An out of office experience

I was made redundant by the charity I had worked for in various capacities at the end of February.  I had been with them for two and a half years, and for the most part, I really loved my time there.  I worked as a consultant, before accepting positions in-house as Head of Operations, Marketing and Communications, and eventually Managing Director.

I gained a real sense of motivation from helping others that I haven’t experienced elsewhere in my life.  Since leaving work, I have struggled desperately to find a lever to get me going.  Having two young children helps, but I recognise that my role as a parent will change as time goes on, and my children become more independent, so it’s important that I secure my future now.

Still, I find it difficult to do things for my own benefit and I can’t resist the idea that this is because I consider others more deserving.  Before I left my role a few members of my team asked me to provide them with references.  I was saddened that the charity would be losing their services too, but I was determined to help them secure work.  When thinking about their qualities, they were numerous and obvious to me.  When thinking about my own achievements and strengths, the list appears abstract and fake.

As I focus on finding my next role my mind is flooded with insecurities.  I look through the appointments sites and feel horribly inadequate.  I struggle to list my successes and feel the pull of those experiences I view as personal failures.  On a rational level, I understand that the reality is more nuanced.  Successes or failures rarely belong to one person, and I would never claim a prize not fairly won, yet I find it easy to assume responsibility for things when they go wrong.  This can be a strength in a Managing Director, but over time, it can become debilitating, so it’s important to allow yourself a few victories along the way.  I intend to be more generous with myself in the future.

Over the past three months I have applied for scores of jobs and my search goes on.  Each morning I remind myself that I’m not alone, that there are thousands of other mummy’s and daddy’s out there facing the same challenge.  But the physical reality tests this belief.  My wife leaves with the children in the morning while I stay home to continue my search.  At the weekends, I catch up with friends and family and I am reminded that my life is different in a very significant way.  I don’t want to overegg the importance of work, but for me it’s a key part of our identity.  What we do goes to who we are, and if we are not doing something, then it’s unlikely that we will truly experience a sense of self-worth and validation.  As I write this, I know that my own self-esteem is suffering, and I need to find a way back quickly.

So what next?  It’s difficult to say.  Most of my recent knowledge is in the charitable sector specific to health-related issues.  The sector has experienced a sustained period of controversy, scrutiny and hardship.  My hope is that lessons have been learned, and that valued and needed institutions will repair their reputations and continue their work.  I would love to return to the sector at some point, but until charities regain public trust, opportunities will be scarce, and committed and compassionate professionals will have to look elsewhere.

Location is a factor.  I’m based in Poole and have been since 2003.  It’s a beautiful town, and I feel privileged to live there, but it remains a ‘fishing village,’ and is unlikely to attract big businesses in the way that large cities do.  This concerns me as a jobseeker and as a father, because while I would love for my children to travel and experience the world, they need to have opportunities at home should they wish to stay.

All of this leads me to believe that the solution may rest in my ability to create something from scratch.  Those who do, tend to be masters of their own destiny, and well placed to provide a legacy for their children.  I have begun working on a few ideas between applications, and I would encourage anyone reading this to keep going and be creative.  Ultimately, your children will be the beneficiaries of your success wherever it lies.

Written by Paul Norton

Would improving men’s rights help close the gender pay gap?

<em>Written by Fiona Halkyard @ Chatter Communications</em>

I don’t really think of myself as much of a feminist. I don’t get offended if a man holds a door open for me or calls me “love” (to be fair living in Yorkshire, it’s a pre-requisite and even men get called love, so score one for equality!). But I am a woman who’s pretty dedicated to her career. I’m a working mum. And, most importantly, I have three daughters who are (in my completely neutral opinion) amazing human beings who will go on to be brilliant adults. And for them, and their generation, I’d like to see true gender equality finally become a real thing.

And so there are certain “female” issues that really piss me off. And the current bee in my bonnet is the gender pay gap (which leaves British women earning an average of 17.4% less than men in similar full-time jobs and places us 15th out of 22 countries*). Or rather the gender bias that continues to dog our society and prevent women from achieving the same career success as their male counterparts.

<strong>My experiences</strong>

Through my twenties my career progressed quite successfully and initially, being female didn’t really factor. But once I moved into a management role I started to become aware of nuanced differences between the way I was treated compared to men of a similar age.

There was a “boys club” of up and coming ad execs who got invited to golf/beers/important client dinners with the MD and Chairman and suddenly progressed their careers far quicker than me and my female colleagues. The most memorable moment that made me stop and pay attention that perhaps I wasn’t being judged purely on my ability, was the conversation I had with the company Chairman when being considered for a promotion and he “joked” that he was only considering me because he “trusted” that I wasn’t just going to “run off and have babies anytime soon”. I was 27, engaged, and whilst not immediately planning a family, I knew it probably wasn’t too far off in my future. Yet I had to pretend that “no, no I’m a dedicated career woman, none of this baby nonsense for me” in order to pass his “test”.

I wonder if any man has ever felt that pressure? They certainly didn’t in that particular business where men could marry and become Dads without a single raised eyebrow from the powers that be. To be aware that even the potential of a marriage/baby that may not happen for a decade or more (or ever) could be a factor you have to answer to because you are “a woman of a certain age” is frustrating and archaic. And while most employers are far too savvy/legally compliant to ask the question that my old boss did, we all know that it is often consciously or unconsciously a factor when hiring or promoting a young woman.

And to some extent I get it. Women do often have babies in their late twenties, thirties, forties. And then want reduced/flexible hours. And that costs a business, especially a small one, a lot of money that perhaps doesn’t make up for the value of the employee in their child free years. But women do not choose to be born female. So why should they have to choose career or parenthood? Men don’t. Does that make men better at their jobs? Does it make them lesser parents? In my opinion the answer is no.

<strong>The here and now</strong>

The UK has made fabulous strides over the past 11 years, since I became a mum, to make it a little bit easier to juggle motherhood and working life. Maternity pay/leave have been extended and it’s become the norm to take a year or more off and still return to a well paid role. Flexible working policies have also become fairly common place, allowing women to balance the demands of work and parenting. Which is all brilliant. But still comes with restrictions. Breakfast meetings, after work networking, long days of travel, are all pretty hard to work around most childcare provisions. And whilst colleagues can be supportive, you can still feel that you’re more “difficult” to work with than a child-free colleague. And that affects confidence, your feelings of job security, it can put you off applying for a promotion or new role as you don’t want to upset the status quo.

And so women tread water while their kids are young and their male counterparts progress. And by the time you’re able to be “all in” at work, you’ve reached a glass ceiling and are reporting into men with 10 years less experience than you have. And so the gender pay gap persists.

<strong>So what’s the answer? What can we do? Even more benefits and support for women? Maybe. But to change the social stigma, how about we focus on men?</strong><em>

Again the UK has made some excellent progress in sharing the load of parental responsibility in the work place with paid paternity leave and shared parental leave and the opportunity for anyone to apply for flexible working. But it’s still not the norm. Paid paternity leave is still only funded by the government for 2 weeks. Our parenting leave is only the 11th most equal out of 21 countries* with shared parental leave a minefield to organise and flexible or part time working is still something that feels more aimed at women than men (men make up only 25.8% of the part-time workforce, leaving the UK 16th out of 21 countries measured *). Dads who take extended time off to be with their new baby tend to face social stigma, or at least a few raised eyebrows. And this means that on average, British men spend 24 minutes caring for children, for every hour done by women, according to the Fatherhood Institute’s Fairness In Families Index (FIFI).

People also presume that the woman will be the one to take a career break as the man is earning more (a comment even my own husband made, completely forgetting that when we started a family we were on equal salaries, as many couples are). And on the flip side, women whose partners take more time off than them are seen as “lesser” mums, putting their career before their kids. And because of all of this, men in their late twenties and early thirties are still not associated with the “pregnancy risk” that may entail a career break or reducing their hours at some point, even if married or with long term partners.

But if we could encourage more men to take up the opportunity to be at home with their kids, work flexibly and take on more of the parental juggle – without being judged for it. If we bring our kids up to see that both mum and dad can be their carer and have a career maybe things might finally be come more equal.

And if a parental career break (or indeed a mid-life career break for any purpose) becomes society’s standard for both men and women, then the glass ceiling might finally shatter. Maybe not for me and my peers (if we’re lucky we’ll be retired by then!). But if my daughters can dream, believe and achieve with no limits, then that would be a wonderful thing.

*stats taken from the Fatherhood Institute’s <a href=”http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/2016/uk-mums-and-dads-are-worst-in-developed-world-at-sharing-childcare/”>Fairness In Families Index 2016</a>

How to ace that interview before you’ve even started…

Congratulations! You’ve been applying for some of the brilliant flexible roles on DaddyJobs.co.uk and you’ve bagged an interview for your dream job.
Now you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s time to really sell yourself – and, as Benjamin Franklin said, by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail, so make sure you do your homework.

<strong>Research the company</strong>
It sounds obvious, but interviewers will expect you to know the <a href=”https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/where-do-you-start-when-researching-for-an-interview-/”>company</a>, and we don’t just mean the name and address. How many people does it employ? What exactly does the firm do? What are its current projects and past highlights?
Remember, don’t just look at its website – stalk its social media channels too. This can give you a vital insight into how the firm sees itself – and how it engages with its audience. Is it playful? Quirky? Corporate? Does it interact with its audience or retain a sense of distance? Once you know this, you can adjust your interview technique accordingly.

<strong>Read the job description</strong>
We assume you gave it more than a cursory glance when you sent in <a href=”https://mummyjobs.co.uk/2017/09/approach-writing-cv-youve-career-break/”>your application</a>, but now you need to get to grips with every single aspect. Why? So you can come up with examples of how to demonstrate you are the candidate the interviewer is looking for.
Feel you don’t have all the skills required? <a href=”https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/how-to-apply-for-your-dream-job-when-your-skills-don-t-meet-the-job-spec/”>Think outside the box</a> – what life experience do you have that could help? Are you willing to undertake extra training? Whatever you do, don’t focus on the negative – it will only encourage the interviewer to do the same.

<strong>Plan your journey</strong>
Make sure you know exactly where you’re going and how to get there. While being late for an interview is <a href=”https://www.fish4.co.uk/career-advice/youre-late-interview/”>not the end of the world</a>, it’s less than ideal and will create a pretty poor first impression.
Research your route, and how long it will take – consider a test run the day before, and make sure you have a back-up plan.
If the worst comes to the worst and you are running late, don’t panic! Ring the firm, explain the situation and give them an ETA.

<strong>Prepare your outfit </strong>
Ok, so we’re assuming you know the basics – no flipflops or swimwear, no visible underwear and no ‘comedy’ T-shirts – but in the modern world, it’s not all about power dressing.
If you’ve done your research (see point one) you may have come across staff profiles – try to emulate the style other people have gone for. You want to give the subliminal message that you will fit in, in more ways than one.
A good start is to <a href=”https://www.reed.co.uk/career-advice/what-to-wear-for-an-interview/”>keep it simple</a> and make sure you’re comfortable – you don’t want to be jangling with jewellery every time you move or panting as your new shirt is restricting your airflow.

<strong>First impressions</strong>
There’s some doubt over who said, ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression’, but there’s no doubt that they were right.
And it was probably your mum who said, ‘Manners don’t cost anything’, and guess what? She was right too.
A positive, polite demeanour will take you a long way, but don’t save the charm for your interview. Be courteous to the people on reception and any other members of staff – the interviewer may be in charge today, but these are the people you’ll work with if you’re successful. You don’t know the structure of the company, or who talks to who, so be on your best behaviour with a smile on your face from the moment you walk through the door.

<strong>The big day</strong>
If you’ve followed all these tips, you’re in the right place, at the right time and wearing the right outfit.
All you need to do now is run a brush through your hair, check your teeth for spinach and smile – you’ve got this!

Meet Chris: A working Dad at Hastings Direct

My family and I relocated to the south coast four years ago and I was looking for a new career away from retail. I was originally attracted to join Hastings Direct because I knew that insurance was a growing industry and the company had a range of opportunities for colleagues to develop. Since then, I have seen Hastings Direct expand to further offices including a city centre office in Leicester.

 

In September 2016 I moved from full time to part time shifts to offer my family extra childcare support. I have progressed to a Digital Customer Representative and when I work evenings I’m a coach for new colleagues in Academy. Working part time at Hastings Direct has allowed me and my wife to have our own careers. The flexibility in my work enables me to arrange a shift plan that suits my home life and gives me a great work life balance. It allows my wife and I to share the responsibilities of childcare while bringing money into the household and giving us quality family time at the weekends.

 

My wife and I both enjoy working and appreciate the time we have to socialise with other adults. I love the variety of work and the diversity of people I work with at Hastings Direct. I enjoy working in our Head Office because the majority of departments are here in Bexhill – it’s very easy to find a colleague from another area of the business to help with a query. Everybody in the company is keen to help and I love that we’re all moving in the same direction.

 

Hastings Direct has been very supportive since day one, particularly my Team Leader who is invested and knows my motivations inside and outside of the company. Hastings Direct cares about its colleagues and takes notice in what is happening in our lives.

 

If you like what you have heard and would be interested in finding our more, please visit Hastings Direct Careers.

Fostering

If you would like a role that doesn’t judge you for your paper qualifications (or lack of!), a role that gives you the opportunity to use your personality, life-skills and determination to change the lives of vulnerable children then fostering could be for you!

Your time is precious, as is the security and support within your home. You could be the person who gives a child the opportunity to relax and enjoy their childhood, achieve their goals and lay the foundations for a successful adulthood. We’re not making it up; that really is what people, just like you, do!

There are lots of independent and council-run fostering services, so what should you look for when choosing which one to join?

Our advice is to look for a service that is registered with the independent charity ‘The Fostering Network’. Find services near to you, look at their websites, call them, visit them and make sure you feel comfortable with them whilst ensuring they will provide you with:

  • Comprehensive training and support, provided as locally to you as possible
  • An Ofsted rating of ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’
  • A regional office near to your home
  • A ‘buddy’ scheme whereby you’re linked with an existing, experienced foster carer during those first fostering months
  • An on-call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • The opportunity to have a private and candid conversation with one or two of their existing foster carers
  • An annual respite allowance
  • Regular payment of a generous fee for you and payment for your foster child’s day to day care
  • Individual membership of FosterTalk

 

And if you’d like an insight into the world of fostering and other musings, read the Secret Foster Carer’s blog. It’s interesting, sometimes fun, sometimes sad but always thought-provoking!

Enjoying the great outdoors – without disrupting your working day

We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve come home from a day at work and realised the longest we have spent outside, is the distance from the car to the office or front door.

As we’re now heading into Summer, we thought we’d put together some ideas on how you can get that all important fresh air without disrupting your day.

Meetings
It’s easy to think that meetings should only take place in an office or boardroom and of course, some do require the equipment and privacy these venues afford. For those meetings that don’t however – take it outside!

If all you need is a pen, notepad and your colleagues, enjoy a walk in the local park or take the team to the nearest green space and sit on the grass together.

Being in the open air can boost creativity, build team relations and create a more relaxed, informal atmosphere, which can lead to more open and honest conversations.

Lunch
Who else is guilty of munching on a meal deal at their desk? It’s the easy option, but not the most hygienic. A recent infographic by Dettol demonstrates just how many germs you are sharing your lunch with.

Not only is it important to keep your meal to yourself, you need to be moving around and taking some time away from your screen.

When the weather allows, grab the nearest bench then sit and watch the world go past. You’ll feel calmer and ready to face the afternoon.

Walk it off
Incorporating exercise into your commute can not only improve your fitness, but also your mood – and your pocket!

So many of us don’t use our cars during the working day and can easily walk, jog or cycle to work.

Not only will you arrive to work feeling refreshed and awake, you’ll be doing your bit for the environment – and you don’t have to go to the gym (which we bet is inside!).

Work out
For some, the luxury of working from home or spending your days in the garden is a luxury. But for others, there are still opportunities to take your work outside.

Got a lot of calls to make? Need to brainstorm? Reading an important article? If you don’t absolutely need your computer screen, work outside! Those five minutes can make all the difference.

What is mainly important to bear in mind during your working day is that just the smallest amount of fresh air can make a huge difference to your mood, productivity and mental health. So make sure you’re getting enough of it!

Daddy 4 Life – Blog #001

First steps

So…here goes!

I have been meaning to set up a blog for a while, but I inevitably put it off in fear of not being up to the standard of other bloggers. Enough is enough though. I think the time is right. I will tell you why in a mo!

When I finally decided to start writing a blog it took me a week (maybe a little bit more if I am honest) to actually sit down and write a this first one. I thought I would start with something simple…kind of…

What does being a Daddy mean to me!!!

Well, I am a father to two wicked little monsters. One named Jackson (5 years old) and the other little terror is Lilly (4 years old). I say wicked little monsters, because that is what they are most of the time, IMG_0867and for most of the time I enjoy the madness that these two bring. Jackson was born in the October of 2011 – and he definitely gave us a scare. He had a stroke and spent a few months in hospital, and while that brought its own challenges we have plenty of fun and do just as much as any other able bodied child. He does not let it stand in his way to say the least. Lilly, is a completely different beast – she’s funny, independent and about 35 on the inside. She has an opinion on everything and to be completely honest – thinks she is in charge. If I think about it, she is probably right. I don’t mind most of the time.

20161024_134812To me, and probably to many others, ‘Being a Daddy’ is not a simple thing to define. We all have our own ways of tackling the job. I am the cook, the cleaner, the talker, the listener, the comforter, the Lego buddy, the Youtube handler and the crazy funny mad person that will do anything to get a laugh from the monsters. My friends like to make comparisons that I am like the traditional stay at home housewife, but I don’t really like that stereotype – I doubt Stay at Home Mums do either. I think some people find it hard to fit us SAHDs into a nice neat little box. That’s why I don’t really let it bother me. I am just happy to be lucky enough to do it.

3rd time lucky

I have been the ‘Stay at Home Dad’ before. For a few months I stayed at home when Jackson was not well, giving up a retail management job to work as a sales person on the weekends, and then again when Lilly came along when I took 9 months off when fathers were allowed to do so and get paid the 9 months maternity leave. This will be my third time lucky. I plan to make the best of it this time round.

We are not having another baby – unless the better half has forgot to tell me something. The reason why I will be a stay at home dad soon is due to not being able to fit a full time job in an ever changing medical journey with my son. He has severe epilepsy and has made me miss a lot of work. Also, the school I have worked at for the last 5 years is changing its opening hours and I can no longer work the hours and fit in my family. After many hours of deliberation and many cups of tea (glass of wine for the wife), I came to the conclusion that it was best for my family that I be the stay at home dad. As of 22nd July 2017 I will say goodbye to work and say hello to the crazy life of stay at home parenting again.

We had the conversation many years ago that one of us would  stay at home if the situation needed it. Whoever had the most earning potential would stay at work and the other would be one that stayed. I am not ashamed to admit it – my wife earns more than me and at the moment, has the greater earning potential. Some men would hate this – I don’t. I can’t explain it really, I have never really measured my success by the amount I earn, but more by how happy I am and how happy my family is. I know…this sounds a little bit like I am convincing myself but I promise you I am not. At some point this year my son will have an assessment for epilepsy brain surgery which only makes the decision that little bit easier. Family first is my mantra and always will be.

Two strikes not out..

Being a bloke, the first time I stayed at home I took everything for granted and did not entirely make the most it. I took it as something to get through rather than enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing experience but I did not really grasp how much fun I could make of it and when it was over I had some major regrets about not enjoying every moment. Yes, I did take enough photos and record thousands of silly videos of the kids doing ridiculously funny things, however, hindsight is great at reminding you that you did not take a breather and enjoy, reflect and smile at every moment. In addition to this, I did not really make an effort to socialise with the many stay at home dads that are out there – whether this be locally or online. I briefly attempted to enter the arena of the stay at home mum but this didn’t quite feel right, and to be quite honest, felt a little weird being the only male at the mothers and baby club. I felt a little out of sorts and it made a difference to my experience. Thus, we return to the reason I want to do things a little different this time round. I thought a blog would be one avenue and also connect with stay at home dads – not just in my local area and the Uk, but across continents. The internet is great with that apparently.

The Future

As you can probably tell, I am a bit of a waffler and rambler. Hopefully this is not a bad trait for a blogger – you will have to forgive me…or not, your choice. I will hopefully get a few like minded people like me on here; if not only to correct some of my dodgy grammar. The idea is to write something at least once a week – it will depend on how much free time I get. I am a bit of a clean freak and will probably spend most of the time procrastinating but cleaning the house into submission or getting distracted by the other Youtube video or a cracking series on Netflix. Who knows. Whatever happens and whatever I write, moving forward is best and this is my current direction.

If you do stumble across this and have read until this point, please do connect with me on social media. I am now set up on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I would love to hear from you. Us Dads need to stick together. Stay at home or not

Bank Holiday & Half Term Heroes

We all know the feeling; leaving work on Friday knowing you are heading into a Bank Holiday weekend and the sheer elation you feel.

The possibilities are endless! A golf day with the lads, a cheeky night away with your other half, or even a wild night out and the now all too familiar two-day hangover.

Then you remember. Children. Suddenly, the appeal of an extra day off disappears.

But don’t despair! This Bank Holiday (which, by the way, leads into Half Term in case you’d forgotten and need to arrange emergency childcare. There’s great prosecco in M&S for buttering up grandparents), enjoy some fantastic days out in your local area and around the UK.

National Trust
True to form, the team at the National Trust has come up trumps with activities for children young and old at properties around the country. With the (hopefully) good weather, there is a distinct nature theme running through these activities.

Become a gardening champion at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, plant pumpkin seeds at Winchester City Mill, Hampshire, or even go on a bat walk at Morden Hall Park in London.
Best take a change of clothes for the children – we’ve found anything with a ‘nature’ theme tends to need it.

Alton Towers and CBeebies Land
Although the idea of a park filled with the characters of your early morning wake up calls (generally those with the aforementioned two-day hangover), CBeebies Land is a great location for young children to play, explore and let off some steam.

With the added bonus of the adult’s playground that is Alton Towers, a water park, adventure golf and a tree top quest, make sure you invite the extended family so you can dump your children with them allow them to spend quality time with your children while you enjoy the rides.
They have fantastic offers on short breaks and park tickets, be sure to book in advance – and soon!

English Heritage
A trip to any English Heritage site is a step back into history and this Half Term, they will not disappoint. If you’re looking for a fun day out for the whole family to enjoy, yet learning something about our past, this is definitely where you need to be heading.

Visit Dartmouth Castle where young smugglers and sea dogs can take part in musket drills and other dastardly deeds. Or experience the skill and speed of knights on horseback at Beeston Castle. If the Victorian era is more your style, visit Witley Court for high-jinx including equestrian entertainment and falconry displays.

On your doorstep
No, this isn’t a new activity craze!

Be sure to check out activities and events in your local area for some great half term fun. Leisure centres, theatres, local charities and even shopping centres are known to host some of the best entertainment so be sure not to miss out.

Keep an eye on council websites and social media for details of the smaller events.

Whatever you get up to, have a great Bank Holiday weekend and Half Term. And if you do go out, be sure not to mix your drinks…