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Frances Cushway
Career Coach

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Frances is an experienced Career Coach based in Godalming and blogs on a variety of current career and job issues.

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Top Tips For Returning To Work After Maternity Leave

Posted by [email protected] on December 4, 2017 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Returning to work after maternity leave is an emotional time. On top of the logistics of child care, coordinating diaries with your partner and working out how the house work will get done there’s dealing with the emotions of leaving your baby. You’re probably also still dealing with sleep deprivation if you’re getting up to your baby in the night, which can make juggling home and work roles even harder.

You were probably more than aware of how the logistics of day to day life were going to change after having a baby, but most mothers aren’t prepared for how they feel emotionally and mentally.

When working with mums returning to work after having children, the most common feelings I hear are:

- loss of confidence in themselves

- feeling daunted by the idea of being in the workplace again

- fear about whether they can do the job again

- fear about leaving their baby

- wondering whether they can balance work and family life.

Most mums I work with have often forgotten how much they have to offer back at work – underestimating their skills and experience. On top of this, for the last 6-12 months they have improved their multi-tasking skills exponentially while juggling babies, toddlers, household jobs and coordinating days out (as well as partners!).

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the last few weeks of maternity leave and first few weeks back at work:

1) Write down all your concerns. Once you have written them down they often seem easier to deal with than when they’re churning around in your head. You can then discuss them with your partner or someone else who has been through this before and see what needs to be ‘tackled’ and what you need to try to stop worrying about.

2) Re-negotiate the home contract. Write down all of the jobs that need doing around the house and a rough estimate of how long they take, then sit down with your family and work out a solution that works for everyone. Getting children to help with age appropriate chores around the house is a great way to instil a good work ethic early on.

3) Take stock of your skills and experience. Remind yourself of what you have achieved so far in your career.

4) Work out who will be in your support network for when you return to work. You will have good days and bad days (as you did before you went on maternity leave) and as before you will need someone you can talk through issues with as they arrive as well as celebrate your successes.

5) Try not to spend the last few weeks worrying about going back to work. Be mindful to stay in the present and set aside a time at the end of the day to revisit any thoughts from the day that need addressing.

6) Listen to your own needs and do things you like to do whether it's reading, exercise, yoga...they will help reduce your stress. The first few weeks back at work will most likely be overwhelming and stressful as you readjust to your new life. You may also wonder whether you have done the right thing returning to work or start to feel guilty about going to work. You will not be alone here – mums seem to feel guilty no matter whether they return to work or not! Once you settle into your new routine it will be the new normal.

7) Seek out help if you need it.  If you are finding it hard to cope or you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, do talk to your partner, a friend or your GP to make sure you get the help and support you need.

If you would like further help dealing with the issues and emotions of returning to work after your maternity leave, do get in touch to see how my career coaching could help you, whether on a one-to-one individual basis or by joining one of my career workshops.

Wishing you a happy and successful return to work!

- Frances


Could this be the solution to the Term Time working problem?

Posted by [email protected] on August 28, 2017 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

There are two issues that frequently come up in my work as a Career Coach: parents needing term time work to fit around school holidays and students needing commercial experience to supplement their education and make themselves more employable. Could we solve both problems with one neat solution?

If you search for opportunities for term time working, there are only limited options available. Jobs at schools are like gold dust, and I can only imagine how many applications they receive from local parents looking for work that fits around school holidays. On writing this I looked at Timewise Term Time jobs, a great resource for flexible and part time jobs, and at the time of writing there were three Term Time jobs advertised, although only two suggested that the job was term time only. A general online search provided a few more options, many of these working in nurseries or schools and often requiring experience and qualifications for working with children.

Returning to work after a break looking after children is hard enough for parents, which is why Women Returners, founded by Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, has been such a success in both supporting women returning to work after a break and helping companies develop and run Returnship programmes. But returning to work in a job that fits in with family commitments takes it a step further. A report by Women Like us in 2009 found that one of the key barriers to enterprise for women returners was the effect their work may have on their families. Anecdotally, many highly skilled and qualified mothers I know have simply given up the idea of returning to work while their children are at still at school because the logistics are too difficult to manage. The flip side of this is that their return to work may then be even harder as their career break lengthens.

The problem is that very few companies operate term time only; they need resource to operate all year round. And this is where we could potentially solve the problem, by using a resource that is generally more available in school and university holidays - students.

The 2016 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey showed that while most graduates achieve the work-readiness required for business, two of the areas where there is still considerable room for improvement are 'relevant work experience' and 'business and customer awareness' (34% and 41% of employers were not satisfied in these areas respectively). As with working parents, students often struggle to find suitable work during holidays and competition is high for internships, which are still few and far between.

So is there space in the jobs market to create a solution to both of these problems by parents and students job sharing roles based on their availability and skills? Would this increase the opportunities available to both parents and students or are their skill sets too diverse? Have you ever employed a parent/student job share, and if so how did it work? Could you see this as something that could work for your company? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts or any experience you have with this.

Is the word 'should' weighing you down?

Posted by [email protected] on February 1, 2017 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

How often in the day do you find yourself saying ‘I should...’? I should eat a salad for lunch rather than a fry up. I should do more exercise. I should have a job where I am earning more.

Should is so engrained in our language that we use it without thinking. But for a small word it packs a mighty big punch as to how we see ourselves and whether we are likely to do something. The implication of saying ‘should’ is that what we are doing is not enough or isn’t acceptable. We aren’t doing what we are supposed to. But in whose eyes?

The role of ‘should’ in careers

From the point of view of Career Coaching when I hear a client use the word ‘should’ it sets off some pretty big alarm bells. It implies that the client feels that something should be different in their career, not because they necessarily want it to be but because of some external pressure for it to be different.

‘I should be earning more money by now, at my age.’

‘My children are at school now so I should get a proper job again.’

‘My best subject at school is English so I guess I should do that at University.’

‘I should go to university if I want to get a good job.’

‘I’ve got a degree in Maths so I should do something that involves numbers or data.’

‘I’ve worked in this field for so long I should stick with it, otherwise it would be a waste of all those years I’ve put in.’

‘I’m working in the job I’ve always dreamed of, so I should be happy.’

How ‘should’ affects your emotions and behaviour

The word ‘should’ in all these examples conjures up some pretty negative emotions – disappointment, guilt, unhappiness, frustration, anxiety, stress and a feeling that you have or are letting yourself down in some way. It can make you resent the decisions you have made and feel obliged to do things you don’t want to do. You feel like you have no control over what you choose to do. Feeling that you should have done something differently or something else doesn’t give you any credit for what you have done. And for the rebellious among us, the word ‘should’ is like a red rag to stop you from doing it!

These ‘shoulds’ can come about for a variety of reasons. Comparing yourself with your peers, who are on a different career path, can make you feel that you are not doing as well as them. Comparing yourself with society’s image of the perfect mother can make you feel that you aren’t doing enough for your family. Making decisions based on time or financial investment to date rather than doing what you enjoy means that you are removing your autonomy or free will.

How can you turn ‘should’ into something more positive?

As a Career Coach, my first step is to investigate where the word ‘should’ is coming from. Why does a client feel that they should be doing something? Who says that they should? What happens if they don’t do it? It’s a pretty challenging question and often uncovers some deeply ingrained thoughts and beliefs that can stem from a clients upbringing, family philosophies and societal stereotyping.

Once we have got to the bottom of where the ‘should’ is coming from, the next step is working through whether this is something the client actually wants and if so, to reframe the statement to elicit more positive emotions around it. Using ‘want’, ‘can’, ‘could’ or ‘would like’ all lead to more positive feelings around the client’s goals or aims. They can make a client feel more motivated to do what’s needed to achieve their goal and feel like they have control again.

Top tips to stop your ‘shoulds’ from weighing you down

  1. Stop and think about why you feel you should do something. Using one of the examples above, why do you feel that now your children are at school you should have a ‘proper job’ again? Is this for society expectations, peer pressure, parental pressure? (Note I do not include financial reasons here as in that case it would be a ‘need’ rather than ‘should’.)

  2. Once you understand a bit more about the ‘why’ you can then start to think about whether it will benefit you. If so, by reframing the ‘should’ into something that elicits positive feelings or emotions, you are more likely to do it and be successful. ‘Now the children are at school I would like to find some work that gets me out of the house but also fits in with my family life.’

  3. If you feel that it won’t benefit you, you can then start to generate some ideas about what you would ‘like’ to do instead. ‘I would like to take some time to get fit and find some time to have a breather before I find a job. That way I will have more energy and enthusiasm to take on extra work.’


Are you struggling with any ‘shoulds’ in your career right now? If my top tips don’t help, do get in touch to see whether career coaching can help you turn your ‘shoulds’ to ‘coulds’.


Practical Career Planning

Posted by [email protected] on November 4, 2015 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

In Autumn 2015 I added a new package to my Career Coaching services, which I called Practical Career Planning. It was inspired by clients who have a definite idea about what they want to do next, but who are struggling to make the move.

I am often approached by clients who would like me to review their CV as they feel that it may be holding them back in their job search. Once we start chatting about their job search, they often reveal other issues they are facing in their job hunt such as:

"I know what kind of job I want, but I don't know how to find it."

"I have a LinkedIn profile, but I'm not sure how this will help me or how to make the best of it."

"I know that I need to start networking a bit more but how? Where?"

"I'm not sure how to sell myself or what I have to offer."

"I'm so busy at the moment it's hard to find time to do anything about my job hunt, and when I do find some time I'm a bit overwhelmed about where to start - there's so much to do."

"I am looking to move into a completely new industry, how can I compete with people with more experience than me?"

My Practical Career Planning package is aimed at helping my clients answer these types of questions or issues and put together their own comprehensive action plan to continue the momentum after our session.

If you feel that you would benefit from this type of Career Coaching session, do get in touch for a free initial consultation.

Happy job hunting!

Top 3 Ways Mums Can Start Their Own Business

Posted by [email protected] on April 9, 2015 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Working as a Career Coach in Godalming, my clients are often mums who have moved from London to start a family or after having children. Working in London and juggling nursery and school drop offs can make for a very busy week! Setting up your own local business can be a way to fit your working life around your family life. But where on earth do you start?

The August 2014 survey by the Office for National Statistics found that self-employment was at its highest level for 40 years. Looking at the gender split, although the number of self-employed men overall is still higher, the number of women in self-employment is increasing at a faster rate – from 2009 to 2014 the numbers increased by 34%.

From my own experience it’s easy to see where this is likely to be coming from – mums setting up their own business or consultancy to fit in with a busy family life. The most frequent reason clients have come to me over the last couple of years is to investigate how they might find work that fits in better with their family life, and this often involves exploring self-employment.

The three main ways I have seen mums make the transition from full time employment to setting up their own business are:

1) use your existing skills to set up a freelance or consultancy business;

2) turn a hobby into your business; and

3) start up a new business based on something you have always loved.

However, starting up your own business is no mean feat. It takes research, time, patience and money as well as a viable plan. The statistics on how many businesses fail in the first couple of years vary from 50% to 90%, which does not make encouraging reading.

I’m not going to focus on the top tips for setting up your own business here - I have linked to many of the most popular resources below. Instead I’d like to share the stories of three local business women and their tips and advice.


Using your existing skills to work freelance

Sarah Pearson works as a freelance Marketing Consultant, providing expert support and advice to Agencies when needed for Marketing Initiatives. She saw a gap in the Marketing Industry and how her skills and experience were perfectly suited to fill it. Once her son was settled at nursery she took the leap to work as a freelance consultant. More...


Turn your hobby into a business

Tamsin Burgess owns Essence Pilates offering both small group and one on one sessions. While on maternity leave for her second child, and not wanting to go back to long hours and commuting, she decided to turn her long term hobby into her new business. More...

Turn your passion into your business

Lydia Allen is a personal stylist and make-up artist, based in Guildford, Surrey. She offers a high quality and professional service advising both men and women on what to wear and how to develop their own unique style to enhance their individuality and appearance. Lydia has always had a passion for the fashion industry. After her twins started school she found she had the time to commit to turning this passion into her new business. More...


BBC News – Top Tips for Starting Your Own Business – 50 Tips for Starting Your Own Company – Start Your Own Business


Are you harbouring a secret fantasy....job?

Posted by [email protected] on March 17, 2014 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (2)

As often seems to happen with me, the minute I start cleaning the floor I think of something I’d like to write about. Today this also managed to coincide with my youngest being asleep and my oldest being preoccupied with her new magic colouring book. Without getting too excited about my perfect storm I sat down to see if I could actually finish writing something.

So today I’m thinking about ‘fantasy jobs’. I think the sunny weekend spent playing with my girls in the garden probably inspired this as fantasy jobs are often rooted in your childhood. They may be what you most wanted to be as a child. I say ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ as fantasy jobs often involve a whole persona; they can define you. Other fantasy jobs may be sparked by someone you have met or something you have seen, for example in a film. I always remember around the time Daniel Craig’s first Bond film came out there was a piece on BBC News about MI5/6 seeing a surge in applications to join them. Of course it was most likely Bond’s persona that was attractive rather than the reality of being a spy.

These fantasy jobs are normally left behind with our childhood or adolescence, but sometimes they can persist into adulthood. Where’s the harm in that you may ask? Well the problem is that these fantasy jobs may hold you back from moving forward with a productive and fulfilling career. These ideas may be held openly and consciously, in that someone pursues a job that they aren’t qualified or suited for. However if the fantasy job is held subconsciously, this can cause you to feel generally dissatisfied in your role or chosen career. This discomfort arises as a result of ‘cognitive dissonance’ - there is a mismatch between the job you wish you could do and the contradictory job you actually have.

This is one of the areas that is vital for career coaches to explore with clients, particularly if a client feels ‘stuck’ in their career. Exploring these fantasy jobs to see whether they have any ‘legs’, any basis in reality or are achievable is really key to helping a client find a role or career they will find fulfilling. For example, going back to the spy fantasy job, it might be the idea of a job that involves a lot of travel that really appeals to someone and this is something we can work with.

So are you harbouring a secret fantasy job? Do you day dream about being a writer? An artist? A vintner? A trapeze artist? A fighter pilot? (These have all been secret fantasy jobs of mine over the years!) If you feel stuck in your current job or career, while I’m not saying jack it all in and follow your fantasy job, it may actually help you find what you really want to do.

Time to clean up your digital footprint?

Posted by [email protected] on January 14, 2014 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

You will have no doubt read from numerous media outlets over the past few years how posting less-than-flattering photos of yourself on social media can impact your chances of promotion or getting that new job. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to ensure that your online persona doesn’t hold you back in your career, here are some quick and easy steps to help:

Regularly Google yourself

Yes this sounds terribly conceited but everything you do online under your name will eventually appear here. You might be lucky that you share your name with someone in the spot light who generates inches and inchesof ‘column space’ online with their latest exploits, in which case your own online persona will be pushed several pages down should a future employer look for you. However, the more social media sites you sign up to, the more you will need to manage them. Check the privacy settings on all of the sites you use and set as needed. Then log out of all sites and search for yourself. You will then see how you will appear to anyone searching for you.

Protect your image

All of your profile images can be available at the click of a button unless your privacy settings are set to maximum. By searching for images of yourself you may also see those of people or friends you interact with online. While you may keep your own profile images squeaky clean, the pages you interact with may not. Untag yourself from any photos you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

Timing is everything

Many companies today block social media sites from being accessed via work pcs. However with research by Deloitte*  showing 72% of people between 16 and 64 years in the UK now own a smart phone, it's easy to access all of your social sites round the clock from your phone. Tempting as it may be to keep checking your sites for updates, think twice before you 'like', 'comment' or reply to them. A steady stream of updates on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for example doesn't look like the output of the most productive person in the office!

Rein in the rants

Comments you make, on for example Facebook pages, are public - visible for all to see. So before you have a good old rant about something you feel passionate about, stop and think would you say that to someone’s face? Would you like a potential employer to see these comments? If the answer is no, don’t post them! Or at least keep the language clean and comments constructive. And don’t forget, even if you’re your own boss, potential clients may see these comments too.

You are what you sell

Having a spring clean? Dejunking? Again anything you post on these sites is publicly visible. So maybe drop the luminous green mankini you got from Secret Santa at your local charity shop.

Promote yourself

If it suits your area of expertise or work, set up your own personal website. There are a huge number of do-it-youself sites out there to help you, for examples see top10bestwebsitebuilders If this doesn't suit your line of work, an up to date profile at a site such as LinkedIn should pop up near the top of any search.

Finally if it really has been an eventful Christmas/Birthday or New Year, the Independent published some very useful sites to help you clean up your online footprint.

* The survey was carried out in May 2013 by TNS, on behalf of Deloitte, among people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 64.