Tag Archives: work-life balance

Punished For Parenting – The Most Expensive “Time-Off” You’ll Ever Take

Ah, the joys of parenting! If you’ve got children, you’ll know that it’s pretty damn difficult, and costly, to return to the workplace post-parental leave – as if you needed that extra stress! What should your organisation be doing to ease your transition? 

You’re coming to the end of nine months (give or take) parental leave  and my guess is that you’ve never felt less “in the zone”.  You’re sleeping an average of four hours a night, haven’t had a shower in three days, can’t remember the last time you had a conversation about something other than nappies, Peppa Pig or puréed carrots and you’ve got 2157 emails, and counting, in your inbox.

Returning to work after having children is tough for numerous reasons; leaving your child(ren) in someone else’s care (and paying a hefty fee for the privilege), negotiating flexible working conditions, re-adapting to work and taking a sizeable pay cut to name but a few.

The true cost of maternity leave

It won’t come as a surprise that women are the most economically punished in this scenario.

A recent UK study by PwC, entitled “The £1 billion career break penalty for professional women” revealed that women returning to the workplace post-parental leave are losing out on an average of £4000 anually.

Numerous reports have considered the hours worked (around 100 p/w) by stay-at-home mums and calculated their deserved salaries  (in excess of £100,000) but we aren’t living in a dream world. Most women, in some capacity, have to return to the real world and they sure as heck aren’t earning what they deserve or filling the roles that reflect their experience and skillset. Indeed, PwC’s report suggest that two-thirds of women are working below their potential when they return to work and one in five are moving into lower-paid roles.

The stigma associated with CV gaps and a lack of workplace flexibility in many organisations are both contributing factors to these concerning statistics, but there is some hope! By fully utilising the female-returner workforce, the UK could add £1.7 billion to its economy.  And a number of organisations are recognising this and taking promising steps to implement programmes that make the transition back to work seamless and accommodating for working parents.

Here are a few examples:

1. Offer mid-career returnships

Think you might be too old for an internship? What about a returnship? Returnships, open to men and women, are a growing trend in UK businesses, aimed at helping those who have taken extended career breaks by updating skills and easing people’s fear about big CV gaps and a lacking or out of date skillset.

Women Returners explain that “Returnships are higher-level internships which act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals who have taken an extended career break. They are professionally-paid short-term employment contracts, typically of 3-6 months, with a strong possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme.”

And the benefits are two-fold with the employer benefitting as much as the employee. They gain access to a high calibre diverse talent pool and are given a low risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role.

Companies in the UK who currently offer returnship programmes include PwC, Deloitte, 02, Mastercard and Virgin Money. You can take a look at the full list of companies offering returnships and what these programmes entail here. 

2. Let the dads parent too!

The easiest way to prevent parental leave destroying careers for women is to level the playing field for all genders.

The concept of paternity leave is still a fairly new one. Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce paid parental leave just forty years ago and, whilst more than half of EU countries have followed suit since then, the uptake is still low.  Men are reluctant to take their full entitlement of paid leave because of the cultural stigma attached. Most companies and countries offer far less leave for men than women and it sends a message: “Men don’t really need parental leave.” Fear of judgement, lost career opportunities and lack of role models all contribute to the lack of uptake.

When men and women are offered, and start claiming, paid parental leave in equal measure, it becomes everyone’s problem to find better ways of accommodating this leave within businesses- and that’s when change happens!

Some of the trailblazing companies include Netfix, whose parental leave policy allows parents up to a year of flexible paid leave, Amazon, who launched “Leave Share,” allowing Amazon employees to share their paid leave with their partners and Spotify, who offer six month full pay to all parents.

3. Build a creche

Flexible working is crucial for parents upon their return from a career break. Employees who are offered flexible work options such as being able to work from home, and at hours that suit them could be the difference between a parent returning to a senior role and having to take a more junior position, for which they are overqualified. What does it matter if one of your top employees leaves at 3pm each day to collect their children if they’re willing to work late into the evening to get the job done?

We talk a lot on Procurious about better assimilating family life with the workplace and whether it’s becoming more acceptable to bring your children to work. A number of companies are better providing for their employee parents with on-site childcare facilities. Goldman Sachs, for example, opened London’s first on-site creche in 2003.  It currently offers staff four weeks free care to ease the transition back to work from parental leave.

In the U.S. a third of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for provide on-site child care.

Annual Leave: Make Sure You Seize The Days!

It’s the same story around the globe. Paid annual leave is yours for the taking but you never quite get round to using it…We need to shake up our priorities!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Years ago, there were days that all blurred into one. I’d finish the week with little recollection of conversations had, what I’d achieved, or what job seekers I’d placed in amazing roles.

I loved my job. I loved it so much that I worked round the clock. You see, recruitment, like any sales role, is fast-paced and competitive. And the fear of losing a job to a competitor drove me to stay connected, 24/7. It also took priority ahead of personal relationships, which reflecting back, was a big mistake and huge learning curve.

Before I founded Agency Iceberg, I took two weeks off. I had resigned to launch my own business because I felt the recruitment industry needed a voice that would stand up for others, promote positive opportunities for women to address the gender gap, help parents find flexible roles and challenge the idea that recruitment was a ‘boys club’ or that talent agents will cut corners in any shape or form to make money.

Finding time to re-wire

It was also during this time I started doing things a little differently. I bought my first dog, Marlowe. I reconnected with friends that I had lost touch with from putting work first. I caught up with industry mentors to seek advice about launching my own business. And, after spending a few days recovering, I eventually started to feel my brain rewire itself and began ‘hearing’ conversations again!

Also, without being KPI driven, I didn’t need to check my phone as often. I wasn’t worried about missing out on client or talents’ urgent needs. My needs were put first. I started feeling calmer. I could concentrate for longer periods of time and recall conversations a week later. When my girlfriends and I caught up, I could relax and spend more time learning about their lives, rather than worrying when to get back to my desk and be reactive to other people’s needs.

After a few weeks of weeks rest and catching up with industry peers for advice and encouragement I felt that I was ready to focus on myself, my body (and lack of exercise and poor nutrition that needed to be seriously addressed) and my new professional goal: to start my own business.

If perspective was a performance enhancing drug, I’d be the first in line to sell it

In a 2010 survey of 1,700 global professional services workers, it was found that, “on average, workers report spending slightly more than half (51 per cent ) of their work day receiving and managing information, rather than actually using information to do their jobs”.

Furthermore, and perhaps more worryingly, “an average of half (51 per cent) of all those surveyed in each country say that if the amount of information they receive continues to increase, they will soon reach a ‘breaking point’ at which they will be unable to handle any more”.

At what point do we learn to stop?

Unfortunately, many of us don’t. In 2014, 11 per cent of Australians took no annual leave in 2014. Workplace perception around taking leave, leaving work on time, and what it means as a ‘productive worker’ weighs heavily on many workers, including those who come to Agency Iceberg offices feeling exhausted and on the verge of burnout.

In my own experience, I didn’t take annual leave because I felt guilty about it in the past. And when I did take leave, it wasn’t uncommon for employers to call me with urgent requests, so often I felt anxious, even when away from the office.

In Overwhelmed America: Why Don’t We Use Our Earned Leave?, the US Travel Association reviewed the factors contributing to Americans not taking paid leave. While a number of factors contribute to the findings, it suggests perhaps senior management plays a role in perpetuating myths that holidays are a ‘once a year’ goal.

“There is a striking disconnect between the importance that workers place on taking PTO [paid time off], and the ease with which they feel that they can take it. The central challenge is closing this gap”, the report said.

“Far too many employers do not encourage taking PTO (in policy and/or communications), and senior business leaders send mixed signals about the importance and benefit of taking PTO. Only 32 per cent of workers say that their employer encourages taking PTO; 33 per cent of senior business leaders either say nothing (19 per cent) or only discuss the merits of taking PTO once a year (14 per cent).”

Given that Australia has the third highest amount of average annual leave, behind countries such as the UK and Sweden, we aren’t lacking for options.

So why aren’t we taking leave more regularly, instead of when we’re nearly out of juice?

Well, as the Overwhelmed America report indicates, perhaps it is less about official policy, and more about how whether employees worry they’ll be ill perceived if they take regular breaks; the workload to manage while away; and that the business might actually fall over if they do hit pause.

The report writes, “the top barriers to taking PTO are a ‘mountain of work’ (40 per cent  difficult to take PTO), nobody else can do the work (35 per cent ), cannot afford it (33 per cent), and taking time gets harder to do the higher up you go (33 per cent) … Senior business leaders think taking time off is harder the higher up you go (56 per cent to 28 per cent for employees), that nobody else can do the work (54 to 31 per cent), and that they would come back to a mountain of work (54 to 37 per cent).”

Someone else CAN do the work

The idea that ‘no one else can do the work’ is a theme that I have felt very deeply in the past. There were years when I felt if I missed a day of work, there wasn’t anyone else in the business who could do the deal. It’s only looking back now, I realise how devoid of reality that really was. My colleagues were so darned good at their jobs, what I was actually worried about was missing out on a deal myself.

If you’re a top performer, the business will certainly miss you. But, as I’ve learned for myself, if you have failed to create a workflow that others can pick up in the occasion you get hit by a bus, or, your employer is not committed to resourcing regular leave, maybe there’s something in our  work DNA we need to seriously rethink.

There’s a lot to be said for the impact to productivity and motivation when employers build in reflection and decompression time. In addition to cognitive benefits, regular breaks promote decreased stress levels, higher productivity levels, intensified concentration levels, ability to regulate emotions and deal with stress at work, and the ability to delegate more effectively.

Prioritise rest and rejuvenation

Experience has told me, as countless books and studies do, the more regularly we prioritise rest and rejuvenation, the most effective and impactful we will be at work, as well as happier, and we can actually enjoy each other’s company every day.

Since my career break, I’ve made a commitment to not only lead by example by taking quarterly breaks, but to actively encourage my team to make plans every three months to get out of the office. I often sit down with my team during our weekly WIPs and openly discuss travel plans for the year to let them know that it’s okay to plan your personal life and enjoy it! You don’t need to tip-toe around the office and quietly plan your annual leave.

There are 365 days in the year, 249 workdays, and 20 annual leave days up for grabs in Australia. How are you going to spend yours?

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendance for FREE here

Anna O’Dea is a recruitment expert, LinkedIn Top Voice 2016 and Founder and Director of Agency Iceberg. This article was originally published on Smart Company.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Procurious’ Hugo Britt shares his experience of what happens when you truly disconnect – whether it’s on an extended career break, or just a short trip away.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s 2009. I’m sitting alone in a tent perched high in the Italian Apennines, listening to the roaring of wild boars on the other side of the canvas. I’ve been scribbling away at my journal by torchlight in an effort to capture my experience hiking the 400km, 23-day Apennine Trail, when something makes me pause mid-sentence. I flip to a clean page at the back of the notebook and, in full caps, write the words “LIFE PLAN” at the top of the page.

I’ve still got that journal, but I remember tearing that page out a few days later, a bit embarrassed at how self-indulgent it seemed. What was I up to when I wrote it? I’m not normally one to come up with grandiose life plans – in fact, I usually have trouble planning more than a week or so ahead.

Here’s my theory.

Zooming out

By that point in my hike, I’d been trudging along for nearly 20 days. This was to be the last hurrah after nearly a year of travel. My then-girlfriend and travel partner (now, happily, my wife) was working in the UK, and I’d taken the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted before heading back to Australia – one of Europe’s spectacular long-distance trails. I was going it alone, not only in the sense that I didn’t have a hiking partner but because the trail rarely passed through towns. It was off-season, so I barely met anybody over those three weeks in the mountains apart from the odd deer hunter. I had a phone, but rarely had reception – and (it being 2009), I was yet to upgrade to a smartphone.

In short, I’d disconnected. I hadn’t thought about the job I’d resigned from for months – nor was I worrying about finding another job when my shoe-string travel budget inevitably gave out and I had to head home. If I did think about my career, it tended to be through a wider lens (“What do I really want to do with my life”) rather than the practical details (“I need to update my CV, line up some interviews, buy a new suit…”). Thoughts like this didn’t even occur to me, probably because they’d have been so incongruous with what I was doing at that moment, whether it was trudging up a slope or cooking dinner on a fuel stove.

My point is that if you do manage to properly disconnect, you stop sweating the small stuff. From memory, the four or five points in my so-called life plan weren’t about getting practical little jobs done – it was more of an epic to-do list. It included asking my girlfriend to marry me, deciding what city we wanted to live in, whether I really wanted to finish my current course of study – in other words, the big-ticket items.

Switching off on a short break

2017 – eight years later, I’ve just returned from a very different sort of trip. Our family of four took in the frenetic sights and sounds of Hong Kong for two weeks, which gave me a short, but invaluable, chance to disconnect from the office. Unlike back in 2009, I was very much employed this time around and must admit sneaking a glance at my inbox a couple of times in those first couple of days. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to switch off and did so by disabling just about everything on my phone apart from the camera app.

Switching off helped me zoom out. It helped me put some common-sense context around the unanswered emails and unfinished projects sitting in my inbox. While I can’t claim to have completely stopped thinking about work during that two-week break, my thought process shifted from the detailed level (sweating the small-stuff) to discovering the bigger picture. Almost subconsciously, I was rearranging the tasks on my plate into a realistic order of priority, and even had a couple of “aha” moments – not by sitting down at a laptop and working, but while I was doing something completely unrelated, like lining up to purchase a ferry ticket.

Find your holiday brain

There’s some science behind this. Earlier in 2017, Procurious interviewed James Bannerman, a Creative Change Agent and phycologist about the best ways to unlock creativity. He said “Trying to be creative is like trying to go to sleep. If you’re too busy focusing on going to sleep, you’ll stay awake because there’s all sorts of brainwave activity linked to beta waves that will keep you from falling asleep.”

Bannerman explained that there’s a sweet-spot that allows creativity to flourish. “We tend to be most creative when we’re focused but not over-focused, and relaxed but not too relaxed. You’re more likely to think creatively when you step away from your desk, and do something like go for a run, or go for a drive, or simply look out the window. It’s about finding that optimum state.”

So, there you have it. Stepping away from your career allows you to perform better in that career. Time to book my next trip.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Four Work-Life Questions To Ponder On Vacation This Summer

Going on vacation this summer? Print this out and take it someplace without any Wi-Fi….

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

You packed your favorite journal and a couple of pens. You planned some time on the beach, or left an afternoon empty to find a table at an outdoor cafe where you can grab an ice-cold drink and just think. This vacation, you’ve told yourself, you’re finally going to be able to take a break and get some clarity.

But clarity about what, exactly?

It’s true that vacationing can hold some unexpected career benefits, in addition to letting you recharge your batteries and do some self-reflection about your working life, your personal life, and your overall goals. But musing on these big-ticket themes isn’t something many of us have a lot of practice doing. When you finally get a chance to do it, you might find your thoughts a little unfocused. That’s fine—mind-wandering is sort of the point here. But in case you need a little more structure, these are four questions to let your mind wander over.

1. Stresses and worries aside, am I happy at work?

One question worth asking is whether you’re happy with your job on a day-to-day or week-by-week basis. You may find some workdays pretty stressful, and that’s normal, but do you generally find your job fulfilling to do?

Vacation is a great time to really step back and consider that, because it’s one of those rare occasions when you can step back to monitor your own reaction to being away from work. A change of pace is always nice, but at the end of your vacation, are you excited to get back to the projects you’ve been working on? If you totally dread the end of vacation, it might be time to start looking for something else.

When you’re away from the office, you can also think about which aspects of your job are most rewarding. By identifying the tasks that excite you, you can lay the groundwork to pursue opportunities that let you do them more often.

2. Where am I headed?

One of the most aggravating questions hiring managers like to ask on job interviews is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Lots of people find that hard to answer, in part because a lot of the time they don’t honestly know.

That’s understandable. It can also be difficult to do long-range planning when you’re buried in the daily grind, when your goals are changing, when your industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, or all of the above. Taking some time off lets you think about whether your career is headed in a direction you’re generally happy with. To get a handle on a big-ticket question like this, try to think specifically about the skills you feel you still need to acquire to succeed.

In other words, you may not be able to see the future, but you can still think like a futurist when it comes to your own career planning. Are there people who might be good mentors (including of the unofficial kind) to help you fill in those skill gaps? Maybe it’s time for some more education. Going back to school for another degree may be daunting, but you can always start by taking a couple of professional development courses. Or maybe you just need to do a little more networking to brush up on the latest goings-on in your field.

Many companies have some form of educational benefits that lots of employees don’t know much about, let alone actually use. Maybe this vacation is the time to figure out which opportunities you can ask your HR team about once you’re back in the office. In fact, even companies that don’t offer a standing set of training resources may be willing to cover some of the cost of professional development you pursue on your own.

This is one of those items that way too few employees actually negotiate for, beyond compensation. Use a few spare hours this vacation to come up with some training options you’d like your company to help you go after.

3. Who don’t I know

You have more colleagues than just the ones who work for the same company as you. There’s a whole community out there of professionals who do much the same kind of work, but most of us don’t spend enough time getting to know them. After all, networking is a tedious chore and often completely fruitless.

And sure, sometimes that’s true. But there are a few things you can do to expand your connections in ways that don’t feel like networking. One of them is pretty old-school: Join a professional society. They’re often a great source for the latest developments in your field, sparing you the need to scroll LinkedIn for industry news. And they often have local meetings where you can meet people dealing with the same issues you are, rather than blindly scouring a random mixer for them.

There are also “networking” opportunities that might be lurking in your average workday—chances to connect with valuable people you haven’t had a chance (or a non-awkward pretext) for to strike up a conversation with yet.

You’re on vacation, though, so all this will have to wait, right? Technically, yes. But one of the reasons so many people procrastinate on (or just downright avoid) networking is because they haven’t given much thought to who’s missing from their contact lists, let alone what the best strategy might be for filling those gaps. Your vacation is a great chance to consider that. Based on where you are in your career and where you’d like to be before long (see above), think about the ideal connections you’ll need to make. Here’s a handy guide for figuring out who’s most important to you at the moment and where can you find them.

4. What’s Missing?

Work is great, but there’s more to life than the things you do to make your company money. In high school and college, you might’ve spent a lot more time doing things you were passionate about—or things that helped you discover what you’re passionate about. After hitting the workforce, most of us start to shed extracurriculars. If you look back, you may see a graveyard of discarded instruments, sports, clubs, and volunteer work stretching out in your wake.

It’s great to draw a sense of purpose and fulfillment from your full-time job, but those outside activities can also be powerful sources of energy. What’s more, they can be the steam valves that give you much-needed emotional release when the pressure at work builds up. Vacation is a good time to re-engage with old hobbies and pursuits you’ve left behind. Pull that old French horn out of the closet. Brush off your tennis racquet. Find a local dog shelter that needs another pair of hands. (Puppies are always a great cure for whatever ails you.)

Don’t feel guilty about carving out a little more time away from your work to pick up these side gigs and activities. Not only will they give you a chance to develop your other interests, they’ll also give you people to hang out with who aren’t all focused on the same set of work issues that you are.

And hey, you never know; over winter vacation about 16 years ago, I started taking saxophone lessons. Not only has it been great fun, I’m now in a band!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

This article, written by Art Markman was originally published on Fast Company.

Art Markman, PhD is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organisations. Art is the author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership, Smart Change, and most recently, Brain Briefs, co-authored with his “Two Guys on Your Head”co-host Bob Duke, which focuses on how you can use the science of motivation to change your behavior at work and at home.

The Three Stages To Coming Back From Your Career Break With A Bang

Fretting over your imminent redundancy? Let’s put a positive spin on this! A career break is the perfect time to re-calibrate, cruise and power up!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Your legs are like jelly as you walk down the office corridor You’re responding to a summons from head office, only to be told the business is downsizing and you’re in the firing line.

Being made redundant is rarely in the career plan but taking an unexpected career break can actually be the making of you. You just have to do it right.

Your first reaction will be to panic-apply to every job advert you can get your sweaty palms on with little consideration for their suitability or appeal. The best advice I can give you is to hold your horses! You’re experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions; shock, denial, anger and upset. It’s not the time to apply for a new role and it’s definitely not the time to be making huge, life-changing decisions.

Taking a significant career break, whether by choice or due to redundancy might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a chance to get your life in check, turn your attention to all the things you’ve been putting off and take a step back to assess the future.

It’s not often we’re de-shackled from the pressures and stresses of working life. If your brain is mossy from years of career servitude, it’s time to do a spot of gardening. Here’s my three-stage guide to preparing to come back from a career break with a bang!

Stage One – Re-calibrate

  1. Admin, Admin, Admin

It’s more than likely that you’ve still got your workplace autopilot switched on so you may as well kick of your career break with personal admin whilst you’re still in the zone! Think about what’s been causing you stress; what’s niggling at the back of your mind. If you’ve got a pile of paperwork in your home study- sort it! If you’ve been meaning to redecorate a room – do it! And if there’s whole bunch of appointments you’ve been postponing, pick up the phone and schedule them!

  1. Reconnect With Your Life

Whether it’s spending time with your family, your children or your closest friends, this is the perfect time to reconnect with everyone important in your life. Do the school drop off, get to know some of the other parents and engage with your children’s teachers. Re-integrate yourself with family life and catch up with your friends. Don’t underestimate the value of this – as well as being an important reminder of what’s really important in life and what makes you, you – you also never know who could connect you with your future job or give you some valuable advice.

  1. Health, Beauty, Fitness

We all know the benefits of keeping in good health but when you find yourself between jobs it’s more critical than ever to get the blood pumping to the brain, oxygen in lungs and endorphins released. Go for long walks, take up a kick boxing class or sign up for a (half-) marathon. If you’ve got a twinge in your knee, organise some physio…get that tooth fixed. When you finally get back to work you’ll be prepped and healthy many months to come!

Stage Two – Cruise

If you embrace and apply all of the above advice then you’ll gracefully enter into the cruise zone. Which mean it’s time to take a deep breath (or gulp!) and enter into Stage Two of your career break. Be ready to open your mind to the many possibilities open to you and take the time to really explore what you want to do with your future career.

  1. Map the Market

Have a think about some of the companies you’d like to work for based on your desired work culture. Do you want a flexible working environment, a tech-savvy forward thinking organisation, a sociable culture or the best salary possible? Your Stage One reflection-time should help you out here. You’ve had a chance to work out your priorities in life. And if you’re feeling angry and bitter about your old job, that’s ok! Harness it to establish what it is you DON’T want from your new role.

  1.  Activate Your Network

Once you’ve drawn up a list of dream companies, it’s time to do some cross-referencing! Is there anyone in your network that works for these companies? Can they help you get an introduction to any of the key decision makers? You can also use your connections for reference checking. What are their experiences of working for this company? Are they an advocate?

  1. Craft Your USP

What is your unique value proposition? Identify what you can do better than anyone else. If you were a product on the supermarket shelf, what would make you stand out as the candidate of choice?

Stage Three – Power Up

You’ve had your chill time, you’ve reflected on everything from utility bills to dental hygiene and you’ve identified your USP. Congratulations! You’re ready to get back in the game!

  1. Remember you’re in a sales process

The number one rule of selling is to uncover the buyer’s needs and that’s exactly what you need to do when you’re researching the perfect prospective employer.

This is going to require a lot of listening. Listening to your friends, your connections and how your employer of choice is marketing itself online.

You know what your unique skills are so start matching them up with the organisation’s needs and sell yourself!

When you finally meet someone with the hiring decision you’ll able to perfectly articulate what you can bring to your role within the company.

Too many people attend interviews and only talk about themselves The trick is to turn your meetings into conversations! People will feel more comfortable and your interactions will be all the richer for it!

  1. Follow Up

Don’t underestimate the value of keeping in touch. After an interview, be sure to send a follow-up note (or two!) and leverage social media to keep yourself in the spotlight and your name on people’s minds.

Connect with the companies that you want to work for on LinkedIn, Twitter and Procurious. Post issues and news that demonstrate your interest and commitment to your chosen career and employer. Set up Google alerts so you’re kept in the loop on current affairs, your target companies and all things procurement.

  1. Ask for the job

You know that you’re the best person for the job- but they don’t! Make sure you ask for the job – tell the employer how much you want to work for them and why. You’d be amazed how many people don’t actually ask for the sale!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Out Of Office: Your Career Break (Through)

Sick to death of the daily grind? A well-earned career break might be just the ticket!

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm BST on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here

It was once considered a career kamikaze but taking time out mid-career is a growing trend. Nowadays, it is often supported, and  even encouraged, by employers to help retain, refocus and re-inspire their employees.

In 2010, 4 million people in the UK took a career break in one form or another, a number that continues to increase. One in four employees work for companies that offer sabbaticals and these companies represent 34 per cent of the “Best Places to Work in Europe”.

Turn a mid-career break into a career break through!

Do you ever wish that you had the guts to bite the bullet and embark on the adventure of a lifetime? Or perhaps you’re on a career break that wasn’t self-imposed and you’re desperate for it to end.  Maybe you’re coming to the end of a life-changing sabbatical, currently on parental leave or stuck betwen jobs…

The future is uncertain; you don’t know what your options will be when you return to work or how you’ll explain a stonking great gap in your CV to the recruitment agency.

But help is at hand! Whatever the scenario, we’ve got a solution. Whether you’re considering a complete career make-over or simply taking a few weeks to hang out in a hammock this summer, Procurious’ latest webinar Out of Office: Career Break (Through) will help you make the most of your precious time out and prepare you for when it’s all over!

What can I expect from the webinar?

Some of our discussion topics will include:

  • How will a career break help or hinder your career in the long run?
  • Once you’ve decided to take a career break, how do you decided where to spend it, what to do and how do you stay sharp?
  • Is there a right or wrong time to take a career break?
  • How to use your career break wisely – advice from the experts!
  • What are some of the unexpected benefits of taking a career break?
  • How do you prepare for your eventual return to work?
  • How employers can support career breaks and retain top talent

Who are the guest speakers?

Ruji Mahmud, Vice President, Sourcing- DSM

Ruji is one of procurement’s  brightest young stars with experience across chemicals, agro-chemicals, and pharma. Ruji put her booming career on hold to take stock during an eight month career break which she credits for making her focused, balanced and, in her own words, invincible!

Ruji is currently working in a project team at DNS to look at how the business can better support and retain women who want to take time out to have a family.

Anne Berens, Principal – AMB ProCures LLC

Previously Senior Director for Global Sourcing and Procurement at McDonald’s Corporation, Anne Berens left corporate life for a career break and to start her own business, AMB ProCures LLC.

AMB ProCures LLC is a consultancy targeting organisations that want improved effectiveness in their procurement function.

Tony Megally, General Manager – The Source

Tony has enjoyed a  long standing consulting career and has had the benefit of working with some of Australia’s most admired recruitment and search firms in the sector.  At The Source, Tony is responsible for leading the overall business into its next phase of growth and future success.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar is as easy as pie, and it’s FREE! Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendence. We’ll send you a reminder email with a link to the webinar page shortly before it goes live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar.  Make sure you are logged into you Procurious account first and then Click here to enrol. We’ll send you a reminder email with a link to the webinar page shortly before it goes live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm BST on 10th August 2017

I can’t make it, am I able to listen  to the webinar at a later time?

Absolutely! The webinar will be made available in the Learning area of Procurious shortly after our live broadcasting. If you aren’t able to make it on 10th August, we’ll send you a link to this so you can listen at your lesiure.

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions. Questions can be submitted via the webinar platform, or via Twitter by tagging #OutOfOffice @procurious_ If you think of a question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm BST on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

Has Technology Tipped the Scales on Your Work-Life Balance?

Information on demand. Constant connectivity. Global coverage. Are these a boon to our working lives? Or can there be too much of a good thing?

We live in a world of unprecedented connectivity. No matter where we are in the world, we have a host of information at our fingertips. Which is great when it comes to accessing vital data on the go, but could be having a detrimental impact on our personal lives.

The benefits of being constantly connected are easy to see. But it’s leading to a situation where people struggle to switch off when they’re not in the office. Checking emails on the way to work, or before going to sleep. Doing that “last bit of work” on the train home. Catching up on work over the weekend, or even the night before returning to work following a holiday.

Work phones and laptops, internet-based document storage and the increase in working from home leaves that bit of temptation to do a little bit more. After all, if you clear some of those emails tonight, you can start afresh tomorrow. Right?

Wrong! If this sounds familiar to you (and yes, there are plenty people in this position) then you should think hard about what you’re doing. No-one minds working beyond contract hours or staying a bit later when there’s urgent work to finish. But why, when there aren’t pressing deadlines, do we voluntarily give up our free time, weekends, or even our holidays to do extra work?

At best you get a reputation for not being able to switch off. At worst, it can impact on your personal life, and could even create an expectation that you’ll be on hand to respond to any query, no matter when it’s been sent.

Right to Disconnect?

Some countries are helping workers rebalance their scales. At the end of 2016, a new law was introduced in France, which meant that organisations had to give employees a “right to disconnect”. Companies had to work with employees to establish a basis for out-of-hours or home working, or make clear what expectations there were of workers.

In other European countries, companies are allowing employees to delete any emails that are sent to them while they are on holiday. Given the choice of a clean slate on your return to the office, it might also help remove temptation to access your inbox in your own time.

The Millennial generation is the first to really confront this issue (though this doesn’t mean other generations aren’t failing foul of it too). However, it’s hard to diagnose an issue until you know what it looks like. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek sheds light on some of the key points in this video.

(The key part is at 3:15, but if you have time, then it’s worth watching the whole video.)

So how do you change these habits and start to regain control of your work-life balance? Here are some top tips:

  1. The Phone. Down.

It might not always be possible, but it’s time to create some space between you and your phone. It doesn’t need to be all the time, but having no-go areas in your home, or certain times when your phone is off is a good place to start.

If you have a dedicated work mobile, then leave it somewhere that you’ll just pick it up as you leave the house.

Why not start by not having your phone next to your bed overnight? This will help to remove the temptation to check emails first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It might help you sleep better and start your day off on the right foot.

  1. Time Off is Your Time

You’ve earned the right to some downtime at the weekend. You’re entitled to your annual leave, and to enjoy it as time away from the office. And you’re entitled to be left in peace outside of working hours. Don’t voluntarily give this time up checking your email or finishing work.

It’s not always going to be cut and dried. But try to set yourself a time to stop working each evening, particularly on a Friday. This is particularly important if you work from home. Try to create a separation between work and home.

After all, does it really matter if that email is sent now, or document completed, when no-one else is going to see it until Monday anyway? Your brain will thank you for it (and your family/friends/loved ones probably will too!).

  1. Stop and Smell the Roses

Life doesn’t have to be lived in front of a computer screen or glued to a phone. Get outside and enjoy spending some time away from your desk. Challenge your friends and family to leave their phones behind (or in a bag at least) when you’re out.

Keep phones, tablets, computers, and technology away from the dinner table. Who knows, we might even rediscover the lost art of conversation!

Some of this is tongue in cheek. Most of it needs to be taken with a healthy dose of realism and knowledge that we can’t just drop technology. But we can make it work for us, instead of making it seem like a completely indispensable aspect of our lives.

So take control of your technology, and tip your work-life balance scales back in your favour!

Why We Need To #BanBusy

Reckon you’re one of the busiest bees in procurement? Michelle Redfern might just convince you to join the #banbusy movement!

I made a sidebar statement at a couple of speaking gigs I did recently. I said, I want to be the founder of the #BanBusy movement!’ I implored the women listening to me, ‘If someone asks you how you are…please don’t answer busy. The B word is a state of doing, not a state of being.’

The answer ‘busy’ conjures up, not coping. Not in control. Not capable.

Busy is enormously exasperating

I have been exasperated about the auto-response of ‘busy’ when you ask how people are. It used to be just in the hallowed halls of corporate Australia that this occurred. However, I have felt like this canned response was creeping further and further into the daily vernacular. It feels to me like ‘busy’ is becoming the equivalent of the chirpy, insincere have a nice day’ that we Australians have long sniggered at.

Busy has become a status symbol

The Sydney Morning Herald described the term as ‘an overused humblebrag’ in its article in late 2016. A way to demonstrate one’s own importance, value and a dubious badge of honour. Unfortunately, studies which have shown that declaring one’s busyness conveys a perception of hard work which in turn will bring the busy person success. Oh dear, my #BanBusy movement is under threat!

What about busy women?

My chief concern is the effect that ‘ugh I’m so busy’ response has for women who want to advance. Navigating gender bias, perceptions about gender roles and the prevailing belief that women are too busy with the 3 C’s (Caring. Cooking. Cleaning.) to worry about advancement is challenging enough without inadvertently adding fuel to the fire.

Here’s what I learned about busy

I did an impromptu survey of women in my WWGI ecosystem about what busy meant to them. I was surprised at the insights and as a result, I realised that there is an opportunity to change the game. Busy might be a status symbol for some, but perhaps it’s a shield for others?

  1. Busy is a deflector
  2. Busy is a defence mechanism
  3. Busy means I am bored out of my brain
  4. Busy means that I work on meaningless crap
  5. Busy is a cry for help
  6. Busy is a status symbol
  7. Busy means I am disengaged
  8. Busy means I want you to go away
  9. Busy means I am not slacking off even if you think I am

The solution is authentic, compassionate leadership

Leaders, time to step up to the authenticity and compassion plate and take a swing! Yes, I mean connect with the human you have asked ‘How are you?’ by having a caring, compassionate and accountable second question ready. Demonstrate your care, compassion and respect for the person you are enquiring after.

Question Answer Follow Up
How are you? ‘Phwoar, busy! Really? So, what’s creating all that busyness? Can I help?
How are you? I feel like I haven’t seen you for ages? ‘Sorry, so busy, been in back to back meetings all day/week/month’

 

Wow. Sounds like you need a hand. What can we do?
How are you? ‘Flat out busy, schedule is crazy’ Come and have a coffee, let’s talk about what’s going on for you.

If you can’t do this, don’t ask ‘how are you’ as its simply the fairy floss of conversation. Saccharine sweet and disappears in a jiffy.

Women, #BanBusy!

I’m still going to champion #banbusy for women because I believe that women are joining a cult that no one really wants to be in. I want women to own their leadership brand and to be confident, authentic and fearless. Answering ‘busy’ doesn’t honour or do your brand any favours, ever!

However, the 10th thing I learned about #BanBusy is that leaders need to get to the heart of what’s really going on for their people and their workplaces. Leaders need to #askmorehumanquestions

Time Management: Sorry, You’re Just Not A Priority For Me

A colleague once told me there’s “a special place in hell” for people who don’t return emails. Yes, it’s frustrating, particularly when projects are held up. It’s easy to see these people as blockers, but it may well be they are actually managing their time much more effectively than you……

Modern wisdom would have us believe that our time management has a direct impact on our personal and professional success.

People who know their priorities and have the discipline to work their way down their to-do list from top to bottom definitely seem to win the day. But for us mere mortals, it often seems impossible to juggle all of our commitments at once.

How to get your priorities as a priority on others’ to-do list is a blog for another day. Today I want to ask how well you are managing your time? Do you know which aspects of your life should be an absolute priority? And offer five tips on how to make your time work for you.

The time bomb that always ticks

In her Walt Street Journal article, “Are you as busy as you think?” Laura Vanderkam reminds us that although we all think we’re very busy, we spend long stretches of time lost on the Internet or puttering around the house, unsure exactly what we are doing.

As Vanderkam says, “We all have the same 168 hours per week, but since time passes whether we acknowledge it or not, we seldom think through exactly how we’re spending our hours.”

Are you a priority?

We all make time for what we feel is important in our lives – but have you critically thought through what is REALLY important in your life? That’s our priorities become clear and we can more deftly make decisions about the use of our time.

Being blessed with three businesses, two children, an amazing bunch of friends and a husband who constantly travels the world, one of the skills I pride myself on has been my ability to manage time. I may rarely “be on time” (a glaring and embarrassing fault)….but I do manage to “make the most of my time”.

How? Because I plan just about everything (including doing nothing!) down to the day and almost a year in advance. I don’t always get it right, but feel confident enough to share with you four pieces of advice.

1. Make time to plan your time

It sounds like double dutch, but we need to make time to plan our time. There are so many people who don’t actually invest the time to think through how they want to spend their time. Once you now your priorities, it becomes easier to allocate how much time you want to devote to work, rest and play. My husband and I literally have face to face formal meetings and teleconferences during work hours to co-ordinate and plan our time well in advance.

2. Map your plan on a page

Now this is very nerdy…but over the years we’ve perfected an A3 colour coded six-month calendar. Our friends and colleagues laugh at us, but it’s the best method we know to get a high level overview of how we are going to spend our time whether it’s business commitments, travel, school holidays or social plans. Most importantly, this allows us to identify when things are just “too crazy” and where we have to say no and change what we had originally planned to make sure we don’t push our family to breaking point.

3. Record it all into one place

Your diary is your friend, not your foe, when it comes to freeing up time. Once again it sounds basic but having all of your commitments in one place, ideally electronically, saves a lot of discussion, confusion and potential marital disagreements! For some people it works to have every single commitment in Microsoft Outlook, with all the details for each event included. It is a one-stop shop – school holidays, children’s sporting commitments, parties, as well as all the business stuff all in one spot. This can help to identify potential clashes immediately and makes it clear to everyone who is doing what, when.

4. Plan to do nothing

The only real luxury in life is time. You can’t get time back.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but you have to make sure you include “doing nothing” in your schedule.

Many years ago a friend gave me some priceless advice on how to decline an invitation: “Tell them you have plans. If your plan is to do nothing, then that’s your plan. You’re busy, you can’t go.”

Having “plans” to do nothing doesn’t mean catching up with friends, hitting the gym, doing a cooking class or going shopping. It means literally doing nothing. No commitments, no appointments, the freedom, if you choose, to absolutely do nothing.

5. Allow for some flexibility

I speculated at the beginning of this article that the elusive person who doesn’t return your emails may actually be managing their time more effectively than you. It’s possible that they’ve made a plan, they’re going to stick to it and they’re not going to let your request, however urgent, de-rail their day. Flexibility is of course vital – there are some issues (and people) that you simply can’t afford to ignore – but better time-management will grant you a level of flexibility that you otherwise would never have.

One thing I learnt early on in my time management journey, was that by scheduling everything, even my social life, down to the last minute, I was still left with the feeling that I had no free time. It’s important to have a lot of days in the year where you have the luxury of waking up and saying “what will I do today?”. There’s real freedom in that, which takes the stress away. Career and life resilience is about building in, and enforcing, some circuit breakers to help you cope when life becomes overloaded with the inevitable unexpected, unanticipated events.

Working Parents: Stop Hiding Your Children at Work

Supercharging my career and nurturing my family at the same time has always been a struggle for me….until I brought my children out of the closet and into the workplace.

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

Last week,  Professor Robert E Kelly and his two mischievous children starred in one of the funniest viral videos of all time. The whole world laughed when, in the middle of a live BBC interview, Professor Kelly’s children burst in to the room and hilariously upstaged him.

If the clip has, by some miracle, passed you by, here it is in all of its side-splitting glory:

Yes, it’s pretty funny. But let’s face it, how many times have you closed the door on your children, locked them away in a (metaphorical) closet or pushed them away when you had to perform your professional duties.

In reality, we’re constantly keeping our families behind closed doors so we can get on with our working lives. For years I have felt the need to downplay my family commitments in order to be seen as a serious career professional.

My stress levels were continually going through the roof. I was gliding over the surface with style at work, but paddling like a crazy duck under the waterline in an attempt to manage all the demands of my personal life.

But a year or so ago I decided to bring my children more visibly into my work life and it has made a big difference to me, my children…and – most importantly – those I work with.

My first foray with bringing my children to work was to take my son to Europe’s largest procurement conference, ProcureCon, Berlin. I was a speaker on a panel and thought it would be a great chance for my son to see me in action. So much for him learning about my work: he didn’t look up from his iPad once! I don’t think he learnt a squat about what I did, but at least I made the effort. Importantly, I was really touched that people were positive about my son attending the event.

One of my fellow delegates sent me this note –

“You and I met in Berlin last month at the ProcureCon Europe Conference. I admired how you were able to be real without dropping the ball on exuding leadership and kindness! But, I think that what really impressed me was that you brought your beautiful son to the conference, he was so sweet and shy! In bringing him with you, without realising it, you managed to reflect what most women go through when we have to work long hours or travel a great deal, away from our families and loved ones. There have been times that in my travels or long hours I wish I could just have my babies near me…the guilt of being dedicated to the person that makes me who I am, can be a bit heavy. But we all do, both men and women, to provide for our families, while at the same time try to get something out of the sacrifices that we may have to make. So, I sincerely thank you for bringing your son with you.”

My second foray was to take my younger son to listen to a speech I made at the Australian Embassy for Future Leaders. When I asked him about the experience afterwards, he thought about it and said, “The lemonade was great”. Another breakthrough (not)!

I know not everyone has the same flexibility as someone who runs their own company. However, as business leaders, we can do a lot to help manage the stress levels of working parents. We need to walk the talk and recognise that everyone has priorities (and not always children) that compete with work.

Here are my four ideas on how we could stop hiding our children at work and build more fluid relationships between work and home.

1.  Talk about Family

In the early days of parenthood I never spoke about my children in the workplace because I wanted to be seen as “professional”. When I first started sharing small amounts of information about my family, I realised that most of the people I worked with were parents too and could totally relate to my plight. In the right circumstances, sharing family stories has actually helped me build business relationships.

2. Take your children to work 

I have lived through so many tough days when I felt I really had to be in two places at once.  For example, having a “career-changing” meeting planned (luckily these are few and far between and the skill is in knowing which meetings really count) and, just as I was about to get started, receiving a compelling, competing call for my attention,  from a family member. These were the times when my stress levels reached an all time high and I started to think that the only solution was to quit my job and focus solely on family.

Working from home is widely accepted on these types of days, but if you were still wanting to fulfill your work obligations for just one or two hours, wouldn’t it be great if we were “allowed” to bring our family into the office?? I can hear the pressure valve release at the mere thought of it!

3. Put children in the picture 

We need more imagery of children in the places where we are building our careers. Perhaps you’ve seen the image that went viral of a US Professor who picked up and carried a crying baby during a lecture? He calmed the child, allowing the class to continue and, most importantly, the parent to complete the class.

Some of the most popular photos of outgoing US President, Barack Obama, have been with children within the White House, which is his normal place of work. We need to see more child-friendly work imagery.

4.    Remember – Everyone has priorities 

Having said all of this, working parents need to be cognisant that we aren’t the only people in the universe with priorities competing with our work. Whether you’re a parent of one, four or ten children (heaven forbid!) or even if you don’t have children, everyone struggles at times to manage their personal and professional lives in the best, and most healthy, way possible.

What we can do, as people who understand these struggles, is to be understanding of every individual, make accommodations where possible and offer flexible working environments. That way, we’ll get the most out of our happy, stress-free team!

Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.