That’s how long it’s taken me to find a job here in Paris.
Or rather, that’s how long it’s taken for a French company (largely international ones!) to break out of the norm and hire someone who is coming back from a “career break” and isn’t “courant”.
They’re scared. Narrow minded. Afraid of change. They’re learning.
Two years to the very day, of living in Paris I signed.
Last night I celebrated with the recruitment team who have stood by me and never lost faith in me. I’m beyond grateful to Laurent Aumage and the team at Anson McCade, UK, who kept putting me forward and pushing me (and decision makers) to finally succeed.
I hope my story can lesson the emotional burden for all the “career break” mums out there who are struggling to get back to work. Struggling intrinsically, the most difficult struggle of all.
At your darkest times, when you feel like all hope is lost and your confidence is diminished to a tiny fleck of that brilliant woman you used to be – that is the time you dig your deepest. You dig so deep it hurts, it’s painful. Muscle up the courage to continue, so that black hole cannot, will not swallow you.
Never stop your search.
Never give up on yourself. There’s too many other people out there to do that for you.
Yes it’s hard, yes you fall off the search wagon, yes you will doubt everything you’ve ever done or achieved. You may even feel like a fraud.
You’re not. You’re a warrior with nerves of steal and vivaciousness of fire.
When your just about to the throw in the towel, and your burning the last straw, you’ll get a call and Just.Like.That. your are hired.
There will be someone out there who sees your brilliance, sees your relevance and isn’t afraid of your “gap”. For every 10 narrow sighted people, you will find that 1 person who says “Yes, we want you”! And you will start to breathe again.
However long it takes you, and in whatever emotional state you find yourself in (too many in my experience) try to keep this little cliche in the back of your mind and pop-it out whenever you start to feel low, “patience really is a virtue” BUT perserverance is what makes the difference. Whatever happens. Never give up!
Until that job comes through, keep your focus, find your fulfilment in your daily life, and lastly enjoy your child/children because in your near future, you’ll be back at work and remembering how lucky you were to have that time with your babies.
It took two years but damn those two little words are going to stand out on my CV.
Photo credit: giphy. Merryl, you own it girl.
p.s. my last post was July 2016. Honestly, I felt I had nothing of importance to say. Keeping afloat of everyday life and the job search has taken every bit of my energy. Moving forward I’m confident there will be an abundance of material to keep my blogging alive.
Dedicated to the women of the world facing career challenges after bringing a human into the world. I feel you.
You all need to be celebrated. We all need to be celebrated.
Becoming a mother is no mean feat. It is one of, if not, the most exhausting, physically and mentally demanding ‘jobs’ a person can do. And, it’s largely unpaid. Suppose for a minute we were to get paid … this clever little calculator summarises what the cumulative job of M U M is worth.
Yet, irrespective of our many talents, having one of the greatest responsibilities on earth and taking time to fulfill that responsibility, deems you unemployable in the real money making world. Unless you’re self employed, which then brings about its own sets of issues.
At least this is what rings true for me.
How on earth did I go from a senior level manager to being rejected (or not even considered) for countless roles at entry, mid and senior levels?
I’ve applied for more positions than I can count in the last 8 months. I’ve had 3 companies of interest. 3 interviews. Zero offers.
Living in a foreign country with a language barrier obviously leaves me at a disadvantage. Feedback from two interviews (and my recruiter) indicates this is the major factor, particularly in my usual line of work which requires significant client interaction.
I understand to a degree.
What I fail to comprehend is the lack of interest for the English speaking positions I’ve applied for, all directly in line with my skills and expertise. Paris is a hub of global business activity, engaging with wider Europe, APAC and Americas. Considering English is the universal business language, surely someone out there needs a lass that can speak English fluently?!
Recently I received an invitation to interview via email that clearly indicated my profile and expertise were a “good match” for the Senior Project Manager eCommerce position. A position I could easily fulfill and perform well in. I had a phone interview, which seemed to flow nicely and then I waited for feedback. 48hrs later I got it.
I regret to inform you that we have decided not to progress further with your application and move forward with candidates whose experience is a closer fit to our search.
I’m at a loss here. One minute my experience is a good match and the next my experience is off point.
Now, I’m not a narcissist, so I’ve clearly gone wrong somewhere along the line. I want to know where I’m falling over. Self improvement 101.
So I write a “Thank You email” to the once lovely HR lady who is now avoiding me and politely asked her to provide some feedback for my own personal development, thanked her for the opportunity and wished them the best – as you do. Personal branding is everything.
So, I wait for a response filled with anxiety. I’m still waiting. I’ll be waiting. All I have left is to churn every little negative thought over in mind.
Did I talk off topic, talk too much, say too little, summarise incorrectly, how was my elevator pitch, is my experience not solid enough, am I over my head, OMG I’m a F R A U D, how’s my profile photo, are my social accounts up to date, are they not relevant enough, too personal, s!*t did they read my blog ?! … WHAT. DID. I. DO. WRONG?
Then I remember the deafening silence whilst willingly explaining my career gap. Yes, I made a decision to start a family, and at a later age than most, thinking my career was established and secure. Or at least I thought.
I can hear their little brains ticking as I answer the questions; “she has children, she isn’t committed, she can’t travel, she can’t work 100 hours a week, work is not her first priority” HEX, HEX, HEX.
These people do not know me. They have no idea on the caliber of person they are turning away. I have worked my way up the food chain and built a career. It wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter. I earned it.
So now I ask myself, what has this “career break” really cost me? Let’s break it down:
loss of income
lost income growth
loss of identity
There is something very wrong with this story.
A 2014 survey from London Business School deemed “70% of women fear taking a career break”. How is this OK? Not only are women faced with a decision on wanting children (or not), they also need to consider the impact to their careers. What kind of system allows this to happen?
in 2016 women should not be trying to fit into the economy when we could be shaping it !
I have 5 different versions for my CV, all targeted at various levels and positions. I’m tailoring the darn thing to almost every position I apply for – it is work, tedious work. Maybe I need to start coding my job applications like Nina for AirBnB – which is uh-mazing btw, GO Nina!
Thankfully I have still retained my humour through all of this.
Women all over the globe are facing this same issue. We’re all being made to feel like second rate citizens because we decided to contribute to global population growth and boost the economy for years to come.
It is not good enough and I will not stand for it. Why are women targeted for something that was anatomically given to them and therefore, a right of passage to utilise. We are being penalised for having used our reproductive organs. Simple as that.
Recently I followed a startup called Apres. These ladies have provided a platform for women to learn and guide us back into the job hunt. It’s similar to LinkedIn but targeted specially at women seeking to return to work after their “career break”. I’m following closely and so far appreciate their service offering. They understand the psychology behind the “career break” and provide insightful information that can help challenge the negative cognitive thought process that comes with being a mum – who once upon a time, used to be ‘Somebody’ other than ‘Mum’.
It pains me to tears to write “career break”. I didn’t chose a break from my career. I chose to give life and nurture that life and help to make it the best life it can be. Isn’t that a job in itself? However ‘career break’ seems to be the PC term for our baby making phenomena.
This “career break” was handed to me on a platter of “suck it up love”. It is single handedly the largest and longest emotional roller coaster of life. There is no job task on this planet (besides world peace) that can be harder than being a mother or carer (if you want to get all PC on me). I raise anyone to challenge me on that – with of course, anactual job.
Not a day goes by that I regret my choice. My son teaches me how to be a better human every single day. I anticipated some career fall out, however, I not at this magnitude. I am forever the optimist and still believe getting back into the workforce can happen. For me it’s a question of language and geography, on top of the career gap issue. I’ve always been up for a challenge.
My advice to all the want-to-be mothers out there. Before you make a decision to go on a “career break” – plan wisely, strategise and set yourself up for some fallout. For some that may be returning to work sooner, for others that may be a financial contingency for your planned break. Engage with networks like Apres so you can be fully aware of expectation. If you take your career seriously, you owe it to yourself to be prepared.
As for me, I don’t go down without a fight. I prefer to F L Y.
p.s. Nina did get the job with AirBnB #CVGoals
p.s.s. With reference to the recent job rejection. No doubt there could be a million other reasons that I wasn’t successful in my interview. I would love to know. However, it is fair to determine the career gap is a significant contributing factor.
p.s.s.s Ladies, I’d love to hear your ‘return to work’ stories and any other feedback you may have on our plight. Leave me a comment and we’ll chat xo
A fair example of where I’m at thus far with my French but hey, I’m ecstatic to even be able to form a few words.
Adult learning difficulties are R E A L !
My toddler is more advanced in French than I am and he’s 2. Yes, 2.
No doubt he’ll be teaching me soon. Who am I kidding, he teaches me already with all the French books I’m forced to read at bedtime (courtesy of toddlers father who says I need to read in French for practice). Toddler has laughed at me whilst reading T’Choupi. Apparently it’s jaw breakingly funny when mummy reads in “Le Français” 😳. Truth be told I’m learning a bucketload of Frenchy stuff via toddler. It’s awesome.
As I watch our toddler venture into the world of talking, rather than nodding, grunting and pointing, I’m simply astonished at how quickly he’s picking up both languages. According to science, and who argues with science, 2 year olds can learn between 5-10 new words a day !
Now apply that to a bilingual child and you’ve got a walking word machine. A spelling bee champion in the making. However, these little sponges need a little help from the parentals in this department. It’s the parents/carers responsibility to expose toddler to new words. So parentals must have new words ready to go everyday. Today mine were:
“Please don’t put your food in your water”
“Get the straw out of your nose”
“Put your jocks back on”
“Let’s go do pipi in the potty before your bath”
“Oh no, mummy said no pipi’s in the bath !”
All jokes aside, the kid is killing it in the language department and I’m hiding behind him picking up his vocabulary and asking husband “what did you say to him?” Hey, I’ll take a language lesson anywhere I can !
We sometimes fall off the bike when it comes to leading by example … in my case, I’ve cracked a few helmets BUT remember parents out there, it’s never too late to get back on track.
Our little ones are like sponges. So innocent until we make them otherwise. We are their Google. We are their Encyclopaedia Britannica (or in my experience Funk & Wagnalls!).
My son has behaving out of character the last few days. He’s been a right little s#!t … and I’ve realised it’s my fault. I’ve been emotionally out of whack. A downright negativenancy. No one likes negative nancy, she’s boring AF.
Now, I’ve got good reasons to be feeling a little blue but my little boy doesn’t understand that. He just wants to play with his cars (on the TV) eat play doh and draw on the parquetry. All normal activities for a toddler 😩 😂
Last night I read a great article about how our kids behaviour can reflect the parents/carers emotions. I was riddled with guilt. So.Much.Guilt. I wonder how many parents are walking around carrying a fricktonne of guilt for the things they’ve done (big or small) to their offspring?! Parent’s do not despair, we are all in the same dinghy.
My husband and I are constantly reading about child psychology yet it’s so easy to forget and make the mistake. Justnot good enough. It’s my job to keep this kid emotionally stable. So girlfriend harden the fritz and sauce up and get better at it. Childhood is not a dry run for adulthood. What you do to your kids now will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Yes, I know, we’re all human and prone to making mistakes and yes our goal is to learn from them and move forward. So. My message to myself and all the other parentals out there;
Do the best you can. Then do it better. Don’t give up. Love and nurture the bejesus out of your kid(s), furbabies, whatever.
How our children behave is our responsibility. Never forget that. I know I won’t.
Today I attempted to have my 2+ year old’s hair cut. His very first hair cut. It’s a milestone moment.
My boy has beautiful golden locks, that curl in every which way thanks to the buhzillion cowlicks that made a pretty little home around his forehead and crown.
I’ve been putting this off since I’m far too emotional to part with his hair right now. Poor kid has been walking around gently pushing the hair away from his eyes and face. Although his Beyonce hand and head moves are the boss to watch, I knew it was time to do something about it.
I had my little pouch ready to put his beautiful golden locks into and cherish forever. Maybe even brush them and tie them up in a blue bow, then tuck them away safely with all his other ‘firsts’ in his little ‘firsts’ box. I am one of those Mums and proud of it.
So that went down like a lead balloon.
The poor hairdresser didn’t make it two feet near him before he screamed, thrashed around and cried. It was quite the show.
I tried sitting him on my lap with his Coilbook Counting Max and the Monster Trucks but not even his beloved cars could distract this kid.
The hairdresser attempted a few times and in the end said “Non! C’est pas possible” and sent me on my merry way.
So I took my bruised parenting ego home and consulted the Google Gods for the answers.
Apparently we need to go here ….
Until I find this toddler hairdressing heaven I will take my Mum’s and Auntie’s advice and cut his hair myself, when he is fast asleep.
Good customer service doesn’t stop at the transaction. It goes way beyond .. in fact, it’s a continuous dialogue if you are interested in retaining your customer.
As an avid online shopper I’ve contributed a significant amount of dollars to the sector over the years, having purchased from brand sites and marketplaces across several countries and always looking for the most cost effective solution. I’m generally not an impulse buyer. Yes, I do have some brand loyalty and in that case I can purchase within minutes. However, when I’m looking for a product/service that can be purchased over several medians at different prices, I do my homework. The process goes a little something like this:
Search Google Shopping for the product. Google aggregates some instances of that product which is available for sale online, from both brand stores and marketplaces e.g., directly from Darty or Amazon.
Review cost comparison, warranty, delivery/shipping and refund terms.
Review online shop reviews (especially if it’s somewhere I have never bought from before).
Go back and check the Search results from the first and second page as Google Shopping doesn’t capture everything. Very rarely do I go to page 3. The first page of search results can be weighed down by paid or sponsored advertising so a lot of sites are being pushed back to page 2. An entirely different subject but worth the mention.
Walk away from my desktop or phablet and ponder i.e., think of other important items to check up on and search e.g, maybe an upcoming flash sale to take advantage of.
Do the research.
Eventually make a purchase and feel satisfied it was an educated one. No regrets.
So why am I mentioning this?
Because customers put a lot of effort into their shopping process both online and offline and they want to feel they can trust the business they have invested their personal resource in.
And why is it important for businesses to know this?
Because knowing how your customers are reaching you and how they are evaluating their customer experience is pivotal to your acquisition and retention rates and your overall brand position. Businesses need to understand there processes you can put in place to improve the customer experience starting from the point of search through to after sales support. It’s the whole deal. Customer service does not end at the transaction.
You have competition peoples. Just because you send me a cute EDM every day/week, tweet a bit and have a Facebook page, it doesn’t mean I’m going to buy from you repeatedly. In fact, if you are sending me email everyday (SPAM) you are likely in my “delete immediately list”.
On that particular note, find someone to help you understand how digital marketing can really work for your business, and create a social media and content marketingstrategy which is relevant to your business. It’s not one size fits all but that is a different post.
How you treat me and how you make me feel makes all the difference.
For those with the ‘smarts’, we understand and care about the customerexperience. We know how it correlates to the business’s bottom line. We know it drives revenue and saves cost. We know the value is not just in the sale. The true value is in the customer experience.
One of the most important factors for any business is understanding that customer retention should outweigh customer acquisition since we know there is more profit in retention. That being said, “profit” is not only financial.It’s not always about the dollar. Businesses must start trading with a “human” currency as well.
Customers need to experience all the good “feels”. It’s all about the feels.
If you’re interested in CXM, here’s a few stats hot off the press for 2016 courtesy of Sprinklr (such a good read and hits so many nails on the head – thanks Sprinklr)
Take a few minutes to digest these statistics and then ask yourself – “where does my business stand now, where do I need to be, and how can I improve it”?
Logistics: an example of how a breakdown in process between supplier and courier results in a poor customer experience.
Recently our TV bit the dust, so we did the research and purchased a new unit from the second largest marketplace in France. Largest in terms of unique visitors per month and per day. It’s large, not China stats large, but a hefty visitor presence nonetheless.
Order confirmation states the delivery date as 2nd May 2016 between 8am and 2pm. Note it doesn’t say it’s an estimated date, it’s a firm date. We schedule accordingly to ensure we’re home to receive delivery.
How does the customer feel – the date sets the customers expectation. With that information comes a sense of trust.
On the morning of Thursday 28th April I ran a few errands. I arrived home just before midday and checked the letterbox. I find a delivery slip – “You missed us”. The delivery slip says the package is 12 pounds. Heavy. Can only be the TV.
How does the customer feel – Instant disappointment in the validity of the original delivery date. Trust broken.
Husband calls the customer service number shown on the delivery slip. It’s automated and costs .18EU a minute.
How does the customer feel – Ripped off. The company now wants the customer to pay for the after sales call to follow up on an order that shouldn’t have been delivered yet.
The delivery slip doesn’t have any other method of tracking the package and therefore the customer is required to call the number.
How does the customer feel – Extorted. Simple.
Husband calls the machine (from his mobile) and waits (Husband is at work and waits considerable time for a human).
How does the customer feel – Time is money.
Eventually a human arrives and tells him “you weren’t home so we have to reschedule delivery”.
How does the customer feel – Thank you for letting me know you were coming earlier, how very courteous and professional of you.
Husband “why didn’t you contact me to advise of early delivery”.
Courier “because we don’t have your phone number”.
Husband “Why don’t you have our phone number?”
Courier: “Because <insert marketplace name> does not provide us with those details”.
I’m sorry, not good enough.
No doubt many of you have experienced this same situation. Frankly, it’s inexcusable with the level of tech available to us. Information sharing is key.
They had one thing to do, just one. Call.
How many people out there will never order from this company again after this experience? A bucketload. So many thoughts run through my mind:
why, why, why is it so hard to make a call? We all have a phone, the stats say so.
where was the breakdown? Marketplace > original supplier > courier company?
how are their backend systems set up ERP > Warehouse distribution > Courier?
did no human being have the common sense to check the customer was home?
why don’t they care?
so many things can be done to prevent these situations occurring.
I must point out this is not a once off occurrence nor is it specific to this particular marketplace. It happens all the time across bricks and mortar stores, to brand sites, to marketplaces. There is no discrimination when it comes to poor customer service. Another example:
On a separate occasion I answered the intercom to a delivery guy and gave him our level details (we live in an apartment building). At the same time, he was on the phone and I heard him tell someone we weren’t home to accept the delivery. I could see him through the camera and he responded to me when I spoke! He left a delivery note in my letterbox instead, which forced me to go to the post office to pick up the package. How very convenient. Poetic since the point of online shopping is to increase convenience.
Recently a friend of mine ‘received’ a package from a courier that simply threw it on her driveway, jumped in the car and drove off. Seriously?! Are we that short in cash to put extra drivers on the road to service clients properly, or are these drivers just incapable of fulfilling their duties?
Maybe we need to start putting KPI’s in place for courier companies and their drivers to deliver according to the set criteria, e.g., in the letterbox or at the door, not thrown on the driveway. Perhaps westartsurveying the delivery drivers – just like we do in Uber. How many Stars and Comment?
We definitely need accountability. We don’t need 10% off our next purchase (but thanks for offering) we need you to step up to the plate and treat us with the respect we deserve, because frankly, that is why your business is still afloat.
On a positive note, our TV was delivered Friday 29th (as they promised). The delivery guy wouldn’t bring the package to the door as he his vehicle was obstructing the traffic in the street. I get that. So I went downstairs and asked him to at least help me get it into the lift.
He did, and he was nice about it. He was friendly and smiley and guess what, it gave me good feels.
In today’s lesson I accomplished everything and nothing. This is how it went …
2 hour commute to my 2 hour French lesson – way on the other side of Paris. 3 tram stops and 4 metro stations changes later. I’m exhausted before I get there. So many numbers already.
I meet my tutor M in the local bar/cafe and pop a Panadol with my “thé aux fruits rouge”. Really hitting the hard stuff this morning.
We begin. I learn. Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, indefinite, definite and possessive articles all determined by gender (masculine/feminine) and whether they’re flying solo (singular) or at a party (plural). M says “indefinite article” to me and I nod politely but really my mind goes blank. I’m supposed to remember this. I’d like to know exactly how many people read and go “oh there’s an indefinite article, a noun and a verb and there’s that doing word thingo”. Do you?
Moving on from my English Lit failure …
M taught me how to count. It’s very similar to Italian so it seems like a no brainer for me. Then you hit 60 and sh*t gets real. For example:
60 is written soixante.
70 is written soixante dix, because 60 + 10 = 70.Dix being 10. OK. Stay with me.
71 is written soixante et onze, because 60 + 11 = 71. Onze being 11. Still there?
72 is soixante douze, 60 + 12 = 72. Douze being 12 …. and so on, until you get to the mothers of all the numbers, 80 and 90.
8o is written quatre-vingts, because 4 x 20 = 80. Just let that sink in for a minute.
90 is written quatre-vingt dix, because 4 x 20 = 80 + 10 = 90. Got it? Nailed it right.
Picture this …
You’re at the checkout with no digital display to show you the total amount due. It’s common in the local stores here, at the butcher and the baker the candlestick maker.
You’re still working out the coin sizes (1 and 2 cent pieces still exist). The assistant tells you in the fastest of French, which sometimes has a Chinese or Vietnamese accent, “douze euros et quatre-vingt quatorze centimes”.
???????? WTHeck ????????? “My Whole Brain is Crying”
Your mind goes AWOL. You search around in your purse attempting to cover up the fact you have no idea what they just said by looking for change, whilst you’re frantically trying to reiterate the words in your mind to come up with a ’round about number. You cannot work it out so you mumble “je n’ai pas la bonne monnaie” (I don’t have the right change) and hand over a bank note. Defeated.
This has been me on countless occasions. I’ve boycotted stores for this very reason. I prefer to support the local guys so I really need to get better at this change thing.
If you are still trying to work out that number, it’s €12.94. Easy! Ha.