Firstly please tell our lovely mamas about your coaching/ consulting practice?
I initially worked as a Career Coach alongside my Producer role at the BBC before I took voluntary redundancy after my first maternity leave.
I set up my Career Coaching practice when my youngest daughter was 18 months, working it around nursery and school hours.
I now work full time with both private clients and organisations here in the UK and overseas.
I help clients on a 1:1 level with all sorts of different career issues – those going through redundancy, wanting to find a job they love, graduates unsure what they want to do and of course mums returning to work after either maternity leave or a career break.
I also offer maternity coaching to help mums with the transition to and from maternity leave, which is a particularly tricky and sensitive time!
One of my favourite activities is running Career Returner workshops. These are mostly (but not exclusively) for mums wanting to return to work after a break looking after their children but who have no idea where to start.
I love seeing the transformation coaching has on my clients and the renewed confidence, energy and enthusiasm they develop which helps them continue on their career path.
Now I’d love to dive in and ask your advice on three common questions that our mamas face…
I feel as if I’ve lost my confidence since going back to work after having a baby.
Before maternity leave, I’d be happy to speak up in meetings and share my views, but since I’ve come back I feel as if my opinions no longer count to my colleagues. What can I do?
Firstly, you can take solace in the fact that this is extremely common, and you are not alone in your feelings!
One of the most important things to do when returning from maternity leave 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 on maternity leave, and lets your colleagues know that 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 that it might not have all been a bed of roses for your colleagues while you were away!
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.
Once 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 so feel more confident speaking up again in meetings. Your colleagues will know that 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. You are also more likely to feel that when you do speak up, your comments are valid and well-informed.
I feel so guilty every time I drop my son off at nursery when I go to work. How can I stop feeling like this?
I have yet to meet a mum who doesn’t feel guilty about something…we do like to beat ourselves up about anything and everything!
It’s also hard not to compare ourselves to other mums, and that’s whether we work or not. Working mums tend to feel guilty about not being there every minute of the day for their children and mums who don’t work often feel guilty about not being a positive role model. But we all have our own parenting path to follow so try not to compare yourself to other mums.
The guilt of working mums does weigh particularly heavy though. However, there is no evidence that children of working mums do any worse in life. If you need to work whether for the income or to keep a sense of your own self, then that is ok. A happy mum helps make a happy child.
No one can tell you how to feel or change the way you feel but you can change the way you think, which can help you manage your feelings better. There’s a concept in psychology called ‘reframing’ which is a technique that helps you identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts. Using this technique, you can review your emotions to help find more positive alternatives.
So, think about the reasons why you feel guilty about dropping your son at nursery. Then think about a positive alternative to these feelings. For example, does your son have access to more opportunities at nursery than you can provide at home? I always loved the amount of messy play my girls did at nursery that I couldn’t (and honestly really didn’t want) to do at home!
Spending time at nursery helps children develop their social skills and independence. They are normally really excited to see you when you pick them up and this can make for more fun times together as a result.
Having some time to yourself also helps renew your own energy and enthusiasm so you feel you have more to offer your children when you spend time with them.
I’ve just set up my own Virtual Assistant business, and I’ve signed up to attend a couple of local networking events. But I’m so nervous about talking to new people. Do you have any tips for how I can feel confident and introduce myself at these types of events?
I certainly do, as this is something many of my clients struggle with too. One important thing to be clear on before you attend a networking event is what is your personal brand? What do you want to be known for or people to say about you when you’re not in the room? Is there an issue or problem you help companies solve? Is there a way you work that is unique to you? Why are you passionate about what you do? Being clear on your brand will mean when you meet new people you will know what you want to say about yourself and what you do.
Be clear on why you are going to the event. Are you going to meet people doing similar work? Are you looking to get information or develop your knowledge? Are you looking for new clients? Approach an event with one objective and it will be easier to focus on this and feel it has been a success.
When you get to the event don’t switch into ‘broadcast mode’ – where you are focusing on the message you are trying to get across. Instead look to start some nice warm friendly conversations with people.
Decide which person or group looks friendly, usually the best option is an ‘open pair’ – two people talking with space for someone to approach them. When they introduce themselves, use their names when you say hi to help remember them. Ask open questions and actively listen to their responses.
For example, find out what they do, maybe ask what they enjoy about it and what is happening in their industry now. If you are looking for new clients, it’s important to find out if the person you are talking to has a need for your services.
So, before you launch into a pitch ask some open questions to try and discover what issues the person you are talking to is facing. What are their needs? It might be that your services aren’t relevant or needed, but you can help them in another way by introducing them to one of your contacts who can help them.
Your new contact will really appreciate your help, and this will make you memorable. Look for opportunities to help others as much as to help meet your objectives.
When the conversation feels like it is coming to a natural end, if it feels right to stay in touch, swap business cards and suggest you connect on LinkedIn. Then see if there is anyone you can introduce your new contact to. And always remember if you agree to get in touch, or follow up with someone, do it!