Employability

TIPS FOR GETTING ONTO A BOARD

I had the pleasure of meeting with Author, Selina Siak Chin Yoke earlier in 2018 who was happy to share details of her remarkable background with me. A most inspiring lady, Selina has written two books – ‘The Woman Who Breathed two Worlds’ – loosely inspired by her great-grandmother’s life and ‘When The Future Comes Too Soon”. (I’ve yet to read the second book but it’s on my reading list!). As well as discussing her successful and diverse career we found ourselves chatting about women in leadership, something we both felt passionately about.  Being a writer I couldn’t resist asking Selina if she would mind writing a guest blog for us which has just appeared in my inbox. Very timely with our up-coming seminar this Wednesday on bridging the gender pay gap.

When Carrie invited me to write a few sentences many months ago on the challenges of joining a company board, the media was awash with scandals involving pay, women and naked prejudice. Not only had the BBC been paying Martina Navratilova ten times less than John McEnroe for – as far as I’m concerned – the same work, but a report by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy revealed eye-opening excuses as to why many FTSE companies had no women. The excuse that sticks out most for me is: “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”. That’s precisely the point, though, isn’t it?

With so much focus on the topic, I thought that I should dust off my CV and try to get appointed as a non-executive director to another Board before writing this guest blog. This has taken longer than anticipated. Like many women, my career has gone down an unusual path and my main occupation today is as a novelist. I’m a traditionally published author and my agent had asked me to rewrite parts of my third novel. In the middle of that, it was almost impossible to think about revamping a CV.

Once I did, though, things moved pretty quickly. Within weeks I was approached by a headhunting firm and my name was put onto a list of candidates for a board position (still in process). I’ve since also been asked to join another board whose chairman is an acquaintance. All this to say that there’s plenty of hope! If you’re wondering how to get onto a board, below are a number of suggestions.

First, use your networks. If this sounds obvious or trite, it’s not meant to be. Telling as many people as possible expands your realm of possibilities. Speaking to other businesspeople has helped me clarify what I may want and what I’ll avoid when it comes to board roles. For me, being a non-executive director is not a career – it’s an add-on. I’m working on another book already, but at the same time I have twenty years of solid experience in finance – first as an investment banker and then as a quantitative trader – which some board is hopefully going to appreciate. A slight digression here that may be reassuring: the fact that I left finance eight years ago isn’t necessarily a barrier. A non-executive director needs to be independent. Being a little removed from the industry currently can actually prove helpful. So don’t discount your abilities just because your experience dates back in time.

Secondly, make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn, that the profile is up-to-date and puts your experience forward in the best possible light. This was how the headhunter mentioned above contacted me. A disclaimer: I was appointed to the board of a corporate finance boutique many years ago and have remained on it. Being already on one board is immensely helpful for getting on to the next board. Yet, I didn’t even think to put my board experience on LinkedIn until recently!

Thirdly, have your CV critiqued. Show it to a friendly audience first if you wish. Also, let a headhunter look at it. I had to rewrite my CV completely!

There are many websites which claim to connect companies with possible non-executive director candidates. You have to pay to join some of these without really knowing how effective they are. A website I can vouch for is nurole. I hadn’t heard of it, but as soon as I started talking to friends and acquaintances, three of them independently recommended nurole. It’s free to register, and your registration is first vetted before you’re sent an invitation email. You check off your interests and receive regular notifications about new roles. nurole works.

Finally, it’s worth giving thought to what you’d like to get out of being a non-executive director. There are hundreds of opportunities and you’ll have to decide which to pursue. Do you want to be compensated? If not, how many pro bono positions are you prepared to take on?

The world is our oyster now, but getting onto the right board(s) will take time. Good luck!

 A big thank you to Selina for sharing her advice and recent experiences with us.  I’m sure you will have all found this interesting and useful. If you’d like to hear more about Selina and her work please visit her website at http://www.siakchinyoke.com– and do read her books – a great Christmas gift too!

And don’t forget it’s not too late to sign up for our free breakfast seminar in collaboration with Moorcrofts Law this Wednesday 28thNovember. https://www.facebook.com/events/580144002414838/?ti=ia

 

A SEASON FOR CHANGE

With the long sunny days of Summer behind us, Autumn is often a season of change and new starts – school, university, jobs, careers, homes, lifestyles. In the UK, many women are choosing new beginnings by setting up their own businesses. It is reported that female entrepreneurs account for nearly 10% of the UK working population and having attended a number of networking events across the Summer, I have certainly seen how women are grabbing the hand of opportunity and carving out a new future for themselves.

We have the great pleasure of working with Bettina Siddiqi who owns BusyB Solutions. As a fellow business owner experiencing the ups and downs of running a company, I was curious to know more about why Bettina has made the move from corporate life to working for herself.

Karen:  If you had to sum up your business in a nutshell, what would you say you offer?

Bettina:  I offer Social Media Marketing with the aim of raising my clients’ profiles on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook; helping them to gain traction and increase business. I train people 1-2-1 to use LinkedIn, helping them to effectively use this superb marketing tool. LinkedIn is a great way to gain new business, retain existing customer relationships and re-establish contact with old clients. In collaboration with my extensive contacts of photographers and web designers, I can help my clients have a more visible presence across a range of social media platforms.

Karen: What led you to set up your business?

Bettina: Having worked in corporate Sales and Marketing for 15 years I was approached to undertake some freelance marketing work. When the contract ended I thought to myself, “if I can do this for one client I can offer this service to many others.” I also wanted the flexibility to spend time with my young children and be able to attend their school events such as Christmas shows and sports days.  Commuting into London took up much of my time and I felt I could be much more productive working from home. I like the variation my work gives me: from attending meetings, networking, delivering an exceptional service, to being able to focus on home life as well as getting the right amount of exercise –  worklife balance is incredibly important to me.

Karen: What did you do before you set up BusyB Solutions?

Bettina: I worked for a Records Management Company called Iron Mountain in their Sales and Marketing Department and helped to implement a CRM system and trained all the Sales and Marketing team in how to use it effectively.  I also worked in Law in a Marketing department, helping to organise events, CRM and campaigns.

Karen: What gave you the confidence to take the step of working for yourself?

Bettina: Having children gave me the confidence to start my business. It hasn’t always been easy as I’ve had to work hard at networking with potential clients and building the visibility of my business.  When the children were very little I only had 3 hours between nursery runs, but I managed to do lots in that short time – telemarketing, online marketing as well as attending network meetings.

Karen: Now you’ve made the change, how are you feeling about it?

Bettina: I feel great about it! I couldn’t have made a better decision; the joy of being with my family and being able to pick up my children from school is a wonderful feeling, as well as eating a lot healthier and getting that all-important exercise.

Karen: What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Bettina: Time management – making sure I have enough time to get everything done (there are never enough hours in a day), getting the right clients and also regular, consistent clients. As a sole trader I get approached by many different people, so making sure I invest in the right type of business is important in how I will grow my business, whether that is finance, marketing, web design or IT support.  Another challenge is not having a team to work with; there is no-one to delegate tasks to as I did when I worked in the corporate world. I also miss the camaraderie that comes with working in a team.

Karen: Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on your journey?

Bettina: Yes – a few things. Most of the time I have been extra careful with my budget, although I did once overspend on a networking membership, which didn’t result in me winning any work. So, I would definitely re-think which networking meetings are worth attending,

Karen: What advice would you have for anyone setting up a new business?

Bettina: Always be careful about what you spend, especially on your marketing.  Find a group of people you can trust and maybe even collaborate with. Outsource things which are time-consuming such as Finance, IT and Social Media,  as there is always someone out there that can help.

Karen: What does success look like for you?

Bettina: To be content in what I am doing.  Seeking ways to expand my knowledge, skills and collaborative relationships and most importantly to always have a goal!

 

A very big thank you to Bettina for sharing her story with us.  You can find out more about Bettina offers at www.busy-bsolutions.com

And finally, if you are contemplating the move to working for yourself, be reassured that you are not alone, there is a wide and supportive community of female entrepreneurs who will warmly welcome you into their fold. If you would like to hear more about how we support aspiring female entrepreneurs, then please get in touch at hello@change-gear.com

 

I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT!

Back in the day – let’s call it BC (before children) I thought I was always busy; no time for anything – getting to a gym class was a feat, doing the weekly shop hard work, making time to catch up with friends always a challenge. Never left the office before 6.30/7.00pm. What was I thinking??? I was clearly luxuriating in oodles of time – all I can say is I must have been a dab hand at wasting it!

Yet I know that not to be true.  I was genuinely busy … and then deciding (without giving any thought to how I might accommodate the biggest time stealer ever) that the time was right to start a family.  After a rocky start the miracle occurred – my gorgeous boy arrived and I had been given the best gift ever.  Did I think about how I was going to juggle being a mum and my new found self-employed status? – of course I didn’t.  I just “knew” everything was going to be fine.  My first jolt back to reality came when I was strolling through the maternity ward in a state of bliss to find a new mother frantically tapping away on a laptop, taking a work call and trying to feed her new born at the same time.  To say I was horrified was an understatement – how could she?  Did she not know how lucky she was?  She must have seen the horror on my face as she made a point of seeking me out in the “day room” later to point out this was child number 4 and if they wanted a meal on their plates then her working all the hours she could was not optional.  I was rightly “put in my place” and decided never to judge another mother again.  (okay so maybe just a few times I’ve fallen by the wayside there).

So somehow after six months off, I went back to work and found a new definition to the word “busy” – not to mention sleep deprived.  I managed to get through the fog and keep the plates spinning and a few years later, my beautiful daughter arrived all guns a-blazing.  This time I was going to suss this new born lark!  I would have a routine to beat all routines (Gina Ford eat your heart out).  That lasted about 4 days before chaos ensued and I was lucky to ever blow dry my hair again.  This time I was back at work within 4 months and before I knew it major milestones were passing by – nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools and now university. I have no idea where the time has gone and I am also acutely aware of how each stage of our children’s life brings with it a different challenge.  You think nothing can rival the sleep deprivation of the early years until you hit the worry of the teenage ones and even when they’ve left home they still manage to consume your thoughts.

So I find myself today on a train on the way to see my son down in Cornwall who has managed to slice open his finger on a knife whilst cutting an avocado – I have subsequently discovered this is a modern day problem!  After refusing to let me come to the hospital for his first operation last weekend – a second operation tomorrow to repair the damaged nerves led to an admission that “it would be good to have mum here after all”.  And so I have juggled my diary and am on my way. Something that I’m sure every working mum I know would do without a second thought.

Reflecting back on my years as a working mum I do sometimes wonder how I managed to pull it off (not that it’s ever a completed project!).  I remember reading the best-selling novel by Allison Pearson “I don’t know how she does it” – the story of the frantically busy career woman and mother trying to do it all.  The part where she needs to bring in mince pies for the Christmas fair and finds herself buying some from the local supermarket, bashing them with a rolling pin and sprinkling them with icing sugar to make them look homemade resonated so much.  It goes without saying that I wanted to not only be good at my job but also keep up with the Alpha Mums at the school gate – if there were mince pies to be made – I was sure as hell not going to send my little ones in with M&S Finest (well maybe once in a while).

As a working mum we becomes masters at short cutting the system – stapling hems on fancy dress costumes continues to haunt me. We are always trying to make the most of every spare minute in the day – laptops in hairdressers, squeezing in conference calls between school pick-ups, juggling diaries to make sure we are always at every parents evening, school concert and doctor’s appointments – many a night I’ve fallen asleep at my laptop either finishing a client proposal or a shopping delivery order (never sure which one had the highest priority).  The list is endless.

I know I’m not alone; I’m surrounded by wonderful female friends who have all managed to successfully juggle the highs and lows of motherhood with their careers – perhaps they haven’t always managed to achieve the dizzy heights they may have wanted to but I know they are all enriched by choosing to continue to work at the same time as doing their most important job – raising their children.

Some people might say I work too hard – but I was raised by people with strong work ethics – my grandmother worked until she was 85, my Father was 73 when he retired and my mother did a part time degree when I went to school – every day she’d drop me at school in Hammersmith and take the tube all the way to Elephant and Castle to go to Teacher Training college; she then enjoyed a successful career as a teacher until the age of 67. Working hard is in my bones.

I hope that when my children are grown up they will have positive thoughts about me choosing to be a working mum and I’ve been a good role model for them.  I remember way back when my son was 7 and he asked me why I had to work.  I gave him the full on explanation of how mummy helped to pay for all the lovely things we did as a family and how lucky we were to go on nice holidays etc etc.  He promptly replied “Well Tom’s mum doesn’t work and they have a swimming pool” – oh well – Can’t win them all.

So looking back, would I have done things differently?  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sometimes a little envious of ladies who lunch and gym and don’t have to worry about pipelines, meeting a client deadline or how they were going to get to London when the train drivers were on strike – but it’s short lived.  And to all you ladies out there who have chosen not to work, or can’t because your personal situation doesn’t allow you to … I salute you.  Motherhood is not a job to be taken lightly.  I also massively salute you ladies who don’t have children and work your socks off too – let’s hear it for the sisterhood.

HOW WILL YOU “PRESS (OR DRESS) FOR PROGRESS?”

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world.  And a further reminder to press forward and progress gender parity.  International Women’s Day encourages us to:

  • Maintain a gender parity mindset
  • Challenge stereotypes and biases
  • Forge positive visibility of women
  • Influence other’s beliefs and actions
  • Celebrate women’s achievements

Every year in our business we make a commitment to one of these key areas to specifically focus on in our own sphere of influence.  This year we have chosen “Forge the positive visibility of women”.

However, as women, we sometimes deliberately want to be less visible than our male counterparts or indeed other female contemporaries. Many of us lack the self-confidence we feel we need to become more visible and can sometimes do this through subtle behaviours such as choosing to dress in a way that says “I don’t want to be seen” or taken seriously.

With the boundaries of work wear often blurring into our “downtime” wardrobes – dressing to be visible in a positive way can be a challenge (or indeed a headache) to be avoided.  Yet we all know the importance of first impressions and sadly they can make or break our success.  You’d think it would be simple; we do it every day – but I’m sure this message will resonate with many of you. If only we could take the headache out of this daily habit.  It was certainly something I was keen to do being a busy working mum running around meeting new clients, coachees and participants on a frequent basis.  Which leads me to introducing our new guest blogger, Gemma Fox, Founder of Plume Boutique, Marlow, Bucks.  Read on to hear what Gemma has to say:

When Carrie Stockton, Founder of Change Gear and one of my wonderful and super stylish regular customers asked me recently to contribute a few words to the change-gear blog I jumped at the chance.

Having set up my own independent fashion retail business 12 years ago and in that same period built up an extensive network of fashion intrigued females it seemed like the logical next step to have a conversation with Carrie about how our paths may cross on a business level too. A year ago I changed the business model of my independent, Plume, from a stand-alone large store open 7 day’s a week and with extensive window frontage on the high street in Marlow Bucks to a more focused and exclusive personal shopping set-up, in line with changing shopping trends and customer needs. The result is a specialist Private Shopping Showroom nestled in a gorgeous little building right off the high street but still available to all of my regulars who have been visiting the store for years and relying on me to style outfits based on their individual lifestyle requirements.

As word has spread about the attraction and appeal of the Private Shopping Showroom I have found myself naturally branching out to a more “corporate” customer – I use the term hesitantly as fashion in business is changing very fast with many medium and large businesses relaxing their dress code and small business owners increasingly adopting a style that is still smart but a lot more casual whilst still being effective. Enter the phase of relaxed tailoring! This is a style that I am creating with my customers on a daily basis, for their work life, for networking events, for business trips and client meetings and it definitely requires more effort than throwing on a dark suit and crisp shirt BUT once you learn the formula this look becomes like a uniform and your go-to style as a woman in business today.

I work with ladies of all ages, shape, colour and purpose and each of them are unique which makes my job so exciting and rewarding, but at the same time their fashion concerns can be very similar, and I regularly hear these statements –

  • I don’t have time to go shopping!
  • I have the time but don’t enjoy clothes shopping
  • I am stuck in a style rut and need help
  • I don’t really know what suits my shape
  • I’ve gone through a change in circumstances (baby, divorce, new job etc) and my wardrobe isn’t relevant anymore.

There are so many considerations to take on board when choosing the right key pieces for your wardrobe and many of us could benefit from some style guidance so that’s where I step in, in a nutshell I take the stress out of clothes shopping and give my customers the confidence and positivity purely through their wardrobe choices to go forward and conquer! There is nothing more satisfying for me than providing customers with the essential tools to create a winning style that can often be life and career changing.

And the bit I often forget is how natural styling other women is for me, like a 6th sense, so I feel it’s my privilege to showcase this ability with customers and in many cases transform negative mindsets based on previous shopping disasters into positive and empowered outlooks.

When new customers come to see me we have an initial 10 minute consultation to establish their personal lifestyle needs and to understand their wardrobe buying behaviour. I almost always raise these suggestions and questions –

How do you feel about your wardrobe? – if it doesn’t give you instant sentiments of joy and excitement something needs to change (e.g time to de-clutter/ re-organise, update)

Get to know your body shape, are you a pair or an apple? What are your best bits? What are the bits you don’t like? (We all have them)! Start to filter your fashion choices according to you, not your friend/ instagram idol/ that actress whose style you love

Do you have a good idea of the colours that suit you best? Most people instinctively choose colours they are meant to wear but often have one or two that are definite no no’s (black, white, yellow) and the wrong colour can make you look drawn, pale and downright unwell. I have a good instinct for assessing customers’ correct colour palette too.

Buy a few good fashion mags to get an idea of what the new season trends are – its more important to dress your shape and according to your colour palette than to cover fashion fads but useful to have a few key accessories to keep your style looking contemporary and fresh.

Now try on pieces that are totally out of your comfort zone – a jumpsuit, a cropped wide leg trouser, a skirt that shows your knees, a block heel boot and forget for a moment about your personally inflicted mental fashion constraints you’ve subjected yourself to for years (possibly based on something your mother/ teenage daughter/ old boyfriend once said that has given you an unrealistic dose of body dysmorphia)! It’s time to liberate and reinvent yourself while in that changing room!

Above all HAVE FUN!

 

And so with this advice to ponder I will leave you to consider how you can make yourself or your female colleagues feel more visible in the workplace.  As Gemma has intimated, dressing can be an enjoyable experience and lift your confidence back to where it should be.

I’m also delighted to confirm that Gemma will be partnering with the Change-Gear team, supporting some of our clients in the corporate world in personal confidence-enhancing image consultations.  Please contact hello@change-gear for more information on how Gemma can help you.  And if you’d like to visit Gemma at her boutique she can be reached at Tel. 08450 038950 or visit

http://www.plumeboutique.com .

In the meantime we’d love to hear about any initiatives you may have towards “pressing for progress”.

Happy IWD to all

 

IN DEFENCE OF SNOWFLAKES

“Snow is falling all around us ……” well, it certainly has this weekend for most of the country. As I threw the curtains open yesterday morning I was greeted by a beautiful sight – thick snow on the ground and the park opposite my house looking like a set from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Watching the falling snow my thoughts turned to a different type of snowflake; one that has generated a huge amount of column inches in the press recently – not the soft, white fluffy stuff but the human variety.

Much has been written in the press recently about the “Snowflake Generation” – the group of millennials who are often described as over-sensitive, work shy and possessors of an over inflated sense of entitlement. The term “Snowflake Generation” is thought to originate with US author Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 book, Fight Club, which contains the line “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”.

While young adults in particular appear to take offence to the ‘snowflake’ label, the majority of adults also agree that the term is unfair and unhelpful and overlooks the significant stresses that our young people now face. Research by insurance firm Aviva found that 72 percent of 16-24 year-olds think the term is unfairly applied, while 74 percent think it could have a negative effect on young people’s mental health. The research also found that young people are more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety and depression in the last year.

We work with many different generations but one of my favourite groups to work with are the 16–24 age group and recent experiences have encouraged me to stand up to the critics and challenge the judgements and stereotypes peddled by the press. At the end of the Summer we facilitated a conference for nearly seventy new apprentices and we were blown away by their energy, positive attitude, thirst for learning and commitment to their new organisation and careers. Likewise, at the last set of employability workshops we delivered for the University of Essex, every student took a responsible, strategic approach to their work placement, setting specific goals to grow and enhance their already considerable skills.

So, instead of using derogatory terms about our young people, let’s celebrate what is good about this generation, who in my experience are overwhelmingly kind, humorous, creative, thoughtful and hardworking; who navigate their path through the minefield that is social media – something our generation never had to worry about. Personally, I can’t wait for my own “Snowflake” to come home for Christmas from her year-long placement with Jaguar Land Rover and have some down time; she’s achieved so much this year, it’s time to be spoiled by Mum – as long as she keeps her room tidy that is!!!

If you would like to hear about the work we do with Early Years Careers, please get in touch at hello@change-gear.com – we would love to hear from you.

This content is blocked. Accept cookies to view the content.