Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

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.

5 tips to take away from the new academic year and apply to your career today.

Posted by [email protected] on September 6, 2018 at 9:50 AM

Despite leaving education over 20 years ago, the legacy of the new school year starting in September means I still see it as an exciting month of change and new possibilities (and a new notepad and pencil case!). For a few years this feeling was a bit out of place as when I was employed it was just another month on the treadmill of work. After starting my own business, and having worked reduced hours over the summer to spend time with my daughters, the start of a new school year means that September is once again a month of new opportunities when I can put fresh plans and ideas into place.

Whether you are employed or running your own business, it is healthy and productive to have a regular sense of new beginnings. From a business point of view, this is normally linked to the financial year and budget setting, and individually this is translated into an annual performance review. On a personal level some people use the beginning of a new calendar year to set themselves challenges or make the changes they would like to see in their personal life.


For children returning to school this week, there is a very clear sense of time moving on as they move up a year, that is not present once you leave education. Their end of year report highlighted what they learned the previous year and this week they will be finding out what the next year has instore for them. The school will be reminding them of the school values and ethos and what their expectations are of them for the next year. And like many parents, as I dropped my girls off this morning, I reminded them of our own expectations - to try their hardest at everything and to be kind, look for the people they can help from their teacher to someone sitting on the friendship bench because they can’t find anyone to play with.

Without the regularity of new beginnings academia brings, working years can quickly rush by. A common observation I hear from clients is that they fell into their current role, and before they knew it they had been in it for 5, 8, 10 years… They come to me because they want to force a new beginning and take back control of their career and learn to manage it better going forward.

So what can we take from the start of another academic year and apply to our own careers? Here are my top 5 suggestions:

1) When will your ‘new year’ start?

Whether you are employed, self employed or on a career break, I encourage you to make time in your year to create your own new beginning. We all have a favourite time of the year when we feel more energised so why not choose then. Whether it’s a new calendar year, the beginning of spring or like me, the start of a new academic year. Take some time out to stop and think about what you have achieved this last year and what you would like to achieve in the next 12 months.


2) Plan your year

Create your own personal development plan. Start by stating your goals. Where would you like to be in 12 months time and what skills and experiences will you need to get you there? Can these be developed within your current role or do you need to look outside your department or business to take on a project to stretch you? Outside your business, volunteering is a great way to develop new skills and experience. The site can get you started here as can the NCVO website Don’t forget to include non-work related goals in your plan such as a hobby you would like to take up or a holiday you really want to go on. How will you feel in a year’s time to have achieved them? What needs to change this year for these to happen?

3) Do your homework!

Once you have your plan, set aside a time each week to revisit your plan and check your progress. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What actions have you taken towards your goals this week?
  • What was your biggest achievement this week?
  • Are there any blocks currently holding you back? How can you navigate around them?
  • What will you do differently next week?

4) Live your values

Remind yourself of your own values. Are your values in line with those where you work? Does the work you do at the moment allow you to live them every day? Aside from being more likely to reach your potential when your values match those where you work, you are also more likely to be happier, less stressed, less easily irritated and more resilient to the tough times. If there is a disconnect, then maybe it is time to think of a move.

5) Who can you help?

Let’s face it, we can all do with help from time to time and an article on the Mental Health Foundation site highlights the benefits of helping others quite simply - ‘doing good does you good’. From small acts of kindness to volunteering or putting two people you know in contact with each other as their businesses have a lot of natural synergy. Look for opportunities to connect and help people you know. You’ll feel good, they’ll feel good - it’s a win win!

Once you have a good career management plan in place, keep it going and you’re less likely in the future to wonder where the last five years have gone. If you would like some support creating your career management plan, do get in touch [email protected]

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


Is the word 'should' weighing you down?

Posted by [email protected] on February 1, 2017 at 9:55 AM

How often in the day do you find yourself saying ‘I should...’? I should eat a salad for lunch rather than a fry up. I should do more exercise. I should have a job where I am earning more.

Should is so engrained in our language that we use it without thinking. But for a small word it packs a mighty big punch as to how we see ourselves and whether we are likely to do something. The implication of saying ‘should’ is that what we are doing is not enough or isn’t acceptable. We aren’t doing what we are supposed to. But in whose eyes?

The role of ‘should’ in careers

From the point of view of Career Coaching when I hear a client use the word ‘should’ it sets off some pretty big alarm bells. It implies that the client feels that something should be different in their career, not because they necessarily want it to be but because of some external pressure for it to be different.

‘I should be earning more money by now, at my age.’

‘My children are at school now so I should get a proper job again.’

‘My best subject at school is English so I guess I should do that at University.’

‘I should go to university if I want to get a good job.’

‘I’ve got a degree in Maths so I should do something that involves numbers or data.’

‘I’ve worked in this field for so long I should stick with it, otherwise it would be a waste of all those years I’ve put in.’

‘I’m working in the job I’ve always dreamed of, so I should be happy.’

How ‘should’ affects your emotions and behaviour

The word ‘should’ in all these examples conjures up some pretty negative emotions – disappointment, guilt, unhappiness, frustration, anxiety, stress and a feeling that you have or are letting yourself down in some way. It can make you resent the decisions you have made and feel obliged to do things you don’t want to do. You feel like you have no control over what you choose to do. Feeling that you should have done something differently or something else doesn’t give you any credit for what you have done. And for the rebellious among us, the word ‘should’ is like a red rag to stop you from doing it!

These ‘shoulds’ can come about for a variety of reasons. Comparing yourself with your peers, who are on a different career path, can make you feel that you are not doing as well as them. Comparing yourself with society’s image of the perfect mother can make you feel that you aren’t doing enough for your family. Making decisions based on time or financial investment to date rather than doing what you enjoy means that you are removing your autonomy or free will.

How can you turn ‘should’ into something more positive?

As a Career Coach, my first step is to investigate where the word ‘should’ is coming from. Why does a client feel that they should be doing something? Who says that they should? What happens if they don’t do it? It’s a pretty challenging question and often uncovers some deeply ingrained thoughts and beliefs that can stem from a clients upbringing, family philosophies and societal stereotyping.

Once we have got to the bottom of where the ‘should’ is coming from, the next step is working through whether this is something the client actually wants and if so, to reframe the statement to elicit more positive emotions around it. Using ‘want’, ‘can’, ‘could’ or ‘would like’ all lead to more positive feelings around the client’s goals or aims. They can make a client feel more motivated to do what’s needed to achieve their goal and feel like they have control again.

Top tips to stop your ‘shoulds’ from weighing you down

  1. Stop and think about why you feel you should do something. Using one of the examples above, why do you feel that now your children are at school you should have a ‘proper job’ again? Is this for society expectations, peer pressure, parental pressure? (Note I do not include financial reasons here as in that case it would be a ‘need’ rather than ‘should’.)

  2. Once you understand a bit more about the ‘why’ you can then start to think about whether it will benefit you. If so, by reframing the ‘should’ into something that elicits positive feelings or emotions, you are more likely to do it and be successful. ‘Now the children are at school I would like to find some work that gets me out of the house but also fits in with my family life.’

  3. If you feel that it won’t benefit you, you can then start to generate some ideas about what you would ‘like’ to do instead. ‘I would like to take some time to get fit and find some time to have a breather before I find a job. That way I will have more energy and enthusiasm to take on extra work.’


Are you struggling with any ‘shoulds’ in your career right now? If my top tips don’t help, do get in touch to see whether career coaching can help you turn your ‘shoulds’ to ‘coulds’.


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


Time to clean up your digital footprint?

Posted by [email protected] on January 14, 2014 at 6:50 AM

You will have no doubt read from numerous media outlets over the past few years how posting less-than-flattering photos of yourself on social media can impact your chances of promotion or getting that new job. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to ensure that your online persona doesn’t hold you back in your career, here are some quick and easy steps to help:

Regularly Google yourself

Yes this sounds terribly conceited but everything you do online under your name will eventually appear here. You might be lucky that you share your name with someone in the spot light who generates inches and inchesof ‘column space’ online with their latest exploits, in which case your own online persona will be pushed several pages down should a future employer look for you. However, the more social media sites you sign up to, the more you will need to manage them. Check the privacy settings on all of the sites you use and set as needed. Then log out of all sites and search for yourself. You will then see how you will appear to anyone searching for you.

Protect your image

All of your profile images can be available at the click of a button unless your privacy settings are set to maximum. By searching for images of yourself you may also see those of people or friends you interact with online. While you may keep your own profile images squeaky clean, the pages you interact with may not. Untag yourself from any photos you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

Timing is everything

Many companies today block social media sites from being accessed via work pcs. However with research by Deloitte*  showing 72% of people between 16 and 64 years in the UK now own a smart phone, it's easy to access all of your social sites round the clock from your phone. Tempting as it may be to keep checking your sites for updates, think twice before you 'like', 'comment' or reply to them. A steady stream of updates on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for example doesn't look like the output of the most productive person in the office!

Rein in the rants

Comments you make, on for example Facebook pages, are public - visible for all to see. So before you have a good old rant about something you feel passionate about, stop and think would you say that to someone’s face? Would you like a potential employer to see these comments? If the answer is no, don’t post them! Or at least keep the language clean and comments constructive. And don’t forget, even if you’re your own boss, potential clients may see these comments too.

You are what you sell

Having a spring clean? Dejunking? Again anything you post on these sites is publicly visible. So maybe drop the luminous green mankini you got from Secret Santa at your local charity shop.

Promote yourself

If it suits your area of expertise or work, set up your own personal website. There are a huge number of do-it-youself sites out there to help you, for examples see top10bestwebsitebuilders If this doesn't suit your line of work, an up to date profile at a site such as LinkedIn should pop up near the top of any search.

Finally if it really has been an eventful Christmas/Birthday or New Year, the Independent published some very useful sites to help you clean up your online footprint.

* The survey was carried out in May 2013 by TNS, on behalf of Deloitte, among people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 64.