While relaxing on your deckchair this Summer (or perhaps more likely, while madly chasing your kids around the pool with the suncream) did you come up with some plans for what you’d do work-wise when the holidays were over? Did you formulate some Summer work resolutions?
Well, suddenly it’s late September and the kids are getting back into their groove, whether that’s childcare, nursery or school. You may have just about wrapped your head around the new term timetable, uniform, lunch/snack requirements, clubs and extra kit, so it is time to take some action on your resolutions before they are forgotten.
Three steps to keeping resolutions
- The first step, with any resolution, is to write it down. Whatever it is. However crazy or unlikely it may seem. Just put pen to paper and write it down.
- The second step is to tell someone about what you have written. By telling just one person, the chances of this thing happening rise exponentially. So tell a friend, or your partner, or your mum. It doesn’t matter who: just tell someone.
- And the third step is to put your piece of paper somewhere that you will see it every day. Some people put it inside their wardrobe, or next to where they do their makeup. Or on the back of the front door. As long as it is somewhere that you can’t help but see it, then that place will be ideal.
Keeping your summer work resolutions
Now let’s look at some of the more popular Summer work resolutions and discuss what you might do to help move your resolution forward.
It’s time to return to work
If you have taken a career break, this new ‘school’ year might be when you feel ready to return to work.
Lots of organisations now run returnship programmes, which are like paid internships for career returners. Many returnships are run in September and January. You can see a list of UK returnships on our website (https://www.runnethlondon.com/returnships/), listed by year. You are too late for this September’s ones, unfortunately, but we have listed some for early next year and it might be useful to look back at January’s returnships to predict which companies might offer them again next year.
Returnships are not the only way to return to work. Statistics show that people are still best at finding jobs through their informal networks – which can mean through friends, family, past colleagues and new contacts. We regularly run workshops on how to return to work, which explain this in more detail, but a good starting point is to let the people around you know what it is you are looking for in your next role. You never know – the dad at the school gates or the mum at the birthday party might just be the person to connect you to your next role.
I want a more flexible job
It is seen as the ultimate goal by many – an interesting job but one that offers flexibility to allow for a better work/life balance. And it’s not just working parents who are seeking flexible work: so too are the younger generations.
But negotiating flexibility can be difficult, especially if you are working in an environment where flexible working is not actively encouraged.
To be successful in your request for flexible working (including non-standard hours, part-time hours or working from home), my golden rules are:
Be specific about what you want – simply asking for ‘flexibility’ is too woolly and many employers will react with an immediate ‘no’ as they assume the worst. Many worry about setting a precedent and opening up a flexible working Pandora’s box.
- Be clear about the benefits of your request to the business. Of course, there are benefits to you too, but you are negotiating with your employer and they will be more supportive if there is a business benefit (or at least no business downside) arising from your request. If there are downsides, try to present reasonable mitigation strategies – ie this is how we could manage that risk/issue.
- Keep your manager on side by including them in the solution (use the word “we” rather than “I” in discussions).
- Try to present a couple of options that give you the flexibility you want, so that there can be an open discussion and a negotiation on some of the points.
Ask for a trial period so that you and your manager can assess how it is going and tweak it if needed. This can be for your benefit too since it gives you the option to ‘try on’ the flexibility you think you want to see if it is indeed the best arrangement for you and your family.
I might stop working
The post-Summer period is when I speak with a lot of professional working mothers who are considering stopping work altogether. They may have just spent many hundreds (or thousands) of pounds on other people entertaining/educating their children over the long summer holidays. They may have had idyllic weeks with their kids and realised how lovely it is to spend quality time together that is not always timebound and/or rushed. They may have been hoping that, somehow, their work situation (or work/life balance) will have improved but then realise that it is the essentially the same as it was before the sun started shining. But winter’s dark mornings and even darker evenings are fast approaching.
They tell me that they are tired of the juggling. Tired of being pulled in all directions at once. Tired of being tired.
But before you hand in your notice, it usually makes sense to stop and consider whether there is something else that can be done to make life better.
I help professional women of all levels and, working together, we usually begin by taking a step back to get an objective view of the situation. Practical and surprisingly simple things can often be done to improve both their job performance and work/life balance. We will slash the ‘to do’ list, and get strategic about what they need to focus on.
Many of my clients end up staying, happily, in their jobs. Quite a few get offered promotions or get headhunted as people begin to notice the positive changes they make. Of course, some still decide to leave work and they leave with the confidence that they have the tools they need when/if they decide to return to work in the future.
So before you hand in your resignation, might it be worth a chat with an expert to see how the job itself, and how you approach it, could be flexed to suit you better?
This original version of this article first featured in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Bubele National Newsletter.
Author: Kath Sloggett.