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Louise Jones : Dreamscope TV, the 2nd share from our High Profile Returning Women series.

The Classic Work / Life Balance, Juggling Act, Spinning Plates….

I went to back to work when my daughter was seven months old – to some that was too early but I was in the very fortunate position to be going back to a job I loved and missed. Whilst a fabulous and successful company, it is a small company and it didn’t sit right with me to take any longer off work – and no, I don’t feel guilty for prioritising that. Money was of course a factor too. My maternity pay was paid in full for three months and then down to statutory maternity pay every month thereafter – ouch.

Going back to work was the classic ‘going back to work for a rest’ scenario. I absolutely loved my time on maternity leave, it was so precious and memorable but I was ready to use my brain again and to have more diverse conversations! As soon as I went back, I realised how much I enjoyed my own company too – driving in with the radio on, grabbing my morning coffee, having two arms to do everything…!

I don’t work on the doorstep of home – on a normal day, it takes 40 minutes to drive into work but get the traffic wrong and it can be a two hour journey. Add that to the still occasional disturbed night’s sleep that a one year old can bring and it can be a killer. As selfish as it sounds, I dread her catching another cold or teething again – my priority is of course whether she is ok(!) but I can’t lie that I don’t then wonder how much sleep I’ll lose and dread my alarm going off!

I am constantly asked why I do it, why put myself through that when I could maybe find a job closer to my doorstep?

I started out in TV and media but then left it for a while to do something more ‘sensible’ (mortgage companies wouldn’t touch me at the time until I did!) I did so for eight years and had by then worked my way up, travelled all over the world in my role(s), and had a company car. But I was bored. Oh so very bored and it just wasn’t for me. I missed creativity and the art of having ideas and now I’m now back to where I feel I belong, I’m not prepared to throw that away again.

I can honestly say that my job is my passion, my hobby. I love the work and I love the people. I am surrounded by people on the same level and no longer have ‘the itch.’ It is a fantastic, and I appreciate enviable, position to be in, but my God, have I worked hard for it and to be back here.

Life is definitely tougher with a child in the mix too. The nights I get home at 7pm, I have to practically get her straight to bed or ring my husband and ask that he starts her routine as I’m stuck in traffic. I dislike those nights, I have to say, but I do manage to strike a balance, and I hope one day she agrees that I did that.

We also work on a huge, well known TV show which can mean that we are filming into the very early hours, resulting in getting into bed any time between 12am – 5am – these are of course days when I don’t see that little smile at all albeit my husband always sends me a little picture of her all tucked up in her PJs which helps (me at least).
“Work in a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life” and that is SO true. If I didn’t feel this, I’m not sure that I would feel balance was being restored. The guilt does kick in on occasion but then I know we’ll get that time back and I’ll more than make up for it.
I have been able to find the balance thanks to having a boss that understands the value of flexible working.

Monday and Thursday, when I work full days, I am lucky enough to have my mother in law and parents look after her respectively. Tuesday and Wednesday she is in nursery 8am-6pm – my husband takes her and I pick her up, meaning I leave work at 4pm to avoid the traffic. Fridays I don’t work and we have a lovely, quality mummy and daughter day. That day is so important to me.

Thankfully, our director understands that it is results that are important, not time-serving. I wish for so many people that their companies understood this too. It works both ways. I have always wanted to give my all when it comes to my work but it makes you want to do that more so when you are given the respect and freedom too. Equally, I understand that on occasion, I will have to work a longer Tuesday or Wednesday or go in on a Friday but because the respect and the trust is given, I want to repay it, and everyone is happy.

Yes, I’m absolutely shattered, yes I struggle to get out of bed some mornings and yes, some nights I go straight to bed once we’ve put her down. But to me it is all worth it. The balancing act for me isn’t just about keeping my daughter happy but keeping myself happy too – happy mum, happy baby, I say – I do so by making sure that every extra hour I spend working or travelling is put back into her in the evenings, on Fridays and at the weekend – seieng that little smile light up when we’re playing, doing something simple like reading a book or are on the little train at the park is all I need to know that all’s good in our little world.

Had I not have been in such a great flexible position at work, I would indeed be running for the hills. I have been miserable in some of my more ‘sensible’, ‘real’ jobs and that is certainly not something I want to bring home to my daughter. I hope she too can one day find something she loves to do and pursues it.

Life is tough and we all have to get by which ever ways suits. There is no right and wrong. Let’s face it, every person you look at who seems to have it all covered is winging it just like the rest of us! Hats off to each and every ruddy one of us!

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The fork in the road

Where Future Talent meets Working Parenthood
By Nicki Seignot

If you’re reading this MummyJobs blog then you may be someone who has left their former employer after having had a family, or is perhaps thinking about moving on. I wonder what changed for you when it came to balancing work and family? Has the experience been what you expected? How did your employer support you – or not – during this important transition point? Where are you now in your quest to combine parenting with a fulfilling career?

In my experience many employers have a gap in their approach to supporting talent at this time. Typically, employers will invest in graduate programmes, programmes for high potentials and fast track development programmes. Undoubtedly many of you reading this will have been part of a pipeline of talent for your own organisation at some point. Perhaps you were a graduate or someone on a fast track promotion programme? The surprise is that despite having invested so much prior to this point, many employers fail to extend the investment through the seismic transition that occurs where work meets parenting.

I’ve talked to hundreds of working parents, and find that people rarely – if ever – talk about what great maternity / parental leave policies their employer has. Too often navigating a return to work is left to self-help. For a fortunate few, it is a matter of sheer good luck to have a supportive line manager and achieve a return to work solution that meets their needs and ambitions. And for the many? Those who aren’t lucky risk disappointment, finding their choices compromised, perhaps flat lining, stepping down or resigning altogether. Yet these are talented individuals returning with a brand new set of skills, focused energy and bringing back much needed experience. The losers in this are the individuals and their organisations. It just doesn’t make good business sense to lose good people and all the skills and knowledge that go with them.

So perhaps you are someone looking to start afresh? The opportunity is to reconnect with the professional you, to have confidence that you still have lots to offer a prospective employer. It’s also important to acknowledge the journey you’ve been on, to recognise how much has changed and the value of time away from the workplace to refresh and learn a bunch of new skills.

Here are some ideas and questions to think through as you move forward:

1. Have a vision of your ideal work scenario (Ask yourself – What could that look like? What would you be doing short term / longer term? How much do you want to work – i.e. full time, part time? What do you need to earn? What skills and experience do you bring as a potential employee?)

2. Research the employer (What sort of an organisation is this? What is their track record for supporting and developing diverse talent? What’s possible for longer-term career ambitions? How do they support working families? To what extent might you be able to work flexibly e.g. work from home or condense your hours? What’s expected in terms of working hours / start and finish times? Who can you connect with who might share ‘on the ground’ insights how it is to work there?)

3. Know what you are willing to compromise on (e.g. Being flexible around the days you work, or perhaps the location)

4. Be clear on your non negotiables (e.g. Leave time at the end of the working day to be there for pick up)

5. Think positively about your skills and experience (What have you learned about yourself through this period of transition? Returners can offer different perspectives, they are likely to be more focused, to achieve more in less time and to bring fresh ideas and thinking having been out of the workplace for a while. Perhaps you’ve been involved in community or charity work)

6. Think about what new skills you might need (Boost your confidence by learning something new. You’ll find a host of ideas and online courses as recommended by Mummyjobs. Click here for more details)

7. Plan for contingency (As one working mother said to me ‘Everything works when everything works – but you’re one crisis away from chaos. It’s crucial to have a back up plan for the times you might need it.’)

8. Do a dry run of the morning and evening commute (i.e. So you have a sense of the traffic / peak points en route and know your margin for leave time.)

9. Know you don’t need to make this journey alone. (If you’re about to start work again, seek out or request an internal mentor as part of your induction programme. Someone from within the business, another working parent may be a valuable source of off line support.)

10. Still looking for inspiration and a bit more guidance up front? (MummyJobs can support you with one to one coaching through your search. Click here to find out more.)

Nicki Seignot is the lead consultant and founder of The Parent Mentor and co-author of Mentoring New Parents at Work (Routledge 2017). Nicki works with employers to encourage them to invest in returning talent through better preparation of line managers and connecting working parents with fellow working parents through internal mentoring programmes. You’ll find more information and lots of resources here

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More than hospitable…

Have you ever thought about how your skills as a mummy could mean that you’ll thrive in the hospitality industry?

You’re probably thinking that being a mummy isn’t in any way similar to working in hospitality, but many of the skills you’ve honed while raising your little cherubs actually make you the ultimate hospitality worker.

Here’s just a few reasons why…

You’ve played host to the masses
As a mummy, having guests (and lots of them) is a regular occurrence, and more often than not, they are rather demanding and not that easily pleased. Dealing with (for the most part) well behaved guests in a hotel or at a dinner event will seem a piece of cake when you’ve managed a 13 five year olds high on sugar at a birthday party or negotiated the minefield of a family Christmas!

You know how to cater for some picky customers
“Bring your friends for dinner!” you say, “it’ll be fun!” you say.
Ever regretted the second these words escape your lips? All of a sudden you have a house full of dietary requirements and picky eaters who all want a different dish at the same time, but who all leave happy at the end of the evening. Sound familiar?
Working in the restaurant industry is actually very similar, it’s all about how you manage your diners. You already have the skills there so why not consider a career in hospitality management? Our Hotel Management training course is only one of the e-learning courses we have onsite that could help get you started.

You can turn down a bed in no time
Making beds is second nature to all mummies, and it’ll seem a walk in the park when you’re not combining it with entertaining a rampaging two-year-old or trying to convince your dear darling not to eat any more of his Lego. Imagine how fast you’ll be able to get through a room, when all you have to focus on is stripping the bed and remaking it; you’ll be the speediest maid in the business!

You’re used to dealing with the odd tantrum

We love them, but our little bundles of joy can be pretty challenging at times. But if you can survive the terrible twos and face down a three-year-old who wants to stay up “just a bit longer”, you can handle a bride who wants caviar on a kiev budget or a charity ball that wants free champagne.
Start planning your future as an event manager or wedding planner with our diploma from the New Skills Academy.

You do it all with a smile on your face
Despite all the challenges you face on a daily basis as a mummy, you keep your composure, because the show must go on. This is the best skill you can have, and it’s one that not many people possess. Being able to balance all the competing demands motherhood throws at you, whilst keeping your composure means you’re equipped to take on anything that a job can throw at you, and you’ll do it with a smile.

If you’re looking to get back into work and think hospitality might be for you, remember to put your skills to good use!

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Internships, a viable path to work? Our latest mummy blogger found out the hard way!

I’m a 44-year-old busy mother of three. I have a Masters and a BA degree. I took an 8-year career break to bring up my children. In September 2017 my last child started school and I tried my best to return to employment.

In March 2017 I was called for interview in a graphic design company in Croydon. I was interviewed in a very plush office, with beautiful wooden office furniture and an impressive décor. The person who interviewed me told me that he was offering an internship for a ‘writer’. He agreed that it was “a bit of an insult” to offer me such a role (i assume he said this because of my age and past work experience) however we both agreed that I would learn from the digital marketing experience (so much has changed in the last 8 years!) and that he would profit from my former work experience and maturity. I was expected to work office hours (9am -5pm) Monday to Friday.

My initial impression of the office was good. There were at least 12 Apple macs and the office was wide and comfortable. This ‘appearance’ was later to be subject to ridicule when I observed that the professional looking office that I had been interviewed in on the floor above did not belong to the company I was working for. In addition, I soon noticed that the desks in our office were being advertised as “rentable desk space” on the company social media site!

On commencing my internship I was asked to rewrite the whole of the company website and proofread numerous important emails. A month into the ‘internship’ I began to get concerned that I had no contract. I was working very hard, my husband works abroad so things were particularly strained at home, especially from going from being a full-time mother to a full-time working mother.

After two months I was informed by my boss that my internship position as a ‘writer’ was to be changed to a ‘business developer’. Personal business cards were designed for me with my job title as, ‘Business Development Manager’. I went full steam ahead attending breakfast and evening networking meetings, entirely funded by myself. In one such networking meeting I met a human resource employee who commented how scandalous unpaid internships were! Imagine my situation, I was attending the Chamber of Commerce networking meetings and doing presentations whilst not having a contract, receiving pay slips or paying tax.

After asking my boss directly, at the end of the three months internship, if I was to be taken on eventually; would my role be paid by “commission only?” I was assured verbally that this would not be the case, thus implying I would get a salary.
My boss assured me, “We would love you to stay and grow with us” and proposed that I work another month and that he would pay for my travel and lunch. He said, “As you know it’s all about the sales and money that you are able to bring in for the business. At the end of that month we can sit down again and evaluate the sales you make.”

I was being urged by my friends to leave the company. However I had made business connections and could see potential leads. I decided to complete another month.

It was to my surprise then that my boss was ‘away on business’ for the entirety of this last fourth month and incredibly, at my boss’s request while out of the country, I was asked to create and write the company business plan for which took up considerable time and effort. This diverted me away from the Business Development role.

In spite of this I did manage to get a lead with a prominent company and organised a technical call between my boss( in Dubai) and the lead in the U.K. However, I didn’t feel comfortable to pursue the business development until my boss returned to the office as I didn’t have the technical skills to carry out the work. I feel sure, however, that I initiated contact with a company that will be bringing a continual income to the graphic design business (if the development work is satisfactory for them). I also had several other leads and felt confident that I would get business soon for the graphic design company.
An internship is a period of time during which someone works for a company in order to get experience of a particular type of work. This is certainly what we agreed at interview. That role is not the same as a paid employee who is expected (and motivated) and capable to perform 100% from the start. It appears my boss confused the two, expecting his “interns” to perform as “employees” without paying them.

Sales, in a B2B environment do not happen overnight, it takes time to cultivate relationships with potential clients. People buy from people & businesses they know, like & trust and this takes time.

At the end of my internship I was offered a base salary but ONLY if I were to reach an unrealistic monthly sales target. It seemed a no-brainer. I had already worked for four months for nothing and I wasn’t prepared, at this stage, to accept a commission-only payment structure.
The terms of employment that I was offered after my internship ended, meant that self-employment was not an option, as my boss was determining my hours of work, performance, etc. which means that I would be classified as a “worker”.

It is clear to me that the company I worked for did not have a proper business model to take forward without the use of unpaid workers, for there were three other interns working in the company at the same time as me. They were not even receiving expenses! I left the company asking myself how frequent are these type of unpaid internships being snapped up by honest, hardworking and educated people being led to believe that they may eventually be employed? I also marveled at the fact that my ‘’boss’ succeeded in having four graduates work standard office hours for three months without paying us a penny!

A disgruntled Intern/Mum.