mums I have worked with feel their reputation will be affected by their time out of the workplace. They fear they will be seen as less committed to their work, with one eye on the clock counting down to when they can leave to get back to their family. In effect, they feel that one of the main things that their colleagues will say about them now is that they are a mum first colleague second!

But panic not! You can rebuild your brand when you return to work by taking some simple steps to re-establish your reputation.

Top Tips to Boost your Personal Brand

Before you return to work ask yourself these questions:

1) What are your natural or innate strengths? What feedback have you been given by friends or colleagues about what you do really well?

2) Before you left for your break, what were your main achievements at work? Reflecting on all the great work you did before you left can help you build your confidence. Think about examples as if you were talking about them in an interview or on your CV. You can use the STAR format (Situation - Task - Action - Result) if that helps. Think about what you did and the outcome, particularly with regards to how it benefited your organisation and colleagues and the value you added.

3) Thinking about all of the roles that you have had in your career to date, what is the thing you consistently did when you started them? Were there common improvements you made in all your roles that weren’t necessarily part of your job description? For example, after taking time to listen to how things work, did you often streamline processes in your roles or teams to save both yourself and colleagues time?

4) What are you passionate about in your career? Why do you do what you do?

5) What do you want to be known for in your career?

Once you have answered these questions, read back over your answers and maybe talk them through with a friend. What is the clear message coming through that you want to take back with you to work? What is the value you have and will add to your organisation? Think about the top three things you want people to say about you when you return and how you can demonstrate these qualities in your day to day work as well as longer term career.

On Your Return to Work, Take Your Personal Brand with You.

One of the most important things to do when returning from maternity leave or a career break is to re-connect with your colleagues. This helps you build up your support group again in your office, helps you find out what’s happened while you were away, and lets your colleagues know you are back and engaged with what’s going on. It also shows you are acknowledging that things have changed since you were last in the office and it might not have been a bed of roses for your colleagues while you were away! These conversations can also help you remind your colleagues of what you do and how you can help them.

Once you know what projects you are working on, and who you will be working with, arrange to have a coffee with your key colleagues to reconnect with them. Find out what has happened with them while you were away and what work issues they are grappling with now. You can talk about your current priorities with them and any issues you can see coming up plus sow the seeds of your brand and if/how you are able to help your colleagues.

Now you know a bit of the background of what’s going on with your colleagues, you won’t feel out of the loop. You’ll be more aware of what’s going on behind the scenes and feel confident speaking up in team meetings. Your colleagues will know you have done your best to catch up on what you’ve missed and have taken the time to find out what else is going on.

Next Steps

You can start to use your personal brand to help develop your career. Choosing projects or helping out with tasks that build on your personal brand will help you establish yourself as the go-to person for that type of work or for possible promotions in the future.

Top Tips For Returning To Work After Maternity Leave

Posted by [email protected] on December 4, 2017 at 6:35 AM

Returning to work after maternity leave is an emotional time. On top of the logistics of child care, coordinating diaries with your partner and working out how the house work will get done there’s dealing with the emotions of leaving your baby. You’re probably also still dealing with sleep deprivation if you’re getting up to your baby in the night, which can make juggling home and work roles even harder.

You were probably more than aware of how the logistics of day to day life were going to change after having a baby, but most mothers aren’t prepared for how they feel emotionally and mentally.

When working with mums returning to work after having children, the most common feelings I hear are:

- loss of confidence in themselves

- feeling daunted by the idea of being in the workplace again

- fear about whether they can do the job again

- fear about leaving their baby

- wondering whether they can balance work and family life.

Most mums I work with have often forgotten how much they have to offer back at work – underestimating their skills and experience. On top of this, for the last 6-12 months they have improved their multi-tasking skills exponentially while juggling babies, toddlers, household jobs and coordinating days out (as well as partners!).

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the last few weeks of maternity leave and first few weeks back at work:

1) Write down all your concerns. Once you have written them down they often seem easier to deal with than when they’re churning around in your head. You can then discuss them with your partner or someone else who has been through this before and see what needs to be ‘tackled’ and what you need to try to stop worrying about.

2) Re-negotiate the home contract. Write down all of the jobs that need doing around the house and a rough estimate of how long they take, then sit down with your family and work out a solution that works for everyone. Getting children to help with age appropriate chores around the house is a great way to instil a good work ethic early on.

3) Take stock of your skills and experience. Remind yourself of what you have achieved so far in your career.

4) Work out who will be in your support network for when you return to work. You will have good days and bad days (as you did before you went on maternity leave) and as before you will need someone you can talk through issues with as they arrive as well as celebrate your successes.

5) Try not to spend the last few weeks worrying about going back to work. Be mindful to stay in the present and set aside a time at the end of the day to revisit any thoughts from the day that need addressing.

6) Listen to your own needs and do things you like to do whether it's reading, exercise, yoga...they will help reduce your stress. The first few weeks back at work will most likely be overwhelming and stressful as you readjust to your new life. You may also wonder whether you have done the right thing returning to work or start to feel guilty about going to work. You will not be alone here – mums seem to feel guilty no matter whether they return to work or not! Once you settle into your new routine it will be the new normal.

7) Seek out help if you need it.  If you are finding it hard to cope or you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, do talk to your partner, a friend or your GP to make sure you get the help and support you need.

If you would like further help dealing with the issues and emotions of returning to work after your maternity leave, do get in touch to see how my career coaching could help you, whether on a one-to-one individual basis or by joining one of my career workshops.

Wishing you a happy and successful return to work!

- Frances


Could this be the solution to the Term Time working problem?

Posted by [email protected] on August 28, 2017 at 3:05 PM

There are two issues that frequently come up in my work as a Career Coach: parents needing term time work to fit around school holidays and students needing commercial experience to supplement their education and make themselves more employable. Could we solve both problems with one neat solution?

If you search for opportunities for term time working, there are only limited options available. Jobs at schools are like gold dust, and I can only imagine how many applications they receive from local parents looking for work that fits around school holidays. On writing this I looked at Timewise Term Time jobs, a great resource for flexible and part time jobs, and at the time of writing there were three Term Time jobs advertised, although only two suggested that the job was term time only. A general online search provided a few more options, many of these working in nurseries or schools and often requiring experience and qualifications for working with children.

Returning to work after a break looking after children is hard enough for parents, which is why Women Returners, founded by Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, has been such a success in both supporting women returning to work after a break and helping companies develop and run Returnship programmes. But returning to work in a job that fits in with family commitments takes it a step further. A report by Women Like us in 2009 found that one of the key barriers to enterprise for women returners was the effect their work may have on their families. Anecdotally, many highly skilled and qualified mothers I know have simply given up the idea of returning to work while their children are at still at school because the logistics are too difficult to manage. The flip side of this is that their return to work may then be even harder as their career break lengthens.

The problem is that very few companies operate term time only; they need resource to operate all year round. And this is where we could potentially solve the problem, by using a resource that is generally more available in school and university holidays - students.

The 2016 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey showed that while most graduates achieve the work-readiness required for business, two of the areas where there is still considerable room for improvement are 'relevant work experience' and 'business and customer awareness' (34% and 41% of employers were not satisfied in these areas respectively). As with working parents, students often struggle to find suitable work during holidays and competition is high for internships, which are still few and far between.

So is there space in the jobs market to create a solution to both of these problems by parents and students job sharing roles based on their availability and skills? Would this increase the opportunities available to both parents and students or are their skill sets too diverse? Have you ever employed a parent/student job share, and if so how did it work? Could you see this as something that could work for your company? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts or any experience you have with this.

Top 3 Ways Mums Can Start Their Own Business

Posted by [email protected] on April 9, 2015 at 3:45 PM

Working as a Career Coach in Godalming, my clients are often mums who have moved from London to start a family or after having children. Working in London and juggling nursery and school drop offs can make for a very busy week! Setting up your own local business can be a way to fit your working life around your family life. But where on earth do you start?

The August 2014 survey by the Office for National Statistics found that self-employment was at its highest level for 40 years. Looking at the gender split, although the number of self-employed men overall is still higher, the number of women in self-employment is increasing at a faster rate – from 2009 to 2014 the numbers increased by 34%.

From my own experience it’s easy to see where this is likely to be coming from – mums setting up their own business or consultancy to fit in with a busy family life. The most frequent reason clients have come to me over the last couple of years is to investigate how they might find work that fits in better with their family life, and this often involves exploring self-employment.

The three main ways I have seen mums make the transition from full time employment to setting up their own business are:

1) use your existing skills to set up a freelance or consultancy business;

2) turn a hobby into your business; and

3) start up a new business based on something you have always loved.

However, starting up your own business is no mean feat. It takes research, time, patience and money as well as a viable plan. The statistics on how many businesses fail in the first couple of years vary from 50% to 90%, which does not make encouraging reading.

I’m not going to focus on the top tips for setting up your own business here - I have linked to many of the most popular resources below. Instead I’d like to share the stories of three local business women and their tips and advice.


Using your existing skills to work freelance

Sarah Pearson works as a freelance Marketing Consultant, providing expert support and advice to Agencies when needed for Marketing Initiatives. She saw a gap in the Marketing Industry and how her skills and experience were perfectly suited to fill it. Once her son was settled at nursery she took the leap to work as a freelance consultant. More...


Turn your hobby into a business

Tamsin Burgess owns Essence Pilates offering both small group and one on one sessions. While on maternity leave for her second child, and not wanting to go back to long hours and commuting, she decided to turn her long term hobby into her new business. More...

Turn your passion into your business

Lydia Allen is a personal stylist and make-up artist, based in Guildford, Surrey. She offers a high quality and professional service advising both men and women on what to wear and how to develop their own unique style to enhance their individuality and appearance. Lydia has always had a passion for the fashion industry. After her twins started school she found she had the time to commit to turning this passion into her new business. More...


BBC News – Top Tips for Starting Your Own Business – 50 Tips for Starting Your Own Company – Start Your Own Business