Want to move forward with confidence and clarity to return to a career you really love? We talked to the experts for their advice on how to make it happen – and have the scoop on a workshop that could change everything for you…
Being a mum is the best job in the world, but we’ve all long accepted that career and family don’t have to be mutually exclusive. (Germaine Greer, we owe you one!) In fact, recent Harvard research has proven that kids benefit from having a working mother role model. Us mums here at HoneyKids HQ know only too well the challenges of going back to work after having a baby. But the questions remains: what if you’ve been out of the workplace for a few (or more) years? A career break can cause your confidence and self esteem to plummet to the kind of levels only seen in your bank account post Christmas. And let’s not forget, like good wine, women mature and change over time, so the job that suited you pre-kids might not fit quite right post-kids. What to do?
We sat down with Michaela Anchan of women’s co-working space Woolf Works and Grace Clapham and Solonia Teodros of The Change School to get solid advice on navigating that tricky process of leaping back into the workplace. They’re the brains trust behind the truly transformative Catalyst programme, designed to do just that. Over a period of three months participants undergo intensive mentoring workshops and shorter peer-circle sessions. The result? You’ll find inspiration, courage and feel fired up about your future!
HoneyKids: Michaela, you’re a mum of two kids, part-time writer and founder of womens’ only co-working space Woolf Works. Can you tell us a little about your journey to this moment?
I spent almost five years as a stay-at-home mum to my kids, who are now seven and three. During that time I tried to write, and tried to launch a business – but mostly felt very frustrated and isolated working from home. When I found out about co-working I was excited, but looking around in Singapore at that time I couldn’t find anywhere that delivered the beautiful, calm, welcoming atmosphere I was looking for.
I felt like there were so many women trying to juggle work from the kitchen table – and wouldn’t it be cool if we could all do it together, supporting and encouraging each other along the way? That’s how Woolf Works was born – we launched in 2014 in Joo Chiat and just three months ago opened by Clarke Quay MRT. Our members are really diverse and include writers, consultants, entrepreneurs and coaches.
After a while I realised there was a segment of women who were a step away from joining our community – they still hadn’t figure out what they wanted to do, or how to get things done. This was where the concept for our Catalyst programme came from, which launched earlier this year. Catalyst is a half-day per week programme over 12 weeks, and is for women who want to spend some time reassessing where they are at, and the direction they want to move forward in. We have a faculty of highly experienced and inspiring women who act as mentors. It’s a hugely exciting project for me!
Why do you love working, and what makes it meaningful to you?
My day-to-day work is really centred around where I can help my members, and making new connections and expanding my network. I get a lot of satisfaction from the successes we have had at our space – it really makes it all worthwhile. For me it was important for my daughter to see me push myself professionally and for both my kids to know that my world doesn’t revolve around just them!
How do you manage the work/home/social juggle? What keeps you going day after day?
It’s definitely a work in progress! But I’ve learnt to set pretty clear boundaries which helps. I know if I don’t exercise, or get to bed on time it throws my energy off the next day – plus I have to be up at 6am to get the kids ready for school buses and school drops! My husband and I have really worked on communication and taking time for that all-important date night. Aside from work, to be honest I am quite a homebody and really enjoy time alone, writing, which recharges me for a work day with lots of social interaction.
Updating a CV after years out of the workforce can be daunting. Do you have any practical tips for taking the pain out of this process?
Have a look around LinkedIn and see how others have handled it. I see nothing wrong with putting a career break in – we shouldn’t be ashamed of taking time to raise a family. And for those currently on a break, I would suggest to keep on networking in your industry, and up-skilling with online courses and workshops where and when you can. Volunteering is a great way to keep a hand in and to keep something active on your CV while choosing a time commitment you are happy with. Also, experiences like managing the PTA or setting up large school events or charity campaigns are definitely worth including!
You work a lot with expat women, with no work networks to fall back on (having last worked overseas). How would you recommend they make connections here in Singapore?
There are a lot of networks and communities here in Singapore once you start looking. And so many events! Fitness and sport communities, entrepreneur groups and women in business groups. You need to make an effort to get out there, try out different groups and attend different events until you find what works for you. Sometimes it can be scary to ask for help or to admit that you are new or have questions but I find the more honest and open you are in these situations, the more generosity you receive.
Grace and Solonia, you are two trailblazing women inspiring people every day to realise their potential through the Change School. What do you think women find the hardest about going back to work?
From our experience the two most common challenges women find the hardest about going back into the workforce are:
1. Lack of confidence since they’ve been out of the workforce and may even be looking to re-enter in a different field or sector.
2. Feeling of Guilt for leaving their children behind.
Here are some ways that we suggest to help address the lack of confidence and feelings of guilt:
BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE
- Reframe your thinking. Every time you have a negative thought reframe to a positive. Reframing helps to build optimistic thinking, which can assist in boosting your confidence levels.
- Change your body language. We all communicate on two levels, verbal and non-verbal. Simply changing our body language can help us to feel more confident. We recommend watchingAmy Cuddy’s Ted Talkto give you a head start.
- Ask your past colleagues, partner or/and friends to write down five things they love about you.
ADDRESS THAT FEELING OF GUILT
- Ask yourself “Why” to really understand where that feeling of guilt is coming from.
- Create a list of the reasons for why you work: is it for money, another sense of purpose, sanity etc.
- Know that you’re not alone: other women have gone through the same emotions. Find a support group or network that can help you to share how you’re feeling.
Finally, remember your setting a great example for your child, your showing your values, ethics and highlighting your a strong independent woman with aspirations and drive.
How important is planning and goal setting in the process of re-entering the workforce?
We’re firm believers that goal setting and planning are essential for everyone regardless of circumstances. However for those re-entering the workforce it definitely helps to provide a sense of confidence as through mapping out your plan of action you can get a better sense of what’s required to be done. It also allows you to feel more in control of your desired situation. We encourage anyone re-entering the workforce to think about your ideal scenario / job and create a roadmap by setting SMART goals, this will help you to see what key steps you need to take to achieve your ideal job but can also help you see what potential obstacles may come your way.
Once you have a passion and direction to follow, how do you convert that into a real, tangible job opportunity?
Passion is a great firestarter but we believe that having a sense of purpose or meaning in your work is even more essential and what enables you to keep going. Purpose doesn’t have to be a big scary thing, but we always emphasise the need to dig deeper and understand what fulfils you and to think about job opportunities that can fill that need in you.
A great starting point, which we always use, is the Career Sweetspot Venn Diagram below, as it helps provide a starting point to map out tangible job opportunities.
Job hunting can be hard, and rejection demoralising. Do you have any tools for staying on track?
Surrounding yourself with a good community or support network is essential. Try to build a good base around you. Sometimes hiring a coach or mentor is also a good way of keeping you motivated. Otherwise tools such as meditation (try Headspace or Calm) can help, especially since finding a job doesn’t happen over night (for many it can be as long as 6 months) and setting a regular practice of meditation can really help shift our mindsets and help us stay resilient.
The Catalyst programme kicks off Wednesday 31 August, and there are just two places left! Want in? We have an exclusive 15% discount for HoneyKids readers to take their place in this transformative workshop. This takes the cost of the workshop from $2950 down to $2,500, and the offer is limited to only two places. Ready? Head to www.catalystjourney.com to find out more and email Michaela at [email protected] to secure your spot!