Your Career Questions Answered! Working Mums Club Q&A With Expert Jessica Chivers

by Alex Davies |
Published on

Missed our chat with author and careers advisor Jessica? You can find all the expert advice she shared here

More of you than ever have or are returning to work after having a baby – so we want to support you every step of the way with our Working Mums Club.

As part of this, we’ve recruited some of the most inspirational working mums we’ve ever met to create a unique panel, who will offer advice, share their own experiences and support you with the joint pressures of bringing up a family and moving up the career ladder.

And that's just what panellist Jessica Chivers addressed in our Facebook Q&A on Thursday - your career path when you have a child. How to progress, how to make your hours work and tackling that important interview stage.

Jessica is the founder of employment coaching company The Talent Keeper Specialists and author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House, 2011).

From going part time to beating working mum guilt, find out what she had to say below. And check out part two where she tackles childcare worries here.

Q: I returned from mat leave under a flexible agreement. My manager has now reviewed my arrangements and wants me to work in a different way. What are my rights in terms of them changing my working practice?

A: If you work for a large organisation you'll have an HR team who can help you with the nitty gritty. I can understand this must be hugely frustrating and distressing. Give the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) a call for free advice on 08457 47 47 47.

Q: Am I entitled to pay rise on part time hours and how can justify my contribution against full time colleagues?

A: Pay rises are independent of hours worked. The key thing is to know your market rate so you can benchmark what you're currently being paid and make a case for a rise.

Q: I'm a self-employed horse dentist and have just had my first baby. I’ve returned to work two weeks after giving birth and am receiving maternity allowance. But how many hours can you do on KIT (keeping in touch) days? I'm not working full eight-hour days but I can earn quite a bit per treatment. I don't want to be breaking the law by receiving benefits.

A: Unfortunately any part day = one KIT day so it would be worth you grouping appointments together into a whole day so you get the biggest 'bang for you buck'.

Q: I'm due in 10 weeks and can't stand my job anymore. I feel fed up, stressed and have absolutely no motivation at all.
 What can I do?

A: Please think about who you can confide in at work about how you feel. If you can unload some of how you're feeling, chances are they can give you a fresh perspective and help you take steps to feeling more motivated.

Q: I'm due to go back to work in January but was contacted a few weeks ago by a head hunter about a new role, which has since led to me applying for three jobs. I worry that maybe I'm doing too much. Would anyone else consider a new job?

A: I know many women who have considered a new job while on maternity leave – the thing that stops a lot from pursuing it is the fear that they won't be able to work flexibly with a new employer until they've 'proven' themselves. I do know women who've been up front about their preferred way of working (and demonstrated how it can work and be positive for the wider team) and they've been given the job.

Q: I’m due to return to work but dread leaving my kids. I work two part time jobs and can't afford to drop any hours, but worry about what I'll miss out on. Any advice?

A: I feel for you – you're losing some of the things you love to do with them but you're also doing something hugely important in terms of keeping the family together by earning.

One of the most important things we can do for our children is read to them every day from a really early age

One of the most important things we can do for our children is read to them every day from a really early age. Another significant thing is to give them undivided attention each day (it only needs to be five or 10 minutes). Children remember this and value it. The key is that it must be total focus on our kids, doing something they want to do with us.

Q: I've been a stay-at-home mum for three years and have just started applying for work again. I’m worried about how I’ll cope on the lack of sleep though – both kids still wake a lot in the night.

A: All the coaches I work with who have successful careers talk about 'securing their base' before ploughing energy into their careers. This could mean getting the sleep situation sorted out before you start back. You might be surprised how well you can get the children sleeping once you know you need to be fresh and focused each day.

Once you're offered a role you could suggest a staggered start to help you make a smooth transition – think about how you can position this in a way that is of benefit to your new employer rather than because it suits you.

Many women talk about just getting through the first three months (keep everything as low key as possible at home – no big events, entertaining etc) and you'll look back see just how far you've come.

Routine is everything and checklists are enormously helpful, as is getting very clear on what both you and your partner expect from one another in terms of taking care of the domestic stuff. It's not your job to organise everything – it needs to be a joint discussion.

Q: I'm going back to work in January and am scared about juggling work and my daughter. Before I left I easily worked 40 hours a week. And I'm just not prepared to do that now. I'm hopeful my company will get that but also if it's too much they’ll let me reduce my hours. What do you think?

A: Give complete focus when you’re at work (and make sure people see and know about what you're delivering and your great performance in those hours) then go home and focus completely on the rest of your life that isn't work. This comes from research in the US on how to flourish as a working parent.

Q: I am returning to work in December, going from full to part time. Any tips?

A: It's vital you agree with your line manager which parts of your role you will be relinquishing when you drop to part time. Get this agreed before you return.

It's vital you agree with your line manager which parts of your role you will be relinquishing

If you are dropping down a day or two, what elements of your previously role will you not be doing? Discuss with your line manager who will pick up this portion of your role to ensure it's all been properly considered and doesn't fall back to you.

You may decide you want to up your hours again and take up a bigger role. Again, if so, get paid for it and agree what's in scope/off limits.

Q: What is the best way to address the fact that you have young children in a job interview?

A: If they come up in conversation talk about how you've previously proved to be an excellent employee who's been successful as a home-worker. Also, make it clear that when you're working, the kids will be in childcare.

And how about relying on your network to find you your next role? If someone else talks you up, the would-be employer is then coming to you, which puts you in a more powerful position. Asking an employer to 'trial' you working in an atypical way is also good.

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