Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ten Tips for Starting Up A Home Business

When we spoke at a recent back to work event, we listened to Debbie Blott, Founder of The DecorCafe HomeBizClub, talk about how to start a home business. We've invited Debbie to share her advice for women who are interested in starting their own home business as a route back into work after a career break.

1. Be Authentic: Taking a career break offers an opportunity to rethink what you do. The most successful start-ups are founded on passion. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence attracts customers.

Sarah Betteley, co-founder of Fruits of The Fridge, took the opportunity of her career break to change from working as a lawyer to creating catering company Fruits of The Fridge. Passionate about providing good wholesome home cooked food she has built her business on her own way of life, as someone who thinks nothing of putting together and packing up a complete menu of delicious food for a week's holiday. (see Fruits of the Fridge).

2. Create Your Vision: Be realistic about what it is you want to achieve and how much time you have to give. Is it a business to give you an interest alongside caring for your family or do you want to grow and sell a multi-million pound business?

3. Choose the most appropriate business structure: Setting up as a sole trader is quick and easy. Creating a limited company separates your personal and professional identities and protects you by limiting your financial exposure to your business investment.

4. Set Simple Goals: It is easy to be immobilised by planning and re-planning. Once you have decided what you want to achieve, set achievable goals and an action list. Review regularly as you progress.

Jane Michell, founder of the UK’s leading delivery diet, Jane Plan knows what it is like to struggle with your weight and initially trained as nutritionist to build her skills. She describes herself first and foremost as a mother of three children rather than a qualified business woman. She didn’t start with a complex business, rather she had a clear vision and some simple goals and progressed step by step. Following her passion to help her clients lose weight and transform their lives she has grown her business, from preparing weekly diets for friends from around her SW London kitchen table to more than £4 million in just 4 years. (see Jane Plan).

5. Make Space at Home: The lines between home and work can blur. Put a structure in place to ensure that you can close the door on work, ideally literally.

6. Build Your Brand: For many people working from home, your brand is you. Ask yourself what is distinct about what you do and your values and communicate it clearly and consistently.

Virginie Dunne worked as a nurse, but had to stop when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she began to recover she decided to retrain as a lighting designer to quite literally share her joy and shed some light and so she named her company, Splash of Light. (see Splash of Light).

7. Become an Authority: The most effective way to market your business is to become an authority. Build strategic partnerships with complementary businesses, write relevant articles for press, get involved in local online forums and spread the word through social media.

8. Seek Support: You may miss the water-cooler conversations in the office but you are not alone. Join local networks and you will find many like-minded people who collaborate and help each other. Employing a business coach or mentor provides valuable extra support in the early years. Join networking organisations of like-minded people.

9. Stay Legal and Protect Your Ideas: Don’t forget to tell the tax people that you have set up! The law is on your side and can help you to protect your ideas and business if you put confidentiality agreements, contracts and trademarks in place. 

10. Get started! There is only one way to find out just what you can do and you will learn quickly. Good luck!

About The DecorCafe HomeBizClub
Based in SW London The DecorCafe HomeBizClub is a collaborative community of people starting up or running their own home business. All about connecting, building skills and sharing ideas, they provide ongoing inspiration and support to make building your business more fun and less stressful. They welcome anybody who is interested to come along to one of their sessions to find out more.

Posted By Donna

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Q&A with Macquarie Group: An employer's perspective on a returner programme

Julianne from Women Returners interviewed Fiona Griffin, Division Director at Macquarie Asset Management to get the employer's perspective on the benefits of running a returnship programme.

Macquarie Group has recently launched the new Macquarie Returner Programme in the UK. What is your motivation for running a returner programme?
We recognise that there’s a significant pool of highly qualified, experienced professionals who are looking for the right opportunity to get back into the workforce. By having a structured programme specifically designed for that purpose, we hope to facilitate a successful return that brings benefits to both Macquarie and the individual concerned. It’s also important to demonstrate to our existing people that we value the investments they make in their careers. A career break doesn’t mean the end of your career with Macquarie, for many it can represent a new opportunity.

How does the Returner Programme fit with your other diversity initiatives?
Our commitment is to create and promote a diverse and inclusive workplace for everyone. The Returner Programme fits in perfectly with this. We recognise that the diversity of our people is fundamental to our success. Testament to that are the four employee network groups that were started by our people in EMEA. Each works on a different area of inclusion– Balance – which promotes gender balance in the workforce; Pride - supporting LGBT people and their allies; Engage – for those who are multilingual; as well as a network for Parents and Carers. 

What can participants expect from the Returner Programme?
The programme aims to show a Returner what it’s like to own their career – something Macquarie people are expected to do on a daily basis. If it’s a concept they enjoy, then participants will hopefully apply for roles based on a deeper understanding of what it is like to work at Macquarie. The programme is full time for 12 weeks and is designed to fit into the school term. We believe in providing a positive environment for our people, which is illustrated in all the additional benefits as part of our programme. Participants are assigned to one of our business groups and given a mentor from that area. They will receive specialised group coaching support from Women Returners to aid their return to work, and there will be an opportunity to take part in various networking opportunities, gaining exposure to senior leaders across the entire group. My Family Care support and emergency backup care can also be provided, if it is required. At the end of the programme, participants will be eligible to be considered for a permanent role.

What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
If you have been contemplating a return to work after a career break, this is a wonderful opportunity to get back into the workplace, refresh your knowledge and confidence and re-engage. Change can be good – take the opportunity. 

Further information

Posted by Julianne

Friday, 13 May 2016

Mature competence vs youthful ambition: Career break mother wins Masterchef

In case you missed it, the 2016 Masterchef competition was won, last week, by a 50-year-old stay-at-home mum of four. While Masterchef doesn't enjoy the same profile as The Great British Bake Off, the achievement of its winner and the opportunities the winner enjoys can be just as life changing.

It was clear to me in the final week of the competition that Jane Devonshire would be the winner, not simply because of her skillful and creative cooking but because of her character. Her maturity, self-knowledge, leadership and unflappability gave her the edge over her younger, seemingly more energetic and ambitious, male rivals. While one of the three finalists was running round in ever more desperate circles as he had done throughout the competition and the other succumbed to the pressure, Jane was a picture of serene competence, calming executing all her dishes perfectly. In winning, she exemplified so many of the aspects which we know make returners valuable to employers.

It was only in the final episode of the competition that we heard more of Jane's story. She had started work as soon as she left school and by the time she was married and expecting her first child she had built up her own successful business. However, despite only seeing herself as a career woman up to this point, becoming a mother changed her perspective, as it often does, and she chose to leave her business to focus full-time on her family. Entering Masterchef was the first thing she had done for herself in many years and from a nervous start, she visibly grew in self-belief and assurance as she progressed through the rounds.

In the final episode, Jane also revealed that she had overcome cancer twice in the previous decade. Her win was a triumphant assertion that reinvention and a return to work that you love can be achieved. As I've said previously, entering a televised national competition might be an extreme way to regain your self-belief, but I hope Jane's example might inspire you to think about some small steps you can take to return to your professional path.

Posted by Katerina

Friday, 6 May 2016

Sharing is Caring: Job sharing as a supportive way to return to work

For parents looking for a flexible way to return to work, job sharing is an option worth considering. Sara Horsfall, Founder and Director of Ginibee, a job share network, describes how job shares provide extra benefits for job sharers beyond reduced working hours.

One of the (many) times in a parent’s life we find extremely challenging, is reconnecting with our inner professional after discovering our inner parent. In other words, returning to work.  

Thinking about returning to work can be a particularly lonely time, when we can feel a range of conflicting emotions including guilt (for not being with our child 24/7), paranoia (that none of our parenting skills are relevant /we have “forgotten” our professional skills /people will think we can’t do our job anymore) and gratitude (when we find a role). These feelings can make it a stressful time and one which is often insufficiently supported. So, what if there was a proven way to return to your careerwithout leaving behind new life priorities, that benefits both you and your employer?   

One of the overarching benefits of successful job sharing we often see at Ginibee, for returners, is the supportive nature of the job share partnership. Imagine returning to work with someone who is faced with similar challenges in terms of creating time for other life commitments, whilst sharing similar career experience and ambitionForming a partnership with another enables job sharers to share the responsibility and opportunity of a full-time role without the associated time commitment and in doing so improves confidence (since women often find it easier to recognise the strengths in others than in ourselves), as well as creating the mental and physical space to attend to their life. By being aware of and respecting each other’s motivations and strengths, job sharers live a very fulfilled life both in terms of their career and life outside of work. 

Supportive Benefits of Job Sharing  
So what does being in a supportive job share mean to us?
  • Reduces Stress 
Although progressive employers understand that mentoring support is a key requirement to retain and develop parents as they return to work, it can still be rare. The great thing about job sharing is that successful partnerships self-mentor as part of setting up and maintaining the jobshare. Ruth, who switched from part-time work to job sharing in order to progress to a more senior level as Director of Strategy, said “I feel less stressed as a job sharer, because there’s a proper release valve. In other roles you might vent to your partner or husband at the end of the day, but they’re not in it, so with my job share partner we can really vent to each other and share the challenges, which means it’s not all in your head, and I find that to be really valuable.” 
  • Increases Confidence 
Another job sharer, Polly, says “job sharing is really supportive, which means you can take braver decisions faster, because with the best will in the world, your boss, your mentor etc. isn’t going to be quite as interested and involved as your job share partner. In particular, on management decisions where you might be worried about being too subjective about a matter, when you have both picked up on it you can give clearer, stronger, more objective messages.” 
  • Improves Focus 
When you know your days off really are days off, you have more energy to fully apply yourself on your working days. Employers of job share partnerships report that the inherent accountability of job share partnerships means they are easier to manage as they have another to share ideas and challenges with. Polly says “Being accountable to your job share partner keeps you focused and honest”. 

We only need to look to organisations like the Civil Service, Barclays, Transport for London that have launched jobshare schemes for their employees to see that this is now receiving a higher profile as part of creating and retaining diverse workforces. 

If you would like to progress your career with a job share partner, you can find more information and support, including Ginibee's jobshare platform at Ginibee are currently recruiting for a Jobshare Consultant to work as a 2.5 day job share with Sara, in Cambridge. For more information and to apply see here. Apply by May 9.

Posted by Katerina

Friday, 29 April 2016

Getting your 'work self' back: Tara's return-to-work via M&G Career Returners

This week, we're featuring Tara's story of returning to Corporate Governance after a four year break through M&G Career Returners, our partnership 'supported hiring' programme (this is a new way of hiring returning professionals which we have recently developed with M&G Investments - see the end of the post for more details on the programme and the roles currently available). 

After the birth of my first child I returned to my previous role as a Chartered Secretary with an Asset Management company. My hope was I would be able to work flexibly (four days a week) but a colleague had resigned whilst I was on maternity leave and the role was even more demanding; so it became clear that a full time commitment was needed, only this time nursery drop off and pick up were added to the pressure. So when I became pregnant again we decided that I would be a stay at home mum.
I stayed at home for four years, I weaned, potty trained, dealt with tantrums, ensured naps were taken, visited museums, farms and play parks. I didn’t get a moment to myself until my husband walked in at 6.30pm. I am so over playgroups and messy play but I would not change a single day. My youngest was heading towards Reception and I had been considering a return to work for a little while. My degree was in Law and I also completed the LPC before sitting further exams to qualify as a Chartered Secretary. I considered trying something else but I had enjoyed the career I had built up over 15 years and felt I wanted to use that knowledge and experience. So I updated my CV, mentioning my ‘career break’, and I contacted a recruitment agency.
At this time, I was also getting involved in local regeneration projects and joined Twitter to keep informed of local activities, so I also searched on Twitter for Company Secretary roles. I was very surprised when I found a role at M&G Investments that was not only similar to the position I had left four years earlier, but that also was advertised as being open to applicants who had taken a voluntary career break and that stated that the organisation was ‘happy to talk flexible working’. I had to apply!
Following quite a rigorous recruitment process, I was offered a position on four days a week. As I was a ‘career break’ employee, this included four 90 minute coaching sessions with Women Returners which provided guidance and structure on my change back from ‘mummy’ to ‘career mummy’. These sessions with Katerina were extremely helpful. From the first session before I even commenced employment, and throughout my early stages of adjusting, the coaching provided time to reflect on how I felt I was performing, what objectives would be beneficial to set and how I could perform to the best of my abilities for myself and my employer.
M&G share my view that we all have a life outside of the office and that being able to balance these roles brings out the best in the employee. They understand that working flexibly allows the employee to feel valued and therefore that they will work more efficiently and give more to the role. I enjoy working and I enjoy the role I am in at the moment, but being with my children is priceless. The fact that they need me less now allows me to pursue my own goals, and being a working mother always will be a juggling act, but it helps that I have an understanding employer that recognises the importance of delicately balancing one’s commitments.
My advice to others returning to work after a break is:
  • When looking for positions consider all routes: Consultants, direct with employer, through social media, through friends/school gate parents and through Women Returners.
  • Be clear on the hours/days you wish to work. Employers appreciate knowing what you can do, they can either work around it or suggest an alternative but at least they understand your requirements. Be realistic – consider whether the role will be possible on a part-time basis.
  • Remember that your ‘work self’ returns pretty sharpish, so have no fear – you will not have forgotten it all!

About M&G Career Returners
Women Returners is partnering with M&G Investments, a leading international asset manager, to provide an innovative supported hiring initiative enabling talented professionals who have taken an extended career break to return to their professional careers. M&G is actively highlighting roles where the business would welcome applications from people who have taken an extended career break. Successful candidates who have taken a voluntary break for 2+ years will receive individual coaching from Women Returners, internal mentoring and focused training to support their transition back to the corporate workforce. All roles offered are existing vacancies at M&G. For more details and to see roles currently available see: M&G Career Returners

Posted by Julianne

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Tackling the Paradox of Choice

I read a review this week of 'Not Working' a debut novel by Lisa Owens. It's about a twenty something woman who gives up her job in marketing career to find out what she wants to do with her life. Rather than quickly finding her 'passion', she procrastinates, faced with too many options and too much time to think, and her morale plummets: “If I can just digest enough TED talks, self-improvement podcasts, overviews on the Aristotelian sense of purpose and first-hand accounts of former City workers who set up artisan businesses from their kitchen tables, then surely the answer will reveal itself?”

This may ring bells for a few of you - it took me back to my own uncertainties when I was trying to work out what to do with my life after my career break. I wrote this blog post back in 2013 about how I got past the 'choice paralysis' ...

When I was on a career break after stepping out of my first career in strategy/marketing, I realised after a while that being a full-time at-home mother was not for me. I knew that I wanted to do something enjoyable and flexible and spent many hours dreaming and chatting with friends about what this might be. One month a friend and I got excited about importing baby equipment from Australia … then a few months later I was inspired to set up a family-focused travel agency … then it was a flexible childcare business ... then studying psychology. I was never short of ideas but the interesting thing was that the more options I thought of, and the more I talked about them and researched them on the internet, the more problems I could see and the further I became from actually doing them. Eventually I was reluctant to share my next great idea with my friends as I had stopped believing myself that I was actually going to make any of them happen. Somehow having too many choices was stopping me pursuing any one option more seriously.

When I went on to study psychology, I found that my experience is so common that it has a label: the Paradox of Choice. Too much choice in everyday life can make us confused and paralysed. The psychologist Barry Schwartz in his book and TED talk on this topic explained "with so many options to choose from, people find it difficult to choose at all". As no choice is perfect, we can always imagine that we will find a better alternative. And the effect can be stronger with more complex choices, such as career decisions. We are less likely to hit 'choice overload' if we are clear on our preferences or have a simple way to compare between options.

What got me out of the choice paralysis was realising that first of all I needed to develop some decision criteria to work out what I wanted from my life, so that I could weigh up my alternatives. While all options were appealing, with some positives and some negatives, I was unable to prioritise. When I became clearer on what was most important to me and where I could compromise, I was able to discount many of my ideas and to focus on the one that seemed the best fit. Then I needed to push myself to stop thinking/talking and start taking action. I dipped an exploratory toe in the water by enrolling on an introduction to psychology course and that was the first step on the road to retraining as a psychologist.

Some of the returners I meet also see too many possibilities and may have been thinking and talking about all the things they could do for years without making any concrete progress. One woman had a list of the pros and cons of the 16 options she had been considering - unsurprisingly she felt very confused about where to go next! If you too are hitting choice overload, aim to narrow your focus to get down to a manageable number of choices to investigate:
  1. Work out what is most important to you in your future job. Fine to start with 1) flexible 2) pays enough, but then go beyond that. What are you missing about work (is it using your brain, the achievement, the social aspect, ...), what are you really interested in, what are you good at and love doing?  If you’re wondering where to start with this process, look at some of our other posts on these topics or at Build your Own Rainbow.
  2. Use this to work out what you want from work, decide what are 'must-haves' and where you can compromise. You can then choose a few possibilities that really appeal and seem like they could be a good fit for you. And don't fall into the trap of looking for the perfect job as all jobs involve trade-offs.
  3. Critically don't spend more time thinking - practically reality test your short-list: talk to people in the area, maybe take a short course, go to a conference, work shadow, do an internship … test your ideas and learn along the way. 
Having choices and being open to possibilities is a great thing – don’t let it keep you stuck!

Further Reading

Posted by Julianne