Wednesday, 24 June 2015

What does success mean to you?

What does success mean to you? It's an interesting question to consider as you go through your career and particularly when you are considering your options after a career break. 



Conceptions of career success

When we talk about how successful someone is in their career, we still tend to use the obvious external markers. How much are they earning? What level have they reached in an organisation? If you consider that being the CEO earning £1m+ a year is the pinnacle of career success, it's easy to feel that you have failed in your career once you've stepped off the career ladder to the top.

In fact, research has shown that the majority of people tend to judge their own success by more subjective measures. A classic study by Jane Sturges found that factors such as enjoyment, accomplishment, influence, expertise and personal recognition rated highly in a group of managers' descriptions of what success meant to them. For all of the women in the study, the content of the job was rated as more important than pay or status. Balance criteria were also used by some of the managers - meaning that success for them was how effectively they combined a satisfying home and work life. From my perspective, achieving fulfillment and satisfaction in both home and work life is one of the greatest measures of career success, yet one that is rarely mentioned when we commonly talk or read about successful people. 

What does success mean to you?

Developing your own success criteria can help you to feel more positive about the choices you have made to date and to develop clearer objectives for this next stage of your career. 

A useful coaching exercise to help with this is to mentally fast-forward to your 70th birthday. To put you in the right frame of mind, imagine who is there with you, where you are, even what you are wearing.  Now imagine you're giving a speech discussing what you're proud of having achieved in your career and your life as a whole. What comes to mind? What will make you feel you have succeeded in your life? Write down whatever comes to mind and you'll have a good starting point for developing your own personal view of success. And that's what really matters...


Reference: What it means to succeed - Jane Sturges (1999)

Posted by Julianne 


Friday, 12 June 2015

Life after architecture: a returner's story



We have been spending a lot of time with the people at RIBA recently, meeting some very interesting returners and also practices which want to hire them. This is a return to work success story of one architect who took a different, but no less fulfilling route back to her professional career after a 10 year break.



Architect to QA Manager, Architectural Recruitment 

I qualified as an architect in the early nineties and started working in practice in London. Then, when my husband was relocated to New York in 1998, I went with him and found work there myself, firstly as an architect and then in the wider construction industry. On the news that I was expecting twins in 2004 we decided to move back to London and they were born just after we arrived back later that year. The first three or so years passed in a blur and then slowly, as they progressed to school and I had more time on my hands, my mind turned to what I was going to do next.
The thought of returning to practice, where hours are long and workload unpredictable, seemed impossible now that I had a whole new life at home that had not existed before. Working late and on weekends had never been a problem before children but now with the school day ending at 3:15 it seemed, in my mind at least, impossible to make it work. So I gloomily resigned myself to fact that I would never work again in my profession and busied myself with local voluntary work at the Macular Society and the Foodbank.
Then one day in 2014, a full 10 years after leaving my job in New York, I spotted a job ad in Building Design (the weekly newspaper for architects that I had kept on reading) for a 3 day a week role as quality assurance manager for an architectural recruitment agency. The job description said that the role would suit someone with an architectural background who would like to do something different with their training. I was intrigued and immediately emailed my CV and a covering letter, explaining exactly my situation and that I had been out of the workplace for 10 years, fully expecting it to disappear into the ether. However, much to my immense surprise, later that day when school home time was in full flow, I received a phone call from the operations director of the company saying they had been waiting for a CV like mine for months!
An interview was arranged and, nerves notwithstanding, it turned out to be a really lovely chat. They were open to my doing the hours of 3 days a week in any combination to suit me so that I could continue to drop off and pick up my children from school every day. We agreed on 10:00 to 2:00 Monday - Thursday and all day from home on a Friday to make up the difference. During holidays I condense the hours back to 3 whole days, 1 from home, which makes childcare between my husband and I so much easier to organise.
I have been there for a year now and it has restored my confidence and general zest for life no end, the balance is perfect. As the agency hires its recruiters from industry I have found myself surrounded by architects once again, which I love, and also by dealing with practices in London, a few of which I have either worked for or have acquaintances in, I have been able to slot back into the architectural community.
My role has evolved too from originally just checking written work that leaves the office and producing KPI statistics for the weekly meetings to now analysing those numbers and reporting on performance to the management team. I have also created and put in place systems to do this. It has been hard work and challenging but really rewarding, calling on my organisational skills and knowledge of processes.
Having found a way back into the workplace I am hoping, with the backing of the company, to be able to create a support network and possible partnerships with architectural practices to enable other women in the profession in a similar position to get back in and use their hard earned qualifications and experience again. It's early days but watch this space!

Posted by Katerina

Friday, 5 June 2015

Advance preparation for your return to work

At the moment our household is in mid-exam crisis mode. With two teenagers sitting important exams, I'm supporting from the sidelines. Alongside making many cups of tea & stocking the constantly-emptying fridge, I've been doing what I can to help them to prepare. They're completely focused on revision, so I'm stepping in for the practical side - finding the missing compass before the maths exam, stocking up with black biros & filling the water bottles. I've also been encouraging them to prepare mentally - positively channeling their adrenaline and discussing what to do if they have a crisis of confidence just before an exam or start panicking when they can't answer the first question.




Advance preparation is similarly vital when you make the decision to get back to work: you need to start to prepare on three fronts - professional/technical, mental and practical.

Top tips: 1. Don't wait for a job application or offer before you start to prepare; 2. You may not have your mum to help you out, but do prioritise finding your own sources of emotional and practical support.

Professional/technical preparation

Bring your knowledge back up-to-date. Re-subscribe to professional journals, read related press, take update/refresher courses if you need to. Go to seminars & conferences. Meet up with ex-colleagues and talk shop again. Remind yourself of the old jargon and learn the new.

Mental preparation

For returning mothers, this is the moment to address any looming guilt feelings about leaving your children - as we've said many times on this blog, there is no need to feel guilty for working (see here for advice). 

Remind yourself of your motivations for returning and the positive rewards for you and the family: studies have shown that if we focus on the positive aspects of combining work and family life, we're much more likely to feel good about our work-life balance, and to overcome any challenges, than if we focus on potential work-life conflict.

Increase your energy and enthusiasm for your return by spending time with the people who are encouraging you to make this change, rather than those who are questioning or critical of your decision. Also take steps to build your confidence; don't discount yourself and what you can offer (see here for confidence tips). 

Practical preparation

Make time for your return by giving up other activities, such as volunteering work that isn't using your professional skills. Get practiced at saying 'no' to free up your day. Start to delegate more to your children and encourage their independence. If you're the default taxi driver, still ferrying your older children around, let them get used to public transport. Same with your partner, if you have one - start to hand over and share out more of the home responsibilities. 

Build your practical support networks. If you need to sort childcare, it's worth planning this as far in advance as possible. Don't wait until you have the job offer! And start to contingency plan too - work out what will be your back-up for your back-up childcare before the inevitable problems arise - line up other mothers & local grannies/students. If you don't have a cleaner, get recommendations now so you can avoid spending all your free time doing housework when you're back at work.

Think carefully about how work can fit with your life. Map out a balanced work week for you. When do you want/need to be at home & what for? And critically, work out what you are not going to do any more at home. What can you let go of or delegate? Don't be the mother sewing a fancy-dress costume at 2am when a cheap bought or borrowed one will do just as well. You'll need to be flexible about how this might pan out once you get into job discussions, but being clearer on your non-negotiables will help you to target the right opportunities.

If you're also a mother who tells your children the benefits of not leaving everything until the last minute, this is the moment to practice what you preach!

Related Posts
Once your have the job offer, you'll have built a great foundation for the next stage of preparation: Preparing for your first months back at work

Posted by Julianne