Mums At Work: Hit the Ground Running [Naomi George Webinar]
- Expert Advice
- 08 Sep 2016
The webinar hosted by Naomi George and powered by JobsForHer on 30th August, for women on a career break, covered three ‘scapes’ - i.e. the domestic scape, the professional scape, and the personal scape, which mums need to address if they want to return to work, remain at work, and grow.
The objective was to convey that all three scapes are connected, and that in order to nail a job and achieve professional success and growth, we need to nurture ourselves.
In the Q&A that followed, the importance of ‘me’ time and confidence, or the lack of it, emerged as key issues that many mums are grappling. It was clear that the personal scape is the need of the hour, and this blog will focus on the concerns raised by mums who participated in the webinar.
Mums questioned why companies would want to hire mothers, or why they were against hiring mothers, the ‘relevance’ or current value of a mum who has had a break from work (six years in the case of the woman who asked me the question).
What came through from these questions is that it all boils down to a lack of self-belief.
If mums don’t believe they are a desirable candidate for a company, they are going to go in for that interview on the backfoot. If mums who want to return to work believe they are the 2nd option, or a non-option that will affect how they come across to the interviewer. Perception is important, indeed self-perception can strongly influence how one is viewed by others.
This blog addresses how to build confidence, how to change self-perception, and how to address the gap in the years away from the workforce.
How To Build Confidence
A crucial point I want to make here is that confidence is a quality that can be developed in the mind. The worry about lacking it should not weigh one down. Instead confidence should be tackled, worked on like acquiring a skill, and built up. Here’s how:
One of the things I stressed in the webinar was that women shouldn’t apologise for the mum within them, or attempt to push it into the background. Instead the mum within should be placed up front and centre, because motherhood could well be an MBA in management, and skills learnt during this journey, actually makes one a very desirable candidate.
Women should walk into an interview mindful that they come on board with certain qualities that have been acquired during the course of motherhood. Some of these are: time management skills/ planning and organizational ability /multi-tasker/ hard worker/emotional maturity/ responsible.
The perception must be changed that a mum is less than the other non-mum candidates, instead it should be used as a strength. Being a mum is part of our identity, it is up to us to project self-respect for ourselves and what we undoubtedly bring to the table. We need to stand tall in our minds first, that will help to deal with rejection, the time that it may take to get a job, and any negative comments from people. If one does face negativity during an interview, it could be countered with the above mentioned points on what one brings on board as a mum. The focus should be directed back to these and others strengths and skills, not on weaknesses.
A quote I love: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt
There is no doubt that motherhood can take a toll on a woman’s sense of self, which can often become diluted with the demands of mothering. Caring for children, and running a home are not easy, the demands never cease, the meals never end, and groceries need to be perpetually replenished, apart from the other innumerable boxes that have to be ticked every day. What happens in this scenario is that there is constant output from a mum, which can often lead to exhaustion, frustration and eventually a loss of self, and a lack of confidence.
If we as mums do not nurture ourselves, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. We need to put ourselves on our priority lists, we need to cater to our needs, so we are recharged and continue to perform at home and at work. Also stepping away from the domestic-scape is crucial, it means we are stepping back into ourselves and reconnecting with who we are as women.
It is vital to take time out to nurture oneself: exercise; it does wonders for mental and physical health (in particular depression); schedule a mid-week coffee/meal with friends; join a class you love; enjoy the beauty parlour, have a weekend plan. Focusing on yourself will give you the realization that you are important. Connecting with yourself in a positive manner will help with depression and low moods, both major contributors to lack of self-esteem.
A decision to invest in the ‘me’ within, is an indication of how one views oneself. If we put ourselves last, we are allowing others to do so. Let us stand tall in our minds and nurture ourselves, it is the stepping-stone for fostering self-belief and confidence.
3) Addressing the Gap From Work
Nailing a job comes means two things: projecting confidence and having the skills for the job. A skills-gap that may have developed while away from the work-force is a real concern and can undermine confidence. If during the interview a gap becomes apparent, the best course of action would be to step up to it, rather than attempt to hide the-gap, which would be very apparent to any seasoned interviewer. It would be wise to acknowledge it honestly, display willingness to learn and bridge the gap.
The willingness to learn is an ideal quality in an employee. Many companies have return-to-work or mentorship policies for mums. Flip the question back to the interviewer and ask about polices in the company that you could potentially avail of. Keep in mind that often there is no job that is tailor-made for someone, instead one adapts to the role and learns along the way.
A quote I tell myself when I falter: "The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have." Padamsee Warrior, CISCO, Chief Technology Officer
In the mean-time while looking for a job, it would be an idea to consider doing courses in relevant fields, to bridge any gaps that might exist. This will help with confidence and will address any fears about not being suitable for a role or work-ready.
The other option is to ‘Dial-Down’ or opt for a role that is lower than what you should be doing at your current age. The fact is if there has been a significant gap, the priority should be to get back in the game. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the team are younger, or you are interviewing for a role that is on the same level as when you left the work-force. Sometimes dialing down, will help to reinforce confidence, it will help to manage family and job without buckling under pressure. And with time it will become apparent to yourself that you have the capability for a senior position, at which point you will put yourself up for the role, with none of the self-doubt that plagued you, when trying to get back in the workforce.
The approach to returning to work should be like getting to the top of a jungle-gym, the route is not vertical or straight-up, there are many ways through to the top.
Identify companies and roles that align with your skills set, be flexible in the kind of role you opt for, and go for it!
A quote whose wisdom I have seen in my own career: “The jungle gym model benefits everyone, but especially women who might be starting careers, switching careers, getting blocked by external barriers, or re-entering the workforce after taking time off." Sheryl Sandberg, Lean in
We need to look inward before looking outward. In truth confidence means many more things than just nailing a job or being good at it. It is also about self-worth and self-respect. Yes, confidence can take a battering when we become mums, or at different points in our lives when the going gets tough. This is part of the journey, and the path to growth is to stay connected to ourselves, equip ourselves by building skills, facing up to our fears, getting to the root of them, and taking action.
As mums we need to constantly be one step ahead of the game. We have to multi-task and move between the domestic, professional and personal scapes seamlessly; and we can, but only if we love ourselves.
Take a conscious decision to put yourself on your priority list and feel the difference!
Author ‘Mum-Me. How I Raised Babies, Survived Toddlers and Learnt To Love Myself’