All Posts byFelicity Dwyer

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About the Author

Felicity is a career coach. She help people who want to change career, start a freelance business, or build their confidence. Felicity writes about career and business development, leadership and personal effectiveness.

Planning a holiday - job search
Aug 01

How planning a holiday can help your job search

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , freelance

We’re in the middle of the summer holiday season. What can the experience of planning a holiday teach you about searching for a new job or career?

Know yourself

Choosing the right holiday requires a realistic understanding of what you need and want. A lively resort, or a hike in the hills? Would relaxing on a cruise ship be your idea of heaven, or would you be ready to jump overboard after 24 hours?

Similarly, we all feel happier in different workplaces. For example, an exciting fast paced career or a professional field such as law might seem aspirational, but you might in reality be happier in a hands-on caring role. Or you may believe in the ethos of public service, but in reality feel frustrated and feel hemmed in the bureaucracy of local government, yet find you thrive in a start up.

The key to happiness at work is to identify what really matters to you, not what you or others think you SHOULD want.

Accept your life stage

Seaside holidayThere may have been a time when you yearned for adventure, but now you’re better off with the kids on a sandy shore with a bucket and space.

A demanding job that suited you in your 20s may not be such a good fit now. Sometimes family or caring commitments require a re-evaluation of your career ambitions.  And you can do this in a way that sets you up to re-build your career later on. A typical working lifetime is around 45 years. Rather than try to do everything it once, it’s fine to scale back and step up at different life stages.

Research for job search

Chances are that you do a fair amount of research before choosing a holiday. Perhaps you look at options online, read reviews, talk to friends, ask for recommendations… Sometimes it might seem that we do more research for a holiday than for choosing a career!

A serious job or career search requires plenty of research. Google is a good starting point, but don’t underestimate the value of talking to people. And don’t just rely on people in your social circle – reach out to people in fields that attract you. Ask for introductions, see if people will be willing to give you some advice. Find out what your dream job is really like.

Use imagination

Beach sceneWhen you’re looking at holiday options, you may find yourself imagining what it will be like. You see yourself getting up to breakfast on the terrace, going for a daily swim, relaxing over supper in a taverna…

When you’re thinking about career change, try imagining yourself in a series of different jobs or fields of work. What will your daily routine look like: what will you be doing, who will you be seeing, how will you be feeling

Consider the positive aspects, and also make sure your vision isn’t too rose tinted. It’s important that you include elements such as your daily commute. See yourself doing the duller parts of each role as well as the more interesting aspects. Do the positives outweigh the downsides?

Package or go-it-alone?

Do you prefer to book a package holiday – letting someone else sort out the practicalities and logistics? Or do you prefer to arrange your own holiday, booking the travel, accommodation and any transfers yourself?

In career terms, employment is more like a package deal. Your employer supplies the job description, the parameters of the role and usually the accommodation, such as an office or workshop. You provide your skills and energy in exchange for a salary and benefits.

This contrasts with self employment, which can be more like a go-it-along trip. You have more freedom to create your own freelance career or establish a business. But there is a lot more for you to organise, before you even start work. You need to ensure there is a market for your services or products, and be willing to get involved in marketing, selling and managing your enterprise.

Ask an expert

Many of us arrange our holidays online, which is analogous to using job boards or looking at job ads. But sometimes it’s easier and more effective to book via a travel agent. A good agent will listen to your requirements and recommend suitable holidays using their specialist knowledge.

Similarly, if you know the type of work you are seeking, a good recruitment consultant can help match you to a job or company where you are well suited.

And if you’re not yet sure what kind of job you want to go for, a career coach can help you work this out, with impartial expert support.

Wishing you happy holidays!

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Wise Owl
May 15

Use your time wisely with these productivity tips

By Felicity Dwyer | Productivity , Small Business

WorkWise week is an initiative to encourage us to think about ways to work more productively. Whether you work for yourself or are employed, here are some tips to help you work more wisely.

Clarify what really matters

The foundation of working wisely is to be crystal clear about what’s really important. If you’re freelance or run your own business, make sure you take time out on a weekly basis to review your priorities.

If you are employed and feel continually overwhelmed, you may need to sit down with your managers, and make sure you understand what you are expected to prioritise and deliver. If you’re not clear about what’s expected of you, then ask rather than making assumptions about what’s wanted.

Overcome procrastination with radical chunking

Even if you know what’s important, you may find yourself procrastinating. We all do it, and my solution is radical chunking. If you find yourself resisting writing an important email for example, then chunk it down to the simplest possible action, such as opening a new email window, writing a subject line (even if it’s just DRAFT EMAIL TO…) and typing the first few words.

Challenge your processes

If you’ve ever worked with a coach, you know they will encourage you, and also challenge you. You can self-coach by taking a step back from time to time and challenging yourself. Ask: “How can I do this more efficiently?” and write down at least three ideas for improvements.

This is helpful if you regularly find yourself bogged down in a task. Taking time to redesign a system can be more effective in the longer term than making do with an outdated way of doing things.

Make wise use of tech tools

Technology is a double edge sword. It can distract, or assist. Set boundaries around unproductive time online, and welcome in helpful tech. A To Do list app like Wunderlist or project management systems like Asana can help bring all your tasks together in one place and access on the go. But tools will only help you if you use them consistently and refer to them regularly. A half hearted switch to an online system will just add to the clutter in your life.

Embrace online accounting

online accounting

If you’re self-employed or run a small business, make this the year you embrace online accounting software. This can massively speed up time you spend on invoicing and reconciling accounts. For example, you can quickly scan in receipts when you receive them and before they mount up.

The UK government has considered making changes to self-assessment reporting. It’s not happening in the short term, but in future they may require small businesses to do their accounting online.

Email discipline for a clear inbox

If looking at your email inbox gives you that sinking feeling, then it’s time to set yourself some guidelines. Discipline yourself not to open an email unless you do something with it. I regularly reach inbox zero since developing an email processing system that works for me – once I’ve read an email it’s either filed, acted upon, deleted or marked for future action.

And on the subject of wise email etiquette, if you find yourself writing something while you’re feeling irritated, under pressure or angry, then don’t send straight away. Save it as a draft, then take a break, return to it to review and re-phrase if necessary. And double-check the “to” field. (Hands up who’s ever written an email to a colleague and inadvertently sent it to a client!)

Set yourself deadlines

We’re usually pretty efficient when we’re up against the clock. But leaving everything to the last minute can be stressful and leaves no room for contingencies. Trying setting your own deadlines, and challenge yourself against the clock. The end of the week can be a good deadline – how much can you clear before the weekend? And how good will it feel when you’ve done it?

Know your values

Finally, wisdom comes from working to your values. It’s not just about efficient use of time; it’s about valuing time itself and freeing yourself up to do what matters. Try this values exercise to work out what really matters to you. And don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests that fit neither your work priorities, nor your personal values.

What tips do you have for working more wisely? Please share in the comments below.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Paul Coverdale
May 02

From naval officer to portfolio career

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change

Calls for flexible working practices are often in the context of women who want to balance work and family.

And I’m increasingly meeting fathers who have taken a step off the corporate ladder. They go part time or self-employed so that they can take a bigger part in bringing up their children, and pursue work that feels meaningful and interesting. Often they have a partner or spouse who is committed to their own career, and find a more balanced approach works for the family.

Here is the story of a father in this situation. Paul Coverdale is a former Naval officer who now has a portfolio of professional projects, voluntary work and active fatherhood. All these are linked to his passion for sustainability.

A linear career

Paul initially followed what he described as a linear career”. After school he took a degree in meteorology at Reading University.

Armed with his degree, Paul felt he had: “two choices as I saw it at the time.” One was at the Met office, the other was a forecasting role in the Royal Navy. Forecasting had traditionally been a teaching role within the Navy, but changes meant that this role would involve going to sea. “It sounded exciting!” So Paul joined the Navy at 22.

Paul became a naval officer and learned to be good at leadership. “I wasn’t hugely confident and they brought it out.” Paul describes his first eight years as pretty successful. “I was cherry-picked to augment naval staff at sea, and involved in the second Gulf War. It was hard work but incredibly rewarding. I was entrusted with a lot of responsibility.” Paul was promoted at an early stage and send to Iraq, where he spent 6 months in 2006 in Basra. “It gave me more confidence. Opened my eyes to the world.”

Downsides of military life

see-saw-600pxAs time went on, Paul became increasingly aware of the downsides to not being at home. He wasn’t able to put down roots: “I bought a flat which I never saw.” And it was difficult to maintain relationships: “I couldn’t countenance being a father under these circumstances.”

Paul compares this to being on a see-saw. Over time, the balance tipped and Paul felt increasingly that the hierarchical nature of a military organisation was no longer a good fit. “I realised I wasn’t well suited. I became aware of becoming insitutionalised and turned into a person I wasn’t.”

Paul was pragmatic and didn’t leave in a hurry after this realisation, but he negotiated a posting at home for the last part of his service and left after 16 years. This was a natural break point, and meant that he left with a pension.

Although not everyone will be able to gather a pension by this stage of their careers, there is much to be said for a sensible planned career change. (When I work with people who are considering a big leap, I help them think through the options, and recommend people build up a financial buffer if they can.)

Back to study

Returning to university or other forms of study can provide a transition into a new career. After leaving the Navy, Paul took at full time “Environmental Techology” MSc at Imperial College London, writing a thesis on intrinsic value in business.

“I knew I wanted to do something connected with the environment. I knew about weather and climate change. I knew that we need to do something about it.

“The degree helped me broaden myself and explore sustainability more widely. Part of me had an interest in business too, and my degree looked at what is a sustainable business. This was fantastic. I loved studying again. Enjoyed the challenge.”

Knowing what you don’t want

After his Masters, Paul faced a dilemma. At his stage of life he wouldn’t be going into a graduate scheme or internship. So he took time out to work out what he wanted to do.

Like many career changes, Paul knew what he didn’t want: to work with one company, 9-5. “I wanted to pursue lots of things and have time with my daughter. I wanted to blur work and life. “

Pursuing curiosities

So Paul decided to pursue his curiosities. He volunteered for the National Trust, starting writing, set up a website, and set about talking to people and collaborating. Initially he did this alongside apply for jobs, but then he made a decision to cease job applications and focus on setting up new projects and participating in a range of voluntary local activities, such as donating blood platelets, organising events for Parkrun, and as Secretary for the Royal British Legion.

Another priority was spending time with his daughter “we were in the garden all day Monday”. Paul’s wife works in London, and this arrangement brings benefits for the whole family.

Future Debates

Paul is full of ideas and enthusiasm, and one of his current portfolio projects is Future Debates.

The idea was sparked by Paul’s MSc studies. “My group focused on business and the environment. We would get together on Friday and choose a topic that had been covered by one of our visiting lecturers. We’d each have a go at facilitating a debate and choosing questions. It was really interesting, and part of the course that I missed the most.”

After university, the group wanted to carry on, but found the opportunities to meet limited. But a spark has been lit: “the idea of setting something up was rattling in my head. “

Paul decided to trial a debate a co-working space in London in August 2016. He went to the space to co-work, and run a series of Future Debates as an experiment in the lunch hour. The format is up to 12 people, round a table, discussing a theme such as the future of work, technology and happiness, or dealing with plastic waste.

“I did about a dozen. People loved it.! It gave people an opportunity to talk about something that matters. “ After his success in running groups in London, Paul decided to set Future Debates up in Winchester, where he now lives.

Inspiration for action

The inspiration behind Future Debates is to achieve more than a talking shop. “I’m hoping action will follow on from words. We’re looking for ways to solve problems, though small groups coming together.”

Having attended a Future Debate, I can recommend them as a way to refresh your thinking, learning something new, and clarify your ideas.

No regrets

Paul accepts that no everyone is in a financial position to take a break from earning, and points out there are lots of ways you can fund a career change or follow a passion, for example by funding a change through part time or freelance work.

“It is a big step, but not something to be frightened of. I don’t regret it at all, I’m a lot happier”.

You can find out more about Future Debates here.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Balancing work and motherhood
Mar 24

Tips for balancing work and motherhood

By Felicity Dwyer | freelance , Productivity , Small Business

 

Balancing work and motherhood (or fatherhood) is quite an art, so I approached some successful working mums for tips on how they manage. I hope you enjoy the insightful and practical advice they came up with, and please add your own tips too.

Prioritise Ruthlessly

Kara Stanford from KMS Marketing says: “Know what you absolutely must do for work and family, then do those things first. Know what are the “should do’s” and do them next. Finally, know what are the “nice to do’s” and fit them in when you can.”

Kara subdivides this into work, family and “staying sane”. Her work must do’s include paid client work as a top priority. Family must do’s are: never working when she is looking after the children. And her stay sane must do’s are having at least one day at the weekend where she does no work at all.

“When I stop ruthlessly prioritising, it all falls apart…! This week, as we are on day 15 of chickenpox, I have only been able to do my “must do’s” but once we’re through it all, I’ll be able to do everything I want to again. Until then, top priorities first!”

Don’t try to multi-task

Juggling timeBarbara Graham from jewellers Stella and Dot advises ring fencing your time – don’t fall for the multitasking myth

“We are far less efficient if we try to do more than one job at a time.  Your business and parenting will both suffer and you’ll be exhausted and stressed by the feeling you are constantly underperforming in all areas of your life.  Determine when your office work hours and when your mummy hours are.  Tell your team, tell your customers, and tell your friends and family!”

Helen Cousins, decluttering consultant at Fresh Spaces agrees: “Don’t try to multi-task. It actually stops you being present and scatters your thoughts making you less effective. If you are with you children – then ‘be with’ them. If you are working – then pick one item to prioritise and then only action that one. “

Get help when you need it

“If you need to pay for childcare to give yourself some free time – DO IT!” says Barbara. “I see a lot of women who are just starting their business and not earning huge amounts who feel they need to wait until they are earning more to justify the cost of childcare.  But how can they expect their business to grow if they aren’t giving themselves the time to work on it?  Time is the most crucial investment your business needs, so if you need it, do it, and reap the rewards in years to come.”

Be comfortable with “good enough” housework

“The world won’t stop spinning just because you didn’t empty the dishwasher’. I’ve recently learnt this one myself and so far we are all still surviving”, says Helen. And Kara agrees, her must dos when the pressure is on include “cleaning just enough so that I know we won’t get ill.”  And learning consultant Maggie Piazza emphasises that “being ‘good enough’ is good enough – both at home or at work.”

Time to recharge

WalkingDoctor Lucy Boyland emphasises how important it is to take time for yourself, and do something that is neither for work or parenting. And she counsels: “Don’t feel guilty about it! I know from my experience growing up that if you’re happy (or not) as a mother, it has a huge impact on your family.”  Membership administrator Nikki Halliwell agrees “It’s important to have some me time/time out. I really enjoy my running class.” Kara’s time out must-dos include walking every day, and seeing friends at least once a week.

Be organised

“Be very organised” is the top tip from Karen Guler, MD at Envision Financial Solutions. Nikki agrees “Being organised the night before, bags packed, lunch boxes on the side, clothes ironed…”

Find a work pattern that suits you

Nikki enjoys being self-employed: “…so I can work the hours that suit family life, and she has help from her parents who live locally. Lucy works part-time, which give her a good balance between a demanding job that she loves, and her family. And speaking recently with a group of women in technical industries, I heard examples of husbands working part-time or staying at home to care for young children.

Free up your headspace!

I love all the wise words above. A tip that has helped me to stay organised and escape the multi-tasking trap is to use a to-do list app properly, and capturing EVERYTHING I need to do in one place. From a quick phone call to a new project, it all goes in the Wunderlist app (other to-do list apps are available!)  It’s on my phone so if an idea comes into my brain when not working, I can make a quite note and forget about it. The app syncs to my desktop so I can take time to review, sort and prioritise my notes when I’m next at my desk.

This approach frees up so space in my head. We can only hold a few thoughts in our working memory (the part of our mind we have access to at any one time). So by writing things down, we can stop expending energy trying to remember them, thus freeing up energy for family and friends.

What tips do you have for balancing work and parenting? Please share in the comments below.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Women considering career change at 40
Feb 28

Is it too late to change career at 40? (or 50…?)

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , freelance

“Is it too late to change career at 40?” “Am I too old to start a new career at 50?” You may have asked yourself this kind of question. It’s one I hear quite often. And my answer is “No, it’s definitely not too late”.

There are many options open to you at 40 and beyond. And often the barriers to making a change are internal rather than external. It helps if you focus on what you CAN offer, and regard your age as an advantage rather than a drawback.

Mid-life experience

You reach mid-life with a wealth of experience. You are have more understanding of the world. You may also have more self-knowledge than earlier in life. This doesn’t mean that career change is easy. Like anything worthwhile it may require tenacity, focus and resilience to make a shift. But this is true at any age!

What can you bring with you from your work (and life) experience into a new career? Do take the time to review your own skills, strengths and interest, and reflect on what you would really like to be doing. And take time to research the options available to you.

Here are some viable mid-life career change options.

Consultancy

Consultancy can be a good choice if you have some specific expertise and enjoy the field you are in. It can offer you more control over your working life. Your current employer may be willing to offer you some work on a freelance basis. This can help you get started. Generally you will need to find other clients too, so your employer doesn’t fall foul of employment legislation. You may like to contact other companies in your field, or sign up for consultancy opportunities on a job board like Indeed.

A sideways move

If you would rather stay in employment, but want a change, consider a sideways move. You might like to take your transferable skills into a new sector. Or build on an established track record in your current sector but look at changing your job role. For example, you could take sales skills from a commercial environment and move into a fundraising role with a charity.

Start a business

Cup of coffeeHave you always wanted to run a café, run a drama club, design curtains…?  Starting your own business can offer you control over your future. It’s not for the faint hearted, and if you’ve always been employed there will be a learning curve. But it can be exhilarating and rewarding.

There are various routes you can take. For example: you can go it alone, find a business partner, or buy into an established business model through a franchise. It’s essential to undertake research in the early stages to establish if there’s actually a market for your business idea.

Portfolio career

portfolio career is where you have two or more jobs or businesses giving you strands of income. This approach can be a ongoing way of working, or it can offer a way into a career change. A part-time job in your current line of work can free up time to explore other options whilst bringing in an income.

For example you might work three days a week, and spend two days studying for a new qualification, or building up a small business on the side.

Volunteer

VolunteerVolunteering is another way to gain helpful experience, in return for your time. This can fit in with a portfolio career approach, a sideways move or even a complete change. By giving your time on a trustee board you could get experience of leadership and governance. By running workshops for young people, you could gain experience and find out if you would like to work in this field. Voluntary work can also help grow your network and build confidence. Find volunteer opportunities on Do-It.org

Retrain

There have never been more opportunities to retrain, without having to go back to full-time study. Apprenticeships are being given a particular push by government at the moment, and they are not just for the young. And there are job shortages in certain sectors such as nursing which means that age isn’t a barrier to finding a job after retraining.

Thinking about a career change? Please get in touch if you’d like some help with clarifying your next steps.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

What's Important to you?
Jan 04

Setting goals? Try this first…

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Motivation

At this time of year it’s common to set goals for the year ahead.

But what if you start by thinking about your values. How you can make 2017 a year when you live your values more deeply?

I’m not suggesting that you don’t set goals. Goals are important to help you get things done. They can also help you to stay motivated. But if you start by identifying your values, this will help you set goals that really matter to you.

And committing to living your values more profoundly will have an impact on HOW you go about achieving your goals, and on your quality of life and relationships. And it can help bring a greater sense of meaning and purpose into your life.

What are values?

ValuesThey are what’s important to you at a deep level. A value is a quality, or way of being. Whereas a goal is something you do or achieve. For example, a goal may be finding a life partner, whereas the underpinning value may be for love or connection or security.

Identifying your values can help you set goals that are worthwhile for you. They help you focus on what is important to you, not what others may think important. They can help give your life meaning and purpose

For example. you might set a goal to find a higher paying job. But if you start with values, then you might realise that you value time with your family more than anything else. You want to earn more so you can provide a better standard of living and more holidays for your family. This doesn’t preclude earning more, but not if it is going to mean less time at home. This understanding can then influence the goals you set for your job search.

How to identify your values?

Here are three ideas:

  1. Ask yourself what is really matters to you, and then look for the underlying values. For example you may feel at your most happy and fulfilled when you are stretching yourself and learning something new. It may be that the underlying value here is love of learning, or personal growth. If so, how can you bring more of this into your everyday life, and future plans?
  2. Conversely, if there is something in your life that makes you unhappy or angry, this could point to a violation of a value. If you feel angry that you are not being paid or treated fairly at work, this could point to an underlying value of justice, equity or fairness. Identifying this can help you in finding work that is more in line with what matters to you. And right now you can make sure you are fair in your dealings with others.
  3. A third approach can be to use a list of values as a prompt. Try this 3 part exercise to help you to identify and prioritise your values, and set relevant actions and goals as a result.

Ideally, your job or career will be a good fit for your values. The culture of your organisation or company will feel right. And your work pattern and remuneration allows you to fulfil what’s important outside of work.

If you feel that your current job is significantly out of sync with your values, it may be time to make a change.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

 

Take the plunge to self employment
Oct 20

Lessons from 13 years of self employment

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Networking , Small Business

In October 2003, I took the plunge into the ocean of freelance life. I left a communications management role to became a self employed consultant, facilitator and coach.

13 years self employedIt’s been an exciting journey with twists and turns along the way. Over time my business has changed, and coaching and training now takes centre stage. I now run a management training business, and offer a career coaching service.

If you’re thinking about working for yourself, you may find these tips useful. They’re all based on my start up experience.

Plan ahead

If you are considering self employment in the future, think ahead and start planning now. Two things that helped me were saving up three months’ salary as a buffer, and setting up some freelance work before leaving employment.

Consider a part-time job

If finances are tight, consider looking for a part-time job to pay the rent. But be wary of part-time jobs with irregular hours. If you are going to work for yourself, you need to be disciplined about your time. This is easier if you have specific days in your diary to focus on your business.

Have a vision of where you want to go

Be clear about where you’re heading. I went freelance in order to control the direction of my own career. I knew that I wanted to earn my living through training, facilitation and coaching. At the time, I was known primarily for my research, writing and editorial skills, and in the first year most of my income came through writing. I kept my vision in mind, and gradually increased my training and coaching work as well as gaining extra qualifications in these areas.

Be strategic in accepting work

Because I knew where I wanted to go in my freelance career, I was selective in the writing work I took on. For example I was commissioned to write a training needs analysis toolkit, and a guide to leadership development. Both of these were very much in line with my strategic direction. I turned down other projects, which would take me too far off course.

Let’s be realistic, sometimes you may need to take work just for the money. But don’t fill up your whole diary with work that distracts you from your goal, leave some time for the “Oh YES!” projects.

Get comfortable with selling

People sometimes have a negative view of sales. Perhaps you see it as pushy or just don’t see yourself as a salesperson. But as a freelancer, or small business owner, you have to be able to sell yourself and your services. Selling is only unethical if you’re trying to persuade someone to buy something they don’t want or need. Ethical selling is simply the process of listening to your potential customer, identifying if and how you can help them, and offering them the chance to work with you.

Build your network

The biggest shock for me in going freelance was losing the day to day social contact of the office. Even through I had a good social life and plenty of activities in the evenings, I found the days a bit lonely at first. It was the support of my network, mostly people I’d worked with in the past, that kept me going.

NetworkingAs well as keeping up with people you know, it’s vital to extend your network – in the real world as well as online. This is probably easier that it was 13 years ago, due to a growth in local networking groups. In most areas there is choice of friendly groups emphasising support and learning, as well as more traditional referral networks focused on generating leads.

And I know networking can be effective – the first networking event I attended in my freelance career led to £3K worth of business! Of course this doesn’t happen all the time and it’s a mistake to go networking thinking that work will fall into your lap. But you certainly open yourself to opportunities  by getting out and getting known.

In fact I’ve got so much out of networking over the years that I’m now leading my own Fabulous Women and Marvellous Men networking group!

Over to you

If you are currently in business or freelancing, what helped you in the early days? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thinking of taking the plunge?

Are you considering self-employment? A modest investment in coaching can really help you clarify what you want, so that you make the right choices for your future. Working with a coach is a positive step to getting unstuck and much clearer about your next steps. For expert help, book yourself in for a free no-obligation chat about your future.  Find out more HERE.

 

 

Comfort zone
Aug 18

How to expand your confidence (this one comes with a guarantee!)

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Motivation

How often does a lack of confidence hold you back?

You may be familiar with the concept of a comfort zone. It’s that place where you already feel confident.  You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re good at stuff. You don’t need to worry about messing up.

But if you only ever live from that place, you will find yourself stuck quite quickly. The world around us moves on and changes regardless of how confident we feel about adapting to it. But if you can step out of your current comfort zone, it will expand and so will your confidence.

The Stretch Zone

So a very useful concept is that of the Stretch Zone. This is the area around the outside our comfort zone, where we do something that we haven’t done before. We stretch ourselves by trying out a new skill or technique, going to a new place, applying for a new job, meeting new people, putting ourselves out there in the world in many different ways.

And it can be a bit scary – understandably so. When we try something new we are not guaranteed to make a success of it. We may try something new and love it. We may try something new and find it uncomfortable.

However, one thing we are guaranteed in the stretch zone is learning. It may be learning a new skill. It may be learning something about ourselves – what we like or don’t like. It may be learning something about other people and how we relate to them.

And if you look at taking a stretch in that way, then you really cannot fail!

Action is the key

An important thing to remember about moving into the stretch zone is just that – it’s a stretch, it involves movement. The only reliable way to build our confidence is to take action. There are plenty of useful techniques and exercises that can help us feel more confident. But at the end of the day you won’t grow your comfort zone until you get out and DO something.

Confidence comes from action – and the right level of action. Beyond the stretch zone lies the panic zone – this is where you have gone too far out of your zone of competence and confidence and your “fight or flight” mechanism kicks in. So if you are facing a big challenge, break it down to small steps, including a step you can do this week – or better still, today!

I took a step out of my comfort zone this week and started recording and sharing videos on Facebook. Here is a quick video that I’ve made for you about how I did it.

Sleepy Nico - Izzy
Jun 21

I found my passion in business after having a baby

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Small Business

Becoming a parent is a massive life change. So it’s not surprising that motherhood leads some women to change career too.  This was true for Angeline Braidwood, owner of Sleepy Nico baby carriers.

Angeline Braidwood

Angeline had a varied early career. She worked in marketing and publishing and as a self-employed bookseller. But becoming a mother led Angeline to discover her passion.

“When I had my first baby Amelia, I walked from Balham to Tulse Hill, using a standard baby carrier. At the end of the walk I was in agony, everything hurt, especially my shoulders.  The woman who opened the door to me wore a beautiful baby carrier. I bought one, and found people stopped me on the street to ask where I’d found it.”

I bought the company!

At that stage, Sleepy Nico was a tiny cottage industry run by two friends, and named after the founder’s son. And when the founders decided to move on, Angeline stepped in and bought the business. She took over the name, website, method and materials. “I was just so impressed that I bought the company.”

Angeline has since expanded her enterprise, and still creates an entirely British made product. She started on a micro basis, employing a couple of local seamstresses. She has now taken on a manufacturer to produce the slings on a bigger scale.

My business is like a child

Sleepy Nico“The business is like a child – growing and developing, with different needs that you have to meet. It’s an enormous learning curve, and you also keep learning and growing.”

Angeline’s enthusiasm for the business shines through, and has been essential to her success. “For me, a key to enjoying work has been to be passionate about something. Slings brought me and my child together. You just pop your child in, and off you go.”

But is hasn’t always been easy. I asked Angeline to share what she has learned so far in her business journey.

Stand up to problems and find solutions

“The biggest thing has been to stand up in the face of problems. When you work for yourself, every time something new comes up, you have to learn how to do it. I couldn’t ever go back to working in someone else’s structure.  In the workplace, you have a set place in the organisation and your work is planned in.

“At times I just lay on the floor and cried…. But every time there was a problem, I found a solution even though I wouldn’t have though of myself before as a problem-solver.”

Get organised

“Get organised before you start. Look into all the administration and legal side. Do your groundwork and research – know what you’re getting into. Write a business plan, and look into funding.

“Document everything as you go. You need documented processes as you get bigger. If you don’t do it as you go then you suddenly have to try and do it all at once.

“For example, we were working from a set of instructions written by seamstresses, not by instruction writers.  So I’ve asked a former textile instructor to write a proper set of instructions, known as the Bible“.

Be prepared to take a leap

“A year ago I took a leap and rented a studio on monthly terms at a local business centre.  Making the leap made me work harder to make the rent.”

Angeline didn’t borrow money to set up the business, but funded it from within the family. “I stretch myself a little bit financially, but not to the point where if it goes wrong I can’t shut it down. I always have enough to cover any liabilities.”

Nurture your workforce

The challenge for all small businesses in manufacturing is to find the workforce. “If you only have a couple of seamstresses and something happens, then you are stuck.”

Angeline would like to keep to the ethos of British made products.  She needs to find people with the skills needed to make a full sling to the highest of standards: “The product holds the most precious being. It’s made with care, attention and love. At the moment, every sling is checked by me, and the buck stops with me!”

One solution could be more flexible apprenticeships. Angeline can teach valuable skills, but she doesn’t work a standard 9 to 5 day, which can pose a problem for standard apprenticeship schemes.

Angeline talked about the need the let her seamstresses know about their contribution and feel a sense of pride in what they do. “I want to get people excited about working for the business.”

Ask for help and know your strengths

“Ask for help when you need it. I’ve had advice from a manufacturer and a business adviser. And get a really good accountant – mine looks into my numbers and gives advice, as figures are not my strengths.”

“Know your strengths – mine are selling, networking, and project management. And recognise when you need to delegate. For example I now work with someone on my social media. I enjoyed doing it, but you need to outsource when you need the help, or you lose your personal life and your time.”

Find your tribe

“The people I’ve met who have helped me have shared similar passions. Sleepy Nico fits into the bigger picture of baby-wearing, nurturing children. I’m part of a child-focused community, it’s lovely.

“For me, it’s about building a business around children. People call me an entrepreneur, but I always put the children first. A business is a bit like a third baby, with me looking after it. I think it’s a female way of running a business.”

For more information on Sleepy Nico carriers, visit sleepynico.com

Are you a mother thinking of returning to work?

Contact me for a free 30 minute consultation about your next steps.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Business Plan
May 16

Dream of starting your own business? Here’s how to lift your idea off the ground.

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , freelance

Starting your own business is an increasingly popular choice for people who want a new direction in mid-life. Not surprising, as it offers you the promise of autonomy. And you can create a business that is well suited to your values, interests and skills.

Do YOU dream of starting your own business, but aren’t sure how to get your ideas off the ground?

I recently came away buzzing from attending the Workfest conference. It’s inspiring to spend a day immersed in the experiences of women who have started successful enterprises. Here is a round up of the top tips I took away from the day. And if after reading this, you have advice to add, please post a comment below.

  1. Write a business plan – it doesn’t have to be complex but it will help you think through your ideas, and you’ll need it if you want to raise external funding.
  2. Do your research – is there a market for your products and services? Design a questionnaire using a tool like Survey Monkey and get it out via social media and email. Don’t just ask your family and friends. Extend your research: reach out through your networks, and ask people to forward your survey on.
  3. Having a vision for your business is important, but not enough on it’s own. You also need a practical plan with concrete achievable steps to take in the next weeks and months.
  4. Be marmite, not vanilla. Work out who you really want to help our where you unique skills and experience could take you, and focus on that market. You can read my take on niching here.
  5. Be realistic about your financial forecasts. Most businesses won’t make a profit in the first year, and maybe not for several years, particularly if you plan to invest and grow in a sustainable way, or move beyond a freelance or hobby business and take on staff.
  6. Be selective in how you invest early on. You don’t need spend a fortune on your logo or stationery to start with, especially as you may want to tweak and develop your brand as you go.
  7. When you are looking for people to help you with your website, logo, accounts etc, try to go through personal recommendations. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with a great supplier, but it does reduce the risk.
  8. Take action. If you are currently employed and want to start up, think about how you can bridge the gap towards your own enterprise. Can you start with a small pilot project to test an idea? Action is better than perfection; don’t wait until an idea is perfect before giving it a try, or you may never start.

Anything to add?  Please share your start up tips, or any questions, in the comments box (you’ll find it below the related articles section).

Wondering whether to start your own business?

Would you like some one-to-one support with changing direction and working for yourself?  My services include a two-hour Focus and Action mentoring session. This can help you if you already have a business ideas (or lots of ideas!) and need some focus and clarity to move forward.  

Or if you’re not sure what you want to do next, career coaching can help you consider a wide range of option.  

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit


Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

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