I’m Claire Lowe a mixed media jewellery designer maker based in Exmouth, Devon. We relocated to Devon from London with our three children just under a year ago and have no regrets, living 10 minutes from the beach and the Exe estuary means we have such beautiful surroundings on our door step, the pace of life is much more suited to us and our family.
I studied for a degree in silversmithing, jewellery and allied crafts and graduated in 2005, the course was fantastic and in a great location at the top of brick lane in London. The course allowed me to experiment with a lot of different materials and processes and this is where I learnt to use resin which is a liquid plastic which sets once mixed.
Tell us about your business – how did it all begin?
After graduating I continued to make jewellery and set up my business progressing my graduate jewellery into a more main stream collection. This range of jewellery was based around tea. I used tea as material and an inspiration, pieces were made with silver and resin and the tea leaves were cast inside the resin with either a clear or white finish. The tea collection is still in production and quite often gets selected for exhibitions with a tea theme.
The business has grown and paused for each baby as they’ve come along but the beauty of making jewellery is I can pick it up and put it down around nap times, school runs and once the children are in bed. During the short pauses of making I really missed the physical process of making, being a maker is a huge part of who I am. During my degree I took a short teaching course to enable me to share my skills and teach others jewellery making. Over the years I have taught a variety of jewellery courses to adults and children.
What do you make and what inspires you?
The process of making inspires new designs and allows me to experiment and create new ideas and pieces, currently I am making a collection which focuses on 3 colours and a specific set of shapes. The mustard collection combines the colour palette of mustard yellow, white and grey resin with silver and oxidised silver. The teardrop shape leads on from the collaborative pieces made between myself and another jeweller. This collection is sold through art gallery shops, independent jewellery galleries/shops and online.
The business continues to grow as my designs develop and go in different directions new and exciting opportunities come my way, It’s really exciting to get a new outlet for my jewellery or to apply for an event and be accepted. Getting an invitation to take part in a specific exhibition is really rewarding too. I really enjoy having a brief to work towards so sometimes it’s good to apply for an exhibition with a theme which will then take my work in a new direction. As the children gown and I have more time to make I hope to take on more opportunities and teach more. Getting away from the studio is always healthy and I try to meet up with other makers and exhibit at crafts fairs so I can interact with the people who buy my jewellery.
In the past I have collaborated with a few other makers. I made a collection of Jewellery with Emma from Olive Rose Jewellery for a collaborative exhibition at Unit Twelve Gallery. Emma is a textiles jeweller so we combined her textiles with silver and resin to make a small collection of pieces. I have also worked with another textiles based maker who used escape and evade maps to make a range of homeware items, I made a collection of jewellery including earrings, cuff links and pendants. I would certainly be happy to work with more makers in the future to form collaborative pieces. I quite often tailor a collection around a stockist if they have a set colour palette in mind or their space would suit a certain collection of my designs.
I’m Vicki, I’m married to Chris and we have three children, Millie (4), Arthur (2) and Oscar (7 months). We live in Kent and I spend my daytimes as primary carer for the children. But in the evenings, I jump on the laptop and my work comes to life!
Tell us about your career story to date
It’s been varied! I left uni in 2005 and went straight into a graduate job in an investment bank – I just caught the end of the high rolling, big spending, pre-crash boom. It was fun. After about five years, I switched to the private equity world and continued my career in a male-dominated, high pressure environment. I absolutely loved the energy of the financial services industry. It is such a fast paced, dynamic environment and the adrenaline of pressure and stress made me feel alive. I always imagined I would be a career woman, but then Millie was born and everything changed.
Since becoming a mum, I have launched two businesses which fit around my primary role as a mother and full-time carer for the kids. My first business launched just over two years ago – I bought a baby and toddler class franchise after Arthur was born and we now have over 500 children attending classes every week across south-east London, Bromley and Bexley. My second business launched a few weeks ago For the Love of Mum is an online store selling practical but stylish products for mums.
I was inspired to create For the Love of Mum whilst breastfeeding Oscar. I didn’t like the way my body felt; or that I had no control over when or how long I would next sleep, or that I struggled to get off the sofa and play with our older children. But I had a neon pink pouch which I carried everywhere with me, stuffed full of breastfeeding pads – this pouch used to make me smile, it reminded me of who I was and am. It made me think, that at a time when you are struggling to feel like yourself – the way you look, the clothes you’re wearing, the way you feel – perhaps surrounding yourself with practical products that reflect your pre-baby, independent style could make you feel better and more yourself. So I set about searching for products that were style-led and on-trend but also useful and practical. And so For the Love of Mum was born.
How has motherhood changed your professional identity?
Gosh – in every way! I always expected to be a career women, in the traditional sense. My husband and I had always dreamt and hoped to have a family, but those plans always included some form of childcare that would allow me to return to work. So it was a total surprise when Millie was born and it broke my heart to leave her at home – no-one expected me to be a stay at home mum.
Becoming a mum changed me in every possible way. So it was a huge leap to resign from my job after Arthur was born and commit to being the primary career. Having said that, I still had a work ethic and ambition that I needed to fulfil. I’m very proud of the two businesses I am building and how they both fit alongside looking after the kids – you’ll find me logging onto the laptop every evening once the kids are asleep.
Why does work matter to you?
I was bought up to believe women and men are equals. That women can achieve anything they set their targets on and certainly match anything a man can do. I have a deep-seated work ethic and personal ambition to work and create some form of independent income. But since having children, I’m very passionate about the work I do – hoping to support and nurture new mums, helping them to feel good and have confidence and belief in themselves.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know! At the moment I am following my nose, seeing where life experiences take and inspire me. My time to work is very limited and I want to enjoy these precious years with the children at home. But I’m also aware that as the children get older and spend more time at school, I will be looking to work more, challenge myself and see what I can create. So lets see…
Alice Judge-Talbot is a blogger, Telegraph columnist and digital marketing consultant. I first became aware of Alice after reading her brilliantly titled article ‘We Are Not Sodding Mumpreneurs‘. I knew instantly she was my kind of woman. Her blog morethantoast.org is a wonderful insight into family life as a working single parent. I love Alice’s honest, self-effacing approach to writing about her own experiences, which she shares so candidly I feel like I know her. Also, Alice is also something of a rare breed in the world of ‘mummy-bloggers’ – someone you can actually admire for her style and sparkle because she manages to convey authenticity in its true sense (not the contrived version increasingly displayed on social media). If you don’t already follow her then I suggest you remedy that immediately.
Why does work matter to you?
On a practical level I’m a single mum, so the sole breadwinner (and only adult!) in my household: work is pretty important for our survival. Knowing that the livelihood of my two kids and I rests solely on me used to be terrifying but I now find it empowering. It definitely keeps me motivated. Work otherwise is the one thing that keeps me sane. Like many I know I found the entry into motherhood tough to handle, and I love that I have a purpose and motivation away from my kids.
Describe in three words what professional success means to you…
Waking up happy.
What would be your dream job/project/company you’d like to work for?
Good question! I’m lucky enough to work for Waitrose on a regular basis, and they’re one of my favourite brands in the world. I pinch myself that I get paid to create recipes and write for them – dream come true. I’ve been working on a book for the last five years and it finally seems to be coming together. The day I sell that will definitely be a peak.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
I’ve always wanted to work in some capacity online, ever since I got the internet at the age of 14. But back when I started my career 13 years ago these jobs (unless they were in web design) were really hard to come by. So I started my office-based work in recruitment, which remains the toughest job I’ve ever done.
What did that experience teach you?
Resilience! Working in any kind of sales you have to have a thick skin, and recruitment helped me develop one. Now, I’m never scared of a difficult phone call or tough client meeting – they will never be as hard as the sales calls of my early twenties.
What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?
Running the award-winning digital marketing campaign for the release of Harper Lee’s book, Go Set a Watchman. It was such hard work but a really wonderful product to help launch, and my campaign led to record-breaking sales of the book for HarperCollins. That was pretty cool.
If you could go back in time who would you seek career advice from and why?
To be honest, I absolutely adore Hillary Clinton and think she is so inspirational when it comes to promoting women in the workplace. I was lucky enough to see her speak recently, and if I could seek career advice from one person it would be her.
Who is your present day career heroine and why?
It’s very inspiring to see mothers who are breaking the mould and creating the new wave of entrepreneurs: doing something they love around their kids and making money from it. There are too many to count: Gemma of Mutha.Hood, Steph of Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Hayley from Southwood Social Hub. I love seeing such brilliant women around me excel and succeed, it really spurs me on.
What words of professional wisdom would you impart to the next generation of women
Never give up on your dreams! Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough.
Have you ever considered trying something completely different career wise, if so what?
I really don’t know what else I’d do. I really enjoy my career and it’s diversified naturally with the wants and needs of my family (and me!). The only other thing I wanted to consistently do was be in Hollyoaks, so we’ll see if they come calling 😉
Anna is the founder of Little Flea, a website dedicated to profiling cool kids brands and shops. Anna also produces the unique Little Flea Magazine, a online showcase for these brands that includes photographic shoots, trend pages and interviews.
Why does work matter to you?
I suppose it’s down to needing a creative outlet and wanting to work. I worked intermittently when the kids were young but when they were both full-time at school, it was important for me to start earning again. Plus I think it’s important for my girls to see that their mum can do other things other than be their slave!
Describe in three words what professional success means to you
Flexibility, happiness, money!
What would be your dream job or project?
I don’t think I could go back to working for someone else now but I’d love to collaborate with a high-end photographer/videographer to create and style kids fashion films.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
Working in a box packing factory.
What did that experience teach you?
To work hard to achieve my goals and nothing is beneath you!
What’s your proudest professional achievement to date?
The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about how you want to look. Give your wardrobe a refresh and ensure you’ve got clothes that work for your lifestyle and make you feel good. Here are a few of my simple styling tips to help you smash 2017.
As a Personal Stylist I am always telling my clients about the importance of colour. Wearing the right colours for your skin tone, hair and eye colouring can instantly make you look younger, more radiant and healthier by diminishing lines, blemishes and dark circles, bringing definition to your features and defining your bone structure.
So many men and women opt for black as it is the safe option, goes with everything, think it makes them look slimmer and doesn’t show the dirt. However not everyone can wear black. It can be draining, cast shadows and have a negative and ageing impact. I think black can be boring and dull – if I am wearing black on my top half I will usually glam up with a slick of red lipstick, add statement jewellery or a bright accessory. Most Personal Stylists offer colour analysis as part of their services if you want to find out your most flattering colour palette. Wear colour and shine!
Dress for your body shape
I love fashion and follow the latest trends but I know that not every look will work for me. The high fashion trends we see on the catwalks always diffuse down to the high street in a more wearable look but they still aren’t for everyone. I strongly believe in style over fashion and dressing for your body shape.
Look at your figure, identify your body shape and recognise your best bits to draw attention to and the areas you want to distract from. Don’t be governed by fashion, only wear the trends that are flattering for your figure.
If you love it, buy it!
When personal shopping I always have a plan of action, a list of what my client needs and a targeted approach but actually I’m all for impulse buying too. Sometimes you just spot an item and know it is right for you, in which case if you love it and can afford it, definitely buy it. Most of my favourite things have been bought on impulse, snapped up instantly with no regrets as I know it’s ‘so me’.
If you love it, wear it!
Don’t keep clothes for best. Think of how you can work the items you love and been complimented on into your every day wardrobe. You deserve to feel fantastic all the time so style them up for any occasion. Dress down your favourite dress with a denim shirt over the top. Team those killer heels you bought for your Christmas night out with jeans and a jumper. Wear that summer dress you love also in the colder months layered with tights, boots and a leather jacket. Think about making your wardrobe work harder and wearing your favourite clothes in different ways.
Show your personality
Does your style reflect who you are? If you are stuck in a style rut and need inspiration think of a celeb or someone you know whose style you admire and look at what they wear and how they put together an outfit. Pinterest and Instagram are a great source for style inspiration. Also consider making an appointment with a Personal Stylist. They are no longer just for the rich and famous and will save you time and money in the long run by teaching you how to dress for your colour and shape and avoid making fashion mistakes in the future. They will pass on tips and styling hacks to freshen up what you already have in your wardrobe too.
Add interest to your outfits
Look at how you can implement updates to the clothes you already have in your wardrobe and show your personal style. Experiment with different ways to wear your clothes.
Play with cuffs: roll up sleeves to show off your wrists, a flattering part of a woman’s body and show off bracelets. It’s also fun to layer different sleeve lengths in colder months.
Play with collars: colour on coats and jackets can frame your face or undo an extra button on your shirt to open up the neckline and reveal your décolletage or a layer underneath.
Half tuck your tops: tucking a t-shirt in on one side is a way of adding a little definition to your shape and creates a relaxed look.
Turn up your jeans: experiment with cuff thickness depending on the style of jeans and the shoes you are wearing.
Wear your accessories
In my opinion jewellery doesn’t get worn enough. So many of my clients have beautiful items stored away never to be seen. When I ask why, they say it’s either too special or stored in a way that it is forgotten about and not considered when putting an outfit together. Belts are a great way to tie a look together and highlight your waist. Scarves add a pop of colour or a different texture and can be worn in so many different ways. Quality accessories can make a budget outfit look expensive and unique. If you pay attention to the details you’ll achieve a high-end look for a fraction of the price.
Lucy Eastment is a Personal Stylist who lives in Bristol with her husband and two children (aged 4 and 2). She runs her own business Styled By Lucy and works with men and women of all sizes, shapes, ages and lifestyles using colour analysis, wardrobe consultation and personal shopping. Lucy offers simple solutions for everyday style problems and inspires her clients to look good and feel good, even when juggling family, work and social life.
Lucy’s career story…
“I was a PA for many years but when I returned to the office after maternity leave I decided it wasn’t for me and if I was going to be away from my gorgeous babies I wanted to be doing a job I loved. I was always a wannabe fashionista keeping an eye on trends and I was often asked by friends, colleagues and even strangers in the street about my style and where I bought my clothes so I looked into a career change as a Personal Stylist. I trained with Style Me Training Academy in London, following that I became the Bristol based Personal Stylist for Style Me and have since launched Styled By Lucy. I absolutely love my job and feel so lucky that I have found a vocation that I am passionate about.”
Lucy on social media…
“I have found that potential clients look at websites to find out about services and prices but they want to know more about you and see your personal style before they book. I have a website and Facebook page but it is Instagram that has really helped me grow my business. I use Instagram to show my own personal style and Instagram Stories when I’m out and about to show great buys I come across when I’m out and about in the shops or looking online. I find selfie taking all a bit cringe but I’ve had great feedback from my Instagram page and I’ve been told by clients that my visuals are why they have chosen to book with me rather than other Personal Stylists in Bristol.
Lots of my clients use Whatsapp to keep in touch with me. If they are out shopping or trying on outfits at home and aren’t sure about something then they’ll ping me a photo for advice. Likewise if see a killer outfit I know would suit a certain person I will snap it and send via Whatsapp instantly. It is a great way to connect again with previous clients and easily show them new looks and how to update their wardrobe whilst I’m on the go.”
Lucy is following…
@chloelovestoshop: “My Instagram fashion crush is west London fashion blogger Chloe, a classy mum of three who shares her daily outfits. I love how she mixes high street with designer. Her Instagram Stories are full of good buys and a glimpse into her world which is the reason I look at her Instagram account every day.”
@selfishmother: “Molly Gunn mother of two with another on the way is the founder and editor of selfishmother.com blogzine, sells #goodtees through thefmlystore.com to raise funds for charity and is a freelance journalist. The super mum has also recently opened The FMLY Store a funky shop in Bruton, Somerset selling her iconic slogan clothes and other lifestyle and homeware brands and hosting events. I have paid the shop a visit and loved the vibe and the welcoming family feel.”
@lenaperminova: “I follow Russian model, socialite and mother of three Elena Perminova for style inspiration but mainly for extraordinary luxe life ogling. She flaunts her lifestyle and wealth with a feed of dreamy couture dresses and exotic family holidays. Elena is the founder of the first global Instagram charity auction for her childrens charity @SOS_by_lenaperminova with donations from fashion houses and her high profile friends.”
Meet Anna Ives, owner of HR Puzzle, an independent HR consultancy. Anna’s story is strangely similar to mine in many ways – she took redundancy from a career job whilst pregnant and then struggled to find flexible employment post-baby. The frustration we collectively feel as women in this regard seems to be having positive outcomes however. Firstly, women are campaigning harder than ever to achieve flexible working rights for all (not just mums and dads), and secondly it’s breeding a new generation of female entrepreneurs, surely something to be celebrated? Anna’s new company offers support, advice and assistance to those very women.
What led you to setup your HR consultancy?
Picture the scenario, you’ve just found out you are pregnant, you feel amazingly happy, scared, excited and in shock all at the same time. You’ve made the decision to only tell your family and a few close friends before your first scan and you’ll tell your employer after that. Then you get called into a meeting at work and are told the life changing news (at any time, let alone when pregnant) that you are being made redundant.
That’s precisely the situation I faced just over two years ago. I literally couldn’t believe it. I had worked at the insurance company in question for about two and a half years as a HR Business Partner. I had graduated with a BA in Business and HR and started my first role as a HR Assistant 10 years prior. I had experience in working in a number of different sectors such as the NHS, education and local government, as well as large national and multinational private companies across IT and communications, insurance and service provider consultancies. I even went back to university to gain a Masters in HR Management (studying part-time, while working full-time) and I’m a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).
What was I going to do? I didn’t want to be out of work for the next six months of my pregnancy (although it would be lovely, and I wanted to have time off with the baby when she arrived).) So, I took a few short-term contracts and ended up working two days before my little girl Beatrix was born in November 2015.
Fast forward nine months and I felt I was ready to start looking to return to work, I was fully aware the redundancy money wouldn’t last forever and I was looking forward to finding a new flexible/part-time role. After about two months of searching I hit a wall, I just couldn’t find any flexible or part-time positions in HR. I knew I didn’t want a full-time role, and it had always been a dream to set up my own HR Consultancy, so why not now? So with the rest of my redundancy money I set up HR Puzzle. I specialise in helping mums and women with SMEs, for those who already have or want to take on an employee/s and all things HR related.
How is digital technology and social media enabling the way you work?
The whole process of setting up and running my own business was new to me. Digital technology has enabled the flexible working pattern I require. Not only does it allow me to work where I want, and when I want, but also allows me to serve clients who aren’t always local me to. I can send emails with a sleeping baby lying on me, or after we visit the park and she is napping on the way home in her buggy. In many cases HR can be dealt with remotely and digital technology enables this.
Social media has also taken on a whole new meaning. I have always had a love affair with Instagram and it was one of the things that inspired me to set up my own business. Lots of really inspirational women, some who are parents, and have great careers or have their own business – showing you can have it all.
I have found lots of great people to speak with and to also help share my journey with through social media. I also regularly use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It does take a long time but I can already see the rewards and it’s a great way to find new opportunities. After all I wouldn’t be writing this piece on here if it wasn’t for the power of social media.
What are your top tips for women starting a new business?
Follow your passion. It may sound like a cliché but when you do, it doesn’t really feel like work. What I am really passionate about is helping others, especially those I can relate to – in this case women and mothers.
Find a shared work place. I started off working at home to save on costs and a few months in was going stir crazy. I’m a people person and I am at my best when around others. I found a local hot desk via Wenta who offer loads of free business support including a three month free trial. This really helped with bouncing ideas off others in similar situations. I even joined a few Facebook groups who have meet-ups for those who work from home.
Market your business. There are lots of free ways to do this out there, especially on social media, so make use of it. Join groups, follow others (even those with the same businesses) and comment on people’s posts. You never know where this will take you. Don’t get me wrong it’s a long and hard process but it will pay off. Why pay someone else when in the early stages you will have the time to do this yourself.
Anna is following…
Laura from @themodernnursery: she actually inspired me to set up my own business. Her blog post about how she started her business when she had her little girl inspired me to do the same.
Next is my new girl crush! The gorgeous @Eimearvarianbarry. I first heard her of her when I signed up to a Mothers Meeting session on “How to Get Social Media Savvy”. She is so down to earth and talks nineteen to the dozen but you can’t help but watch her. She has two little girls and works around them flexibly, another inspiration of mine.
Finally, it has to be @blossomingbirds not only do we share the same name but again she is an inspiration. She has a really good career and is a mother with two little girls, and has an amazing blog. I just don’t know where she gets her energy!
My HR services include contract writing, policy & processes, employment law advice, recruitment, training, company handbooks, performance issues and absence management.
I am also campaigning for more businesses to take on flexible roles and helping to support mums with getting back to work after maternity leave/applying for flexible working, just to name a few.
I have some great events coming up, but one that I am really excited about is the Mums Enterprise Roadshow, a child friendly work and business exhibition for mums on a mission (#shootforthemoon). I will be an exhibitor at the London show on Monday 25th September 2017.
Consumers make quick judgements about brands. We spend so much time online these days, we are constantly making snap decisions on who to follow. There can be different motivations as to why someone chooses to follow you, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on businesses who are trying to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. If you’re looking for some quick pointers to help you stay on track with your marketing strategy read on.
One of the biggest turn-offs for a lot of people is inconsistency. As a consumer if you aren’t sure what a brand represents it can be confusing and you are less likely to commit to following and engaging with them. If you are starting out and want to build a community (and ultimately attract customers) you need to set out a clear brand identity for your company. I’m not just talking about visuals, but knowing how to translate your brand’s personality into the written word is crucial too. Are you funny, informative, irreverent or serious? Try anthropomorphising your brand – for example if Social Butterflies was a person it would be a career driven mother who was a savvy consumer of lifestyle products and services. If you can define its personality and attributes you can begin to see its place in the market. Being confident about this information will help you stand out from the crowd and create a niche for your business.
STAY TRUE TO YOU
Don’t keep chopping and changing your offering. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than a company that regularly changes its image and business offering. Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t evolve of course, but over time. If you’re overhauling your entire proposition within a matter of months from launching (or even every couple of months) then something is seriously wrong. You need to take time out, reassess what it is and have a clear business strategy before you start marketing your services. Particularly if you are offering any kind of marketing services – this could be the kiss of death for your business otherwise.
THINK LIKE A CONSUMER
The best way to get back to basics with your online business presence is to think about how you interact with social media as a consumer. Sometimes you can be so immersed in the day to day running of a business you forget to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Look at how other businesses project their image online – what works and what doesn’t.
BE A LEADER
But don’t follow a lazy business model by simply copying what other people are doing. Authenticity and originality are the attributes which will engage and retain your customers, so keep it real. You’ll find that customers in a niche audience will tend to follow the same people, so you will stand out as a copycat pretty quickly. If you’ve been inspired by someone else’s success then that’s great, but trying to keep up appearances and shadowing someone else’s online persona will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Concentrate on your own strengths, your company’s USP and carve out your own voice.
DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF
Don’t compare your business offering to others and simply try to match or exceed it. If you have a strong offering in one or two keys areas, then focus your energy on building those up and making them pay. Once you’ve honed those, then you can look to expand your services or product range. Spreading yourself too thin just to keep pace with competitors is not good business practice. Always remember what your key skill sets are, refine them and teach yourself new ones.
IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
The message is pretty simple: know who you are and what you do. It’s not rocket science, but so often people get overwhelmed by the mass audiences online and start to panic. This is totally understandable; it can be an overcrowded marketplace. But all the more reason to take a step back and have a clear digital marketing strategy in place before you go live. Be confident in your offering and if in doubt seek advice from professionals.
If you’re interested in finding out more then visit my new digital marketing consultancy website: amywhitedigital.com.
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Something occurred to me this week after I’d read some lovely emails from readers of Social Butterflies, there is a never-ending discussion online (and offline) about ‘honest parenting’, we can’t get enough of books like Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum. But how about some ‘honest career chat’? I’m not talking about flexible working – there are huge strides being made in that area, thanks to amazing ambassadors like Mother Pukka and Digital Mums. I’m talking about the identity crisis so many women feel when they put their careers on hold to have a family. So why does this issue still feel like a taboo subject?
For many women of my generation (born in the 70s/80s) we had established professional identities long before children came along (not forgetting spontaneous mini-breaks, oh how I miss you mini-breaks). But no-one, it seems, feels comfortable talking about the lows of career compromise in motherhood. The most obvious reason is because people don’t want to prejudice future job opportunities or damage their image. But I’m not talking about committing an act of career self-harm. It’s just about acknowledging those lows so you can refocus that energy on creating new highs. If you’ve taken time out, or your foot off the career accelerator, then your confidence needs building up. You’re not going to get that by feeling unable to talk about it. Knowing others feel the same way is both reassuring and empowering. When you feel part of a movement don’t you feel more energised to make a change?
So I would like to open up the conversation. But this isn’t a drowning your sorrows exercise. This is very much about focusing on the positives. It’s about recognising your worth, valuing your experience, honing your skills, retraining in some cases, pursuing a passion and giving each other a leg-up! (I’ve been there, so I should know). I took a three-year career break a few years ago (but I did have two children) so I never feel awkward about explaining that time off to prospective employers. Maybe if I hadn’t done that I might be earning more money, or have a more impressive job, but I don’t like to look back. I am where I am because of the choices I made – no regrets. I think one of the best things you can do if you are on a career plateau is to skill yourself up. Even now, with over 16 years’ experience behind me I still think it’s important to attend courses, workshops and industry events. You should never be complacent about your knowledge in the workplace. I work in digital marketing where innovations and trends move so fast I have to keep pace.
If you’re feeling out of touch with your career identity and looking to try something new, or maybe just want to enhance your existing skills, then take heart from all the amazing women we feature on Social Butterflies. So many of them have taken career breaks, or left behind stellar jobs to try something new that suits family life. You can achieve that too – all it requires is a positive attitude, determination, a healthy dose of confidence and a good support network. You too could feel like the lady in the photo (looks like a Bodyform advert, I know).
KEEP ON LEARNING The best advice I can give anyone who is feeling out of touch with the work place is to continuing learning: take a course, attend a workshop, go to a talk. Find something that interests you and meet like-minded people. Taking courses purely for professional reasons is great too (I’m currently learning all about analytics…) but be clear about what you want to get out of it, particularly if you’re paying a lot of money for something.
RETHINK YOUR STORY Even if you’re not currently looking for work, try writing your CV out as you would a diary-style story. It’s a great exercise to help order your career thoughts and reexamine what you have to offer in an informal way. Once you’ve got a clearer sense of what that story is, you can translate into a CV format (have a look at Pinterest for CV style inspiration). Set yourself up with a LinkedIn profile and connect with old colleagues – you never know where Barry from accounts is now working and how he could help (by the way, Barry is a fictional character, purely for illustrative purposes).
EXPERIENCE NOT AGE With age comes wisdom. We should be proud of the experience we have gained, and not compare ourselves to twenty-somethings. Each generation has their own unique skill set – ours is multitasking experience (in bucket loads!). Taking time out of work has reinvigorated your desire to work, not diminished it. I’m in my late-thirties and we’re not having any more children, so I represent a whole load of women who are not going to go on maternity leave and we’re less likely to flit from job to job. This is an advantage for a future employer. It’s all about changing negative perceptions and seeing the positives.
POSITIVITY PEOPLE It’s therefore crucial to surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but the doomsayers can quite frankly f**ck off! If you’re trying to lift yourself up you need people with a glass half full attitude. I always think if you project positivity you will attract it (you can have that as a motivational fridge magnet, you’re welcome).
I’m really hoping by getting this topic out in the open it will help other women out there, who felt like I once did. I’d love to hear from anyone who has felt like this and has made positive changes in their career. Please email email@example.com. I’d love to feature your story and inspire other women to do the same.
I work from home a couple of days a week, and like all women I end up doing chores in between work. Loading the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher (and reloading), checking the fridge for missing items before the inevitable ‘top-up’ shop to the supermarket later (I feel a sad sense of achievement if I can avoid going at least once a day). My ability to multi-task is second to none, as is my ability to procrastinate. The internet has been calling me today with its cheeky loveliness and I’ve been powerless to resist. However, and quite unbelievably, amid endless cups of tea, a quick power-up in the form of a few ‘Waitrose-mini-hot-cross-buns’, I have actually written my CV. I know, I’ve even impressed myself.
I write this blog alongside my day job, and I’m currently trying to find time to launch my freelance business (digital marketer and editor). During this process I’ve been going through my CV for the first time in a long while, and oh my lord it’s been an uphill struggle. Does anyone else find writing in a self-promotional style buttock-clenchingly awkward? I’m happy to write about other people and tell their story, but when it comes to listing my own experience and achievements I feel out of my comfort zone, much like Nigel Farage at a Eurovision party.
Writing down your professional story is an exhausting process, but once you’ve written it you can spend an infinite amount of time refining it, or as I like to call it, disappearing down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest (goddamn you Pinterest). There are so many styles and designs these days for CV writing that I find it all a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to stick to my guns and opted for simplicity. A clean design coupled with riveting lists of experience and achievements *should* speak for themselves.
Part of the reason I’ve done this, is so I have a clear vision of what I can offer, what I know and how much that is worth to a business (and I don’t just mean financially, don’t underestimate sparkling wit and personality). If you’re thinking of returning to work, looking for a new job or perhaps starting a business, writing a CV can be a cathartic process – think AA meets NCT (but with jobs) – the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, and remember, it’ll be worth the pain! It’s a good idea to get other people to check for errors obviously, but most importantly, writing about yourself in the third person (always a bit weird, but necessary in this context) helps you think objectively about what it is you have to offer. Which, I can guarantee will always be more than you think – age for once is a distinct advantage!
I’ve used two photos to illustrate visually what I mean about having a ‘CV reality check’. The main image is obviously not mine but an idealised, Instagram composition (credit to desk of dreams creator: Emma Highfield). The second one is the reality of my home working situation (it’s my kitchen table surrounded by crap). My point is that you need to think of a CV as you would the picture perfect desk – it’s a contrived version of reality. We recognise the same concept in the real picture, i.e. there is a table and a computer, the similarities end there sadly. So don’t stress about how to present yourself on paper – just write it down and tidy it up later.
We all have bundles of experience to offer future employers, particularly once you’re over the hump of, ahem…35 (ish). We should learn to celebrate our achievements for what they are, not compare ourselves to Instagram perfection (that gorgeous desk can bloody well piss off with all its neatness). Being a mum unofficially qualifies you as a PRINCE2 practitioner, referee, chauffeur, wine taster extraordinaire, UN diplomat (I could go on). Basically you’re awesome, even if at first glance your CV needs sprucing up.
So often in the conversations I’ve had with women about careers post-children there is a reoccurring theme: dissatisfaction with the inflexibility of the workplace.
It’s a universal problem and it’s one which a lot of women are turning to their advantage. The personal experiences amongst working women may be diverse but the feelings are generally the same. There is a guilt attached to motherhood that only women can relate to – it’s an overwhelming, sometimes suffocating mix of duty and ambition. The two don’t always correlate and it’s this desire of wanting a career and needing to be the best possible mum which can often lead to disappointment and feelings of resentment.
The modern workplace should be able to accommodate this new breed of women who are having children later with a career firmly under their belts. But it seems that so many talented, uber-multi-tasking women feel locked out of a workplace which still retains a presenteeism and traditional working structure popular in the 1950s. It’s not all doom and gloom however, plenty of forward thinking companies are tapping into this amazing pool of talent and embracing flexible working.
But not all of us work in industries which think creatively and sensibly about employment. For a lot of women who have had children and taken time out of a career the only feasible option is to start working for themselves. What might have started out as a necessity for some women has clearly been a major game changer and in some cases they have finally found the courage to pursue their passion. Turning an apparent disadvantage into an advantage is what women have been doing for hundreds of years – in fact I think you’ll all agree we’re pretty damn good at it!
I’m talking about the women who are ‘winging-it with style’ (no panty-liner references intended). And I don’t mean that women are playing at being businesswomen: there are some amazing women out there whose professional confidence has taken a few knocks since having children but they are still having a go. I count myself in this category – someone who despite having been on the equivalent of a confidence rollercoaster finally feels able to say “f**ck it – if I don’t give it a try now, I never will”. So this year I will be starting to work for myself – and hopefully for you too.
Women who are succeeding in business, bringing up children and maintaining relationships (in whatever form that may be) are what truly inspires me and makes me want to achieve. I didn’t realise when I started this magazine that the outcome would be such a positive one but I’ve decided to “stop talking and start doing” as my Dad would say. That’s why I spent so long deciding on a name for the magazine. I wanted it to be feminine (but not label us as mums), reference how digital-savvy we all are (or aspire to be), and quite simply I just love a good pun (it’s the sub-editor in me). But best of all I wanted to create a sense of community and by using the hashtag #wearesocialbutterflies create a positive label for women working online in business.
So, with that in mind I’m going to start offering my digital marketing services to women in business like you. It will be a unique package of services to compliment the magazine and its ethos (I even have plans to expand the concept offline). I want to create a collaborative community of like-minded women who are embracing digital (you might even call it a club).
But for now I’d like to use this opportunity to do some important research. What do you need help with when it comes to digital marketing? I think most people reading this will have one or two areas they excel in and a few they don’t enjoy doing or simply don’t understand. That’s where I plan to help you in the future – plugging those gaps of knowledge and supporting you along the way. I would love to know which areas you struggle with so I can use this information to design packages that work for you. I’d also love to connect with a graphic designer and someone with expertise running events.
Please get in touch if you’re interested in my business idea: firstname.lastname@example.org