Career advice for working mums – your questions answered

As mums we learn to become adept at pretty much everything. We’re constantly upskilling and doing things we’ve never done, as we navigate parenthood. And when we want to head back into the workforce, it’s these same skills that can be honed to create new career paths. It may seem a little daunting to think of heading back to work, or studying while you have kids, but it can be done. And one of Australia’s leading businesswomen has given Babyologists some of her sought-after career tips for working mums.

We recently held a live chat with Denise Meyerson, head of MCI – which helps Australian mums gain a successful work life balance through its innovative and award-winning courses, like Diplomas of Business Administration, Marketing and Human Resources.

If you missed the live chat, we’ve collated all of Denise’s responses to the questions asked by our Babyologists. It’s a great insight into one of the most creative business minds in Australia.

What are your top tips for women starting out in their own business?

I would like to say that you need a good business plan – but I started without one. Rather have a great idea that you believe in and that you are determined to make work. You need lots of resilience as well – there are a lot of bumps on the road to success. Also be open to listening to advice from others. Not all the naysayers, but people you respect who will hold a mirror up to you and give you honest feedback – which you also need to take well.

I am not one who says that it is all easy streets for entrepreneurs and don’t believe their stories which make it all sound so easy. It is a lot of really hard work and commitment and focus on your goal. Sometimes the obstacles seem so high and it takes huge courage to continue. You just have to keep moving and not allow the down moments to stop you in your tracks.

Sometimes though, you have to know when to let go of your idea. Not every idea works out. Try to start in a low risk way so that you can experiment and change as you go along. As you adjust and learn from your mistakes, you haven’t lost much along the way.

What advice do you have for women who are re-entering the workplace after taking some form of leave?

I would say that the number one thing to do is to ensure that you are current. No matter what it takes. Read articles, join interest groups online, gain new skills. Employers want people who have skin in the game. No one will care about the break as long as you show that you really want to be there and can make a difference.

It is also a key challenge for women to grow in their level of confidence. I would like to see lots of ‘power poses’ and none of this timid appearance as though you don’t really belong there – you do!

I would love to see women who come across as more confident and assertive instead of feeling as though they are second class citizens just because they took a break. It would be my wish that women come across as though they feel totally comfortable with their break and have nothing to apologise for!

How much do women have to disclose to a potential employer about their family situation?

I would like to see women being honest. What is there to hide? If there is anything to hide, you are in the wrong culture and it is not going to work out well in any event. So rather, find a workplace which appreciates your honesty and knows what the expectations are on both sides.

What is the best way to balance work and family when you are working full time? I’ve just gone back to work after 10 months maternity leave and also have a seven-year-old.

Number one for me is to ensure that you have the right help for both children. You cannot be at peace at work unless you know that they are being cared for well. Then please find a role that ends at the time of day that suits you in terms of your responsibilities. Yes, work is hard – and that is why it is called work… At 4pm or 5pm, it is switch off time. Use your journey home to set up your distance from the work zone and the work space. Then it is all family time!

It seems common these days for jobs to require people to be ‘always on’. Is there a particular way you would recommend setting these boundaries with an employer?

Set the boundaries for yourself and for your employer! Be frank about how you need to have family time.

We all know that the way someone appears can portray (or not) some power and organisation. How would a mum with minimal time and money make themselves appear like this? Are there any handy tricks/hints?

Fake it till you make it! You don’t have to be confident and organised. Just appear to be. Even on a tight budget, go to work in clothes that look professional. My daughter is at business school and her professor who is a genius still wears a suit every day. He says it makes him appear competent because people equate smart formal dress with competence. And you don’t need a big budget for that! I love Target – and they don’t pay me to advertise. Great clothes for work because they are not over the top and convey a sense of competence and confidence.

How do you make your work history appear relevant after a few years out of the workforce?

I would advise being totally upfront with an employer. No good trying to hide behind smoke screens. It is what it is. I would focus on what you intend doing to become relevant – joining industry groups, going to conferences or updating your skills. That shows an employer that you have the right attitude and you are positive about your career.

There are so many opportunities to gain new skills and demonstrate that you are prepared to learn and be proactive. Employers should lap that up as they seek people who can manage themselves.

If you’re keen to explore what courses are available, head to MCI.

(This is a sponsored post for MCI Institute RTO: 91088)

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