Wednesday 25 July 2018

Updating your digital toolkit for your return to work

How can I update my digital skills to return to work?

Are you worried that your digital skills may be out of date? Our guest blogger, Nikki Cochrane of Digital Mums, gives advice on updating your digital toolkit if you've had an extended career break.

Returning to work - whatever your situation - is a daunting process. Couple that with the dreaded imposter syndrome us women seem to feel more than our male counterparts and it’s a surprise any of us pluck up the courage to dust off our LinkedIn profile and put ourselves out there.

But as the well-used saying goes, knowledge is power, and in today’s ever-advancing world of digital, it’s confidence-building too. With government predictions showing that 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency within 20 years but a quarter (23%) of adults still lacking basic digital skills, it’s time to take control of your career and bring your digital toolkit right up-to-date so you can dazzle prospective employers with your digital know-how and feel empowered in the 21st century workplace.

Here are Digital Mums' top 5 digital tools for surviving in today’s Brave New World: 

"Do you remember when we used to send emails?"  Those are the words you’ll most likely be hearing in a few years' time. Email is dying in many workplaces and in its place are new communication tools like Slack, which operate like WhatsApp on steroids with the ability to set up public and private chat groups all under the same roof, share documents and link to your Trello board...
Post-its meets wallchart meets calendar. Finally there’s a collaborative tool that allows you to organise your weekly and daily tasks, tag in work colleagues, link to documents, colour code by priority (goodbye, highlighter pens), add notes and checklists to yours and other people’s boards and change priorities with a quick click and a swipe. It’s so effective at getting even the most disorganised organised that you’ll be using it to sort out your life admin in no time. 

Forget standard video updates and past-it PowerPoints, TouchCast puts the fun into presenting. Best described in their own words: "TouchCast looks like TV and feels like the web". There’s a newsroom style backdrop for company updates or you can turn instant pro by using a green screen to transport you to any backdrop in the world. To aid engagement and bring to life presentations, you can share documents, web pages, and other media from within the video to get people interacting - the best way to learn. 

OK, so it’s not the newest of digital tools, but used correctly and it is your key to finding the job of your dreams. As well as making sure you’re picture perfect (your profile is 14x more likely to get views with a photo than without one), LinkedIn is all about attracting the right people and growing your network to achieve your career goals. As well as following companies you’d like to work for and engaging with people who can help you get there, share articles on your chosen subjects and spark conversations by adding your own spin on what you’re sharing to attract like-minded people. 

Google Suite 
Head in the cloud? That’s exactly where it should be in today’s working environment. Google’s free suite of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook equivalents are saved in the ‘cloud’ meaning you never need to worry about forgetting to press ‘save’ again.  It automatically saves as you go and let’s you share documents with other people to work on at the same time. You can even chat in the document while you’re working. Google Meet meanwhile, makes remote working less remote through group video calling where you can share screens to get as close as possible to an ‘IRL’ meet-up. 

Nikki Cochrane is co-founder of digital training academy, Digital Mums.

If you want to learn more about these tools and more, Digital Mums has launched a new 12 week course, the Digital Retox, which aims to empower women with digital confidence in the workplace. As well as updating your digital toolkit, you’ll learn how to develop your own personal online brand so you feel current, relevant and empowered to return to work. For more information and an Early Bird discount, click here.

Thursday 12 July 2018

Summer Return to Work Action Plan

With the holidays started or just around the corner, you could be forgiven for focussing solely on the long, (hopefully) hot summer to come. It may be tempting to push thoughts about returning to work to the back of your mind. However businesses tend to start hiring again (and launching returner programmes) in early September. There are a variety of simple ways in which you can lay strong foundations now - while taking a much-needed break - so you'll be in a good position for an autumn return to work *

Here are some ideas to help you make the most of the summer months:

Build up your Network Map
It doesn't matter if you're not yet ready to start networking, building your network map* takes time and the sooner you can start the better. This is an ideal task to tackle during the holidays as it can be done in small chunks whenever you have some spare time.

Begin by creating three lists. In the first, put everyone you can think of from your past: people you knew at school and university, friends you may not have seen for a long time, former employers, colleagues and employees. In the second, list everyone you know now: neighbours, friends, school-gates and local community acquaintances, other parents, people you've met through your hobbies or volunteering. In the third, try to think of future networks and groups it would be useful to join: professional associations etc. See this post for more details.

Even if you start by thinking that you don't have a network, you'll be surprised how your map grows. You'll be surprised how quickly your map will grow and how many people you can potentially network with when the time comes. 
Get Targeted
Whether you have too many choices or too few, a useful way to think about what to do next is to think back to a work role, or part of a role, that you found fulfilling and reflect on what made it so (see this post for a process to uncover more about what gives you fulfillment). Digging out old appraisal forms (if you can find them) can help with this.

Job factors that you found fulfilling are related to your strengths and values and they will continue to be of great significance to you in the future. Working out what's important to you will give vital clues as to what to do next. You may want to return to your old field of work; you may decide to take elements from your past roles and identify a new one or you may find you have an idea for a new business or a desire to retrain in a new area.

If you're able to identify new skills you'd like to acquire or skills you want to refresh, summer is also a good time to research courses which often start in September.

Practise your Introduction

Meeting new people while on holiday or day trips provides a low risk way to practice telling your story. You can test out and refine your answer to the often-dreaded question - ‘What do you do?’ Try using our Career Break Sandwich model, starting with your past work experience, then talking about your career break and finishing with what you want to do in the future. Hopefully by the end of the summer you will feel much more confident about talking about your skills, experience and aims for the future.

Prepare your Family
If you're a parent, your return to work will be a lot smoother if you have the support and co-operation of your partner and children. The long summer holiday will give you plenty of time to consider what changes will need to be made and how best to prepare your family. For younger children, think about a new school dropoff/pickup routine or new after school clubs. Older children may need to take on more responsibility such as organising their sports kit or preparing their own packed lunches. The holidays are a great time to teach your children new skills that will help them adjust to your return to work. And don't forget to think about ways you can make the transition easier on yourself, eg, internet grocery shopping or hiring a cleaner. Read our posts on combating guilt feelings if these get in the way of making the changes that will help you. 

These are just a few ideas - the main thing is to keep taking small actions to move you forwards. We hope you have a great summer!

Thanks to our friends at iRelaunch for the Network Map concept

Ideas adapted from earlier posts