Tuesday, 25 February 2014

How to Ditch the Guilt - Top Tips from Work+Family show

On Friday and Saturday last week, we ran workshops on the topic of Learn to Juggle and Ditch the Guilt for visitors to the Work+Family show.  We introduced our coaching process for tackling guilty feelings and shared our top tips.  For those who were not able to attend the event, the three step process consists of:
1. Acknowledging the guilt feelings
2. Investigating their source(s). When is the guilt happening? What are the triggers? Is there any real justification or are beating yourself up for no reason?
3. Define actions to address the guilt. Take small practical steps focused on your guilt triggers. And let go of the pervasive 'working mum' guilt!

Our top tips are:

•Use our process to Acknowledge-Investigate-Act on guilty feelings

•Remember that working parents don’t have to feel guilty 

o Children thrive with happy parents
•Aim for good-enough not perfect

•Work out your priorities & delegate the rest where you can

•Look after yourself to better look after others

•Ignore other people’s judgments – they have different values

•Put practical & emotional support in place – we all need it!

Additionally, there have been some excellent articles written recently in The Washington Post and the Talented Ladies Club online magazine as well as our earlier post on guilt.

Posted by Katerina

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

10 return to work tips from successful returners

We have recently launched our first ten return-to-work success stories on www.womenreturners.comIf you're finding it harder than you thought to relaunch your career after a long break, reading real-life stories of women professionals who have successfully done so can be very encouraging. They both demonstrate that it is possible to find fulfilling work after a long absence and offer a great source of ideas and inspiration for how to do so.

We asked our story contributors for their tips for other women returners. These are some of their words of advice:

Finding a role

1. "Set aside your ego - think about the level of work that you'll be doing in the job rather than the title"

2. "Think outside the box to find work that fits in with your family life - don't define yourself too narrowly by what you did before"

3. "Prioritise what is important for you: what makes work worthwhile and what you want to hold on to in your personal life"

4. "Tell everyone you know that you are looking & don't undervalue your friends and family as contacts. Bypass recruitment agents and go direct"

5. "Consider starting small and getting yourself and your family used to working before ramping up"

Starting back

6. "Buy some new work clothes so you feel you fit in and get a confidence boost"

7. "Don't underestimate your ability to learn fast when you do return - you did it before and you still can now!"

8. "Don't feel you have to know everything when you go back. Technology is changing so fast that people are always learning new systems ... and you can always Google what you don't know!"

9. "Don't be ashamed of being a mother and your career break"

10. "Believe in yourself, be brave and give it a go!"

Posted by Julianne

Other related posts

Ideas for routes back to work
How do I find a high level flexible role?
7 tips for your return to work after a career break

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Returnships arrive in the UK: Credit Suisse Real Returns

We talked about the mutual benefits of returning professional internships (returnships) for returners and employers back in November. At that time we couldn't identify any UK initiatives - all were US/India based. So we are delighted to report that the first UK returnship has just been launched by Credit Suisse in London - hopefully the first of many. 

Real Returns: Restart Your Career At Credit Suisse

The Real Returns programme will run for 8-10 weeks starting on April 28th 2014 and is aimed at experienced professionals returning to the workplace after an extended absence. The application deadline is February 21st 2014 so if you're interested, you'll need to get an application in quickly. 

The programme includes:

  • A short-term project-based assignment, working on an important initiative in one of the business areas. Projects will be based on your experience, interests and skills set
  • A series of orientation/training events
  • A programme mentor and a day-to-day project manager
  • The opportunity to broaden your network within your business area and to participate in events hosted by the bank's diversity networks, including the EMEA Women's Network and Family Network

For more information, including details of how to apply see:

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Are you worrying too much about returning to work?

Some people thinking about returning to work find they are consumed by worries. These often start with 'What if...?'

What if ....  I can't do this work anymore?
What if ...   no-one will employ me anymore? 
What if ....  my children/partner/family miss me?
What if ....  I'm not able to take time off for emergencies?
What if ...  I can't find a flexible role in my field?
What if ...  I fail?
What if ...  I can't get good childcare?

The volume and variety of doubts and fears can be enough to cause paralysis and prevent any further progress with activities that might eventually lead to a new role.  Everything feels too risky.

Getting beyond worry

If you are finding that your worries crowd in every time you think about how to return to work, what can you do?
  • Write down all your worries.  Getting them out of your head and seeing them written down can reduce their power over you.  Some of them might seem more manageable once you lay them out.
  • Talk your worries through with a trusted friend or your partner. Articulating your concerns, and investigating them with a compassionate and understanding companion, can help you to see them from a new perspective and loosen their hold on you.
  • Ask yourself 'What's the worst that can happen?' - you might find it is not so bad.
  • Think about how you could test out your worry with an experiment which feels less risky.  For example: take a refresher training course or find a small volunteer project to remind you of your professional skills; commit to an activity you enjoy which means you are unavailable to your family for a fixed, regular but small amount of time and see how they cope.
  • Remember that worries and doubts are normal in any change, so don't wait for them to go away before taking action.
  • If your worries stem from needing to let go of certain domestic roles or jobs that you have always held, work out how you might be able to delegate or renegotiate and get some practice.
  • For more ideas and to address specific worries, take a look at our posts on being a martyr or perfectionist, feeling selfish, regaining confidence and being overly self-critical.

Posted by Katerina

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Creating your own work-life balance: are you a separator or an integrator?

There seems to be a constant stream of articles dismissing work-life balance and saying that now we have to integrate our personal and professional lives:
"Forget work-life balance: It's time for work-life blend" 
"Work-life integration is the new norm"

This is a confusing about-turn from the more traditional advice that drawing a clear line between work and home will bring you greater balance. So which is right? Is work-life balance a thing of the past? Blurring the boundaries between work & personal life seems to work for the home-based journalists & entrepreneurs writing these articles ... but will it work for you? 

If you're thinking about returning to work and wanting to maintain your balance, do you need to focus on creating clear boundaries between job & home? Or do you need to be always contactable? Is it better to have fixed work & home time? Or to work from home when you can?

The answer from the psychology research, as so often in psychology (& life), is that it depends on you ...

What do we know about balance?
1. Balance is an internal state of feeling balanced and energised not an externally-set recipe. I see this all the time in my coaching. Some women who work full-time in demanding jobs still feel generally balanced - often if they have high control over their workload and keep weekends mainly clear. Other women work 3 days a week in unstimulating roles and feel drained and out of balance.
2. Balance is completely individual - your balance is not my balance. I enjoy the flexibility of having my own business but that may well not work for you if you prefer more standard hours and structure.
3. Balance changes day to day & through the lifespan. I don't need to tell you that what you need to feel balanced when you're 20 & single is not the same as when you're 35 with 2 children. Don't try to evaluate your balance at a point in time; think about whether you've felt more or less in balance over the last month or the last few months.

Are you a separator or an integrator?
Psychology research* has drawn out important differences between individuals in terms of the boundaries we want between home and work:
  • Some people are naturally integrators. They will love the idea of work-life blend as they prefer blurred boundaries and changing roles through the day. You'll see the integrators switching effortlessly from watching a sports match or cooking dinner to taking a work call. Many energised entrepreneurs and home-workers fall in this camp.
  • Other people are more naturally separators. They prefer a clear split between work & personal life, closing the door on their work life at the end of the day and focusing on their friends, family & leisure (& vice versa when they're at work). They may prefer to go into an office rather than to work at home and to finish their day's tasks at work rather than bringing them home to finish after the kids are in bed. One of my clients went back to full-time working as she found this was a better fit for her separator preference than blending the work/mum roles on her day off. 
What does that mean for finding your own balance?
What's important for balance is not whether you are more of a separator or an integrator, but whether you have a good match between the degree of separation you want and what you have. So ignore blanket advice about having to blend or to separate the personal and the professional and work out what suits you. You may not get to the ideal situation (often working mothers are integrators through necessity rather than desire) but you can consider what small actions you can take to bring your life more in line with your choices. Where you can, try different ways of working (eg. finishing work at home or in the office; working from home one day) and evaluate what works best for you. 

And whatever your preference, don't neglect setting some boundaries, such as not checking your emails at 11pm on Sunday evening ...we all need time to switch off and recharge our batteries!

Further Reading
* This is a simplified version of the 'flexstyle' research findings reported in CEO of Me (2008) by Professors and work-life balance experts, Ellen Kossek & Brenda Lautsch. They also identify a 3rd grouping of 'volleyers' who prefer to switch from integration to separation according to their priorities. An extract is available here

Posted by Julianne