Why people love Mum & Career

We ran a market survey, and I absolutely loved reading all the responses. Thank you so much for your great responses. A lot of it confirmed what I was expecting, but there certainly were a few surprises too!

The results will shape our direction. Here’s a taster of what we found:

You, the respondents form a real mix of full-time and part-time working mums, mums running their own business and mums looking for a job.

Mum & Career brings info, but also recognition, motivation and inspiration

A lot of you mention it is a very good place to find practical advice and information. Mum & Career also helps you to feel less lonely, and keep going. As illustrated best by these quotes:

“It’s a great one-stop shop”

“It’s a website that is relevant to me as a woman and a mum, not just as a mum. It great to read about other women and their businesses/careers. I find it reassuring and supportive.”

“Articles written by real working mums who are also studying/changing careers are my favourite on the site. It helps me to feel motivated regarding changes being possible in my life.

Favourite parts are informational pages

You have told us your favourite parts on Mum & Career are exactly what we are here for: informational pages, coaching articles, ‘how to’ articles and real-life stories.

Info on family friendly companies is most missed

Yes you would like to see more on: family friendly companies to work for, finance and legal topics. Our current topics are also favourite and you would like more on those.

We will start adding on those topics in the near future. Getting a summary of research reports scored high too, which we will add in the mid to longer-term.

You asked for  ‘Advice from the experts’ 

New services you would most like to see are: advice from the experts and finding a peer-to-peer coach. Both scored very high and adding those will now be our priority. This really surprised me, as I thought people would prefer to chat with each other, rather than listen to an expert.

A few more services scored high, and we will be looking into offering those: CV-review services, personality profiling, an on-line programme for Return-to-Work coaching and ‘vetting’ of coaches, workshops and training programmes.

Jobs needed!

In addition you would like..jobs! I know, good quality flexible jobs are hard to find. We have no intention of becoming a job-board or recruiter, though. We love promoting and supporting the work of other organisations who offer this, such as Women Like Us, Ten-to-Two, Capability Jane and WorkingMums. We think they are doing a fabulous job that clearly is very much needed. More flexible recruiters/headhunters.

Help us build new info and services

Do let us know if you more ideas, are an expert in one of these areas, or know someone who might like to help setting it up. We welcome all support.

Volunteering with Mum & Career can be a great way to build new skills, and get ready for the job market.

Women entrepreneurs love to contribute as reaching out to our audience of working mums helps them build their business.

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Mum & Career inspires Richmond mums at cross roads

I am so happy! This week we organised a very successful, highly attended, Career Change and Re-training workshop, in the Petersham Hotel. The event focussed on the options available to professional working mums, trying to juggle family and career.

I find many highly educated mums feel it’s not easy to juggle a senior job with family demands. As a result they often opt-out all-together, which is a great loss to society and totally unnecessary. At the event we showed mums at a cross roads what their options are, how to find their passion and what it takes to re-train or start your own business. That variety of topics clearly worked well.

A stay-at-home-mum and former teacher who attended the session, said: ‘The event was very positive, practical and insightful. Very motivating. The life stories of the speakers were very inspiring’

A doctor, thinking about starting a professional cake business commented: ‘It’s great to connect with so many other mums in a similar situation, knowing it’s not just me that’s wrestling with issues on combining work and family’

A mum who has just been made redundant, after her request for part-time work commented: ‘Now I have lots of new ideas and feel really inspired. I know it really can be done’

All mums, as well as us speakers, went home feeling incredibly inspired, confident and motivated for our next steps.

Due to the high demand and overwhelming positive feed-back Mum & Career will be hosting more events like this in future. Just sign up to our Newsletter if you like to be kept up to date.

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Ask for what you want

If anyone would tell you you’d come to a conference with a top-investment banker, top editor, top-trader and top-networker from the City would you have thought these could all be women? They were all together for the Women In Business Superconference. It was truly inspirational to see these powerful women (and mums) together, serious about their career and sharing their tricks. Wow!

It was all organised by Jacqueline Frost and Christine Brown-Quinn. The first time I met Christine I was so impressed by her professional energy and way of managing a top-career and three children, that I blurted out ‘Oh..I’d so love to hear you speak!’

She explained she only speaks in events for female corporate groups, sharing her experiences as a working parent. So I suggested I might get in as a journalist. Next thing I knew I was invited to be the Twitter journalist and blogger for her next event. The Women in Business Superconference.

Most important lesson I learned? Ask for what you want! How easy is that?

The day itself was fun and had a high learning-content. Lots of tips and tricks about networking (by Will Kintish), negotiating (by Derek Arden), building your profile (by Vanessa Vallely), and confident presenting (by Sally Hindmarch). What made it really powerful was the special angle on women and how to make this work for you in an alpha male environment.

What I loved learning most is that it’s okay to be busy and juggling, it’s not about time-management at all, it’s about energy-management. If you get lots of energy out of being busy that’s fine. Especially as  everyone who depends on you (your child carer, husband, children) needs you to be happy and healthy, so YOU are the first and most important person to look after. How true is that?

Perhaps my favourite bit was the panel at the end, where a group of senior women was asked (by Eleanor Mills) to share what the crucial moment that shaped their career was. You will find some of the best stories on the CD from the panel. (For a link see below)

Something that Jacqueline Frost mentioned really stood out for me: Know what you need and DO it. Take a risk. You’re never gonna get anywhere if you are a shrinking violet. It’s so powerful, because it almost feels like it gives me a license to stop being so damned shy about my own needs. THIS is what I do. THIS is what I need. So I am just going to ask for it.

And if you don’t know what you need? Vanessa Vallely recommends to Google yourself and see what comes up. Is this who you would like to be? What would you like to come up in Google in 2 years time? That’s your vision.

And by the way…don’t bother with the domestic stuff, you have GOT to outsource, according to Lady Virginia Bottomley. Well, if she thinks it’s okay…

The WIB Super conference offers Mum & Career readers a special chance to order the CD from the panel. This recording is jam-packed full of over 60 minutes of powerful strategies and real-life stories. The first 50 who order get a FREE COPY (p&p £1.75)! Get your free copy here!

 

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The power of decisions

I thought the summer holiday would be the hard part, so I meticulously planned for it, making sure I would get enough space to work on Mum&Career. To my own surprise, I got lots done!

Little did I know that getting back after the summer would be the hard part. But, here I was, behind my desk, my son in school and plenty of time for me, but nothing got done.

Was it lack of inspiration?

I hoped the ladies@11 conference, would inspire me and get me back into the swing of things. The stories of hugely successful women, were indeed incredibly inspiring. Each speaker seemed to genuinely believe in the potential for success of each person in the audience, helping us along in our own journeys, giving us guidance and making us think. On top of that they didn’t just talk about their success, but also about where it went wrong, and how hard it sometimes had been.

Now I was inspired. But here I was, behind my desk, everything now back into the routine of the new school term, but nothing got done.

Was it lack of belief in me and my venture?

I was invited to the Hoxton apprentice professional women’s network, and hoped that might help. Ruth Sealy – from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders – spoke on Women in Boards. I came out feeling incredibly empowered. There were 70 professional, senior women around the tables. Seeing how intelligent and capable each of those women was, and being made to feel part of it, made me really believe women can do it. We all can, and that includes me.

Now I had plenty of self belief, I felt empowered. But here I was, behind my desk, wading through more actions, but nothing got done.

Was it lack of a clear action plan?

I went to see a business coach, Paullette Schwartz from Ideal Business. We spent 2 hours in a highly charged session. I came out with a set of actionable items that all made sense to me. It was a relief to now see where to start and why. I could clearly see how the actions would lead to my 6 month objectives, and contribute to my long-term aims and future dreams.  

Now I had a clear action plan. So here I am, behind my desk, getting everthing done, and more! 

Do you know where I was stuck? I had so many ideas that I didn’t really know which one to start with. I ended up starting here today, there tomorrow. Inspiration and empowerment got me all fired up, but decisions got me to action. Wow!

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Should I stay or should I go?

I had given myself till the end of June to launch the website. Next it would be time to decide if it really was worth spending so much of my free time on Mum & Career. I had to be brutally honest. Was I really achieving my objectives? And if not, was I prepared to admit that and quit? To make it possible for me to say no, I even lined up some alternative paths of work in my mind.

Am I enjoying it?

The answer is a resounding yes. I love being my own boss: taking my own decisions and taking Mum & Career where ever I want to take it, with no other judge than me. I find that I get the daily structure I need from doing the school run and walking our dogs.

I was afraid it might be lonely, but I actually meet lots of other passionate, remarkable and friendly women running their own businesses, and get a chance to speak to lots of mums about my favourite topic: combining parenthood and career.

Does it work around family life?

Certainly. My son is very happy his mum works from home. He is quite proud I actually own a business. Although, at six, he did find it odd I don’t get paid. My husband relishes coming home to a stress-free house.

I work during school hours, evenings and when necessary weekends. A schedule I had to get used to, but now it has become a routine that I really enjoy. I have come to love the variety of switching between social, mum, sports and work activities.

Does it help me achieve my own ambitions?

I was looking for a flexible job. One that would allow me to keep a toe in the world of work, that would allow me to keep my skills up to date and get back in if necessary. A job that wouldn’t take over my life, but one that could grow with my own availability of time and ambitions. It certainly does all that. I am developing a network and expertise in the area of women and work, I am developing new skills such as social media and running my own business and my self-belief and confidence are growing. In addition I get regular paid work in as a CSR consultant, my other area of expertise, which is fun and rewarding.

Have I achieved my targets?

Having a background in business management, even teaching it, I made a business plan and set clear business targets for myself. The website is up and running, it’s got high quality content, it’s got all planned features and look and feel. In addition I did run three events and got to know my target audience.

However, do I have 100 ‘friends’? When setting that target I didn’t realise how ambiguous it was- I have got 80 followers on  Twitter, 21 people that have contributed articles, 10-30 hits per day and 200 people in the database for the newsletter, about half of which actually do open one or more links when they receive it.

Is that good, should it have been more? What do other web communities get? To what extend are these people involved and interested? When I set the target, I must admit, I had envisioned I would have 100 people that were very supportive and sympathetic, might even volunteer and be an ambassador; a lively community.

This is just not the case. The comments and forum are virtually empty. When I sent out a survey I got 20 responses. Many of the people in my database are my friends, which probably doesn’t count. In addition it has taken me quite a lot of effort to find these 200 people, networking on-line and off-line.

I was about to decide I should face up to the fact that it clearly wasn’t going anywhere, when I overheard two women discussing their new franchisees: “Many of them just don’t cut it, they just want things handed to them on a silver platter, and don’t seem to realise that it is really hard work to build a business, they just give up too early.” That really hit home. Hard work is part of the deal! The fact that building traffic and finding supporters is lots of work is normal. I shouldn’t give  up. I should evaluate and improve.

Is it a valuable service for mums with ambition?

Now here comes the catch, because how do I know? I imagined I would know by the number of ‘friends’, but that turned out to be an  ambiguous concept. I thought I would know by the feed-back I was gathering. However a lot of feed-back was very generic: great website, very useful and interesting articles. Right, but is it valuable? Is this indeed helping women find their own way of combining a career and family-life?

So I ran a short survey, of which the main outcome was that everyone likes something else on the site. Why is this, I wondered? What message is that giving me? None?

I got a bit desperate, clearly I didn’t know anything. Then I turned the question around, what DO I know. From everything I have heard and seen in the past 6 months I know that there is an issue, many, if not most, women do struggle combining work and children. There is a need for support. But if I had hit the spot, I would have known it, it would have been very clear. The feed-back and survey would have told me what we are doing at Mum & Career is absolutely fabulous.

What next?

So yes, it works, I love it, I am going on. But … I need to up my ante. I need to experiment with new ways of building traffic and being found by Google. Experiment with new, clearly defined services. Set new targets for the next 6-12 months and go for it. Work hard, put in the hours, set priorities and keep growing my circle of ‘friends’ till I have built a lively community.

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Babes, coffee and going back to work

The first Mum & Career Workshop was an incredible success and we’ll be hosting another one soon. Thanks to For Sanity’s Sake who we teamed up with it was fully booked within 3 days! A big thank you also to the Teddington Arms for hosting us and to everyone who came along and openly shared their stories, worries and advice.

There were sixteen Mums and their babies/toddlers at the coffee morning, ‘Going back to work’, in the Teddington Arms on Wednesday. The Mums said it was incredibly reassuring to hear from other women in the same situation, especially to hear how many of them are faced with the same issues: Going back to your old job? Trying to make it flexible? Resigning? And then what? Totally opting out of work-life seems very scary. Working full-time seems like a tall order, especially in a highly competitive environment. Perhaps there is no easy answer.

I gave a clear structure and advice on how to get through the back to work phase with more ease and confidence. The group shared tips with each other on how they find confidence and time to start creating a new work-life that includes children. Apparently it’s all about planning and being organised…which makes sense!

For most mums it was thought provoking, brought clarity and new insights and just got the brain juices flowing again.

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Time for positive feminism?

Progress on Mum & Career slowed down a bit when I was out and about with my son in the Easter holidays. Not so easy to accept as I am full of energy to move it forward. The good thing is, that I got around to reading a bit more in Reclaiming the F word, which is a great summary of all the ways in which women are still not equal to men. It argues feminism isn’t done yet and is alive and kicking in the younger generation. I couldn’t agree more as I have always felt a bit of a feminist, at age 5 already noticing how the world just wasn’t the same for girls as it was for boys. The book is good, as it is an easy read and full of good examples.

I noticed, though, that at first the book made me angry and frustrated. Angry with society and angry with men for doing this to us, women. Frustrated as it revives my own past frustration at perhaps not getting the same chances and opportunities as men. ‘It’s just not fair!’ My poor husband was suffering, as – for a short while – he became the target of that anger and frustration. Yes, sorry, I am human after all.

Next, when reading the ‘equality at work and home’ section, the book made me a bit uneasy about myself. I am married, have a child and to my own surprise have ended up being a WAHM (work at home mum), whereas my husband is the main income provider. To make matters worse I also gave up my job and followed my husband abroad. Very traditional, and we aren’t exactly sharing the tasks and responsibilities of income provision, parenting and housework equally. Not what I had expected after succeeding at a tough uni degree and starting my career in a male dominated business environment.

Strangely enough though I was actually quite happy with my life just yesterday. How come the book makes me angry and uneasy, I wondered.

I think it might have something to do with the way women are somehow made into victims. Almost like society (or men) are doing this to us. This view isn’t very empowering for me. It is a call for action and does urge me into action. But it isn’t about feeling good about myself, believing in myself and my own strenghts. Instead it is somehow saying to me: this is what mens life is like, and your life should be like that too!

I do agree, yes there’s still a lot to fight for and I admire all women fighting for rights of other women, and against oppression of women. Please don’t stop.

For myself however I am dreaming of a more positive and empowering form of feminism. One where women are made to feel special and believe in their own unique strengths. A feminism that helps me value my own choices and priorities. One that makes me feel strong and proud to be a woman.

Anyone else out there who longs for a positive form of feminism?

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