Working Mums Club Q&A: From Building Your Business To Boosting Career Confidence

by Hannah Fox |
Published on

Need help and advice on juggling family and a career? A working mum answered your questions in our latest Facebook web chat

When it comes to juggling your work and home life, one of the toughest times is those first couple of years after your baby’s birth. Whether it’s your first few weeks back after maternity leave and coping with career confidence wobbles or setting up your own business when you’ve got a toddler to look out for, we want to provide support for you.

That’s why we’ve created the Working Mums Club Facebook Q&A – a fortnightly web chat where we get inspiring working mums to give you their tips on juggling work and a family.

This time, we had Jannine Oates – a leadership and business performance coach – and mum-of-one. She’s the founder and managing director of Inspirit Learning Partners, which creates programmes to help boost leadership and management performance in different companies. She has a special interest in helping parents feel supported in the work place.

If you missed the Facebook chat, you can find out what was covered below.

I've found my confidence has collapsed since coming back from maternity leave two months ago. I just don't feel up to speed with everything and question everything I do because I feel my work is more judged than it was before. Is this me being paranoid or just something that happens?

I can totally empathise with you. My son Oliver is now three and a half and when I went back into my own business I felt very lost. It was like I had forgotten how to be 'me' as a business person. It's a major life event becoming a parent and our focus grows to be on the baby/child.

A couple things helped me. I spent time writing down my achievements daily in a little book, split the page in two and on the right hand side once I had written the achievements on the left I would then write down 'what does this say about me?' I'd write down my strengths and qualities as both a mummy and business professional. Very soon I was recognising my strengths and felt my confidence grow as I had real evidence to support my success.

If you work for an organisation, ask for a review with your manager and make sure you go in with what is possible first. Getting feedback from those around you may help you realise if there are areas to focus on or whether it is your more negative voice winning over your positive due to all the 'wonderful' things and responsibilities that come from being a parent much success, keep strong.

I recently started a small business from home making and selling baby products and handmade cards. I have lots of new ideas but am trying to pace out introducing new products, as I don't want to invest too much money at the moment. I started a Facebook page to do some networking and have a website. A lot of people have shown support and interest. Any tips on how to encourage enquiries about products into sales?

Congratulations on your business venture. It's great that people are showing support and interest and of course, turning the enquiries into sales is very important.

It's great that you have a Facebook page and website. What are you doing with the enquiries and interest shown? Are you following these up? Asking what people have liked about your products? It's always good to know what other people in similar businesses do to attract customers so you can 'borrow ideas'. I know when I set up Inspirit I did lots of research on similar organisations to see how they did things. I know it's vital to have a business plan that states what revenue you want to make in your business and then you can break this down into what you need to be doing in a sales plan and marketing plan which will include PR opportunities.

When I developed mine for Inspirit it helped me immensely to do things differently in my business to achieve the sales. In Yorkshire there is a lot of fully funded training opportunities through the local authority and universities.

Maybe look at what support is out there in your area to receive extra insight into sales and marketing support for your business. Also, see if there is support on business planning if you would value enhancing yours or getting one in place. I mentor a business who makes macarons and she finds food fairs a helpful way to reach lots of people in a short amount of time. Wishing you much success and hope this helps you on your success.

I've got to make a presentation in front of 22 people in two weeks time and I'm so nervous. Have you got any tips (apart from the usual 'imagine everyone in their underwear!)?

What a great opportunity! Although, when we feel nervous it certainly doesn't feel like that imagining people in their underwear for me would make me more nervous! So you are right to stay away from that one.

I spend a lot of time supporting people to be more high-impact in presentations and nerves are a common theme so you are not alone. Planning your presentation will help you with confidence especially knowing what you want to achieve with your audience i.e. Do you want them to be excited, inspired, informed etc?

Make sure you think about the 'why' for the audience. What do they get out of it and be clear on this objective while planning what you will say. Couple of things I share with people that certainly work for me and I've had great feedback

1. Visualise before you go into the presentation the reaction of the audience. Imagining them hanging off your every word, smiling, knowing you are doing a great job, confident, engaging etc (whatever you want that to be). Really make this a strong connection with yourself. Then when you go into the presentation feel/ think like you did when you were visualising and you will feel fantastic and help make it happen

2. Re-label the word nervous in your head to excited. It's surprising how this instantly changes how you feel and think. If you imagine how you feel when you are excited most people find it's the same experience when nervous. The only difference is the label. A great discovery I found.

I get so distracted when I'm at work – thinking about what I've got to do when I get home, the rush to pick up my kids from school, you name it! Any tips on how I can focus more at work?

It's very easy to get distracted when we have many important responsibilities both as a parent and employee/business owner. One of the most powerful quotes from Dale Carnegie helped me put things on perspective 'Live in day tight compartments' which means live in the day you are in. I've developed this to 'live in moment to moment compartments'.

So, I have my diary at hand at all times which is my phone calendar and whenever a thought comes into my mind I book a time in my calendar to think about it. This means I don't get distracted from the task at hand.

I also book repeat alarms in for regular stuff I have to do at home such as 'washing' Monday, Weds and Friday at 6.15pm. It means I am being proactive and then my washing never piles up. You can adapt this to suit your lifestyle. Being proactive and writing stuff down is the key, knowing you have time to act on it.

I'm thinking of setting up a freelance consultancy company – any tips on starting a business?

It's really important that you know the reason 'why' you would like to go freelance and this is a compelling enough reason. Based on starting my own business I found it invaluable getting support writing a business plan and vision and strategy which sets you in a strong position from the start and each day becomes meaningful in what you do because you have a goal.

If you need support research what your local authority is offering for new businesses as a starting point. There is lots of government funding around as well as mentoring schemes.

I've recently gone back to work, but struggling with the regular 9-5. I'm going to ask for flexible working, but I'm nervous my line manager will just shoot me down. Any tips on how to approach her so that I can feel calm and put forward a good case for it?

It's really normal to feel like you do after returning to work when you also have family commitments. First off, what's your relationship like with your line manager? Were you able to speak with him/her prior to your maternity leave? There have been a lot of changes with flexible working policy over the last year so maybe taking a look at that may help and finding out what your current practice is on flexible working in your company.

Then, remind yourself of your strengths and achievements in your role and remember your worth as an employee. Before you have the conversation, be clear on what you would like your hours to be. Think about the benefits to you and the business for this proposed change. Planning is so important so you can present your ideas with confidence and win/ win for both parties.

Make sure you choose a time in both your diaries that is focused to have a positive exploration of the idea. I hope that this helps and best wishes for the conversation.

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