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career break

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Week one down.

I’m hurting though. 

Throw three years out of work together with an intense week of induction in French – suffering. The good kind.

So here’s a quick and condensed version of my first week back in the force:

  • First day, arrived home and passed out on the couch by 8:30pm.   
  • PC is fossilised. Yes, I said PC. Haven’t used Windows for 10 years. It’s a brick. I can make and drink a coffee in the time it needs to start up. 
  • Received my HP dinosaur on day 3. I’m told that’s pretty good in comparison to some others. Not complaining.
  • Contacted IT help desk. Received a response 2 days later. 
  • No webmail. 
  • VPN requires a dongle.
  • INTERNET EXPLORER …..
  • WHERE AM I?????
  • Chrome allowed but no google apps. 
  • No cloud.
  • Had many “where am I” moments.
  • French everything. Induction, keyboard (I’m sorry but QWERTY, ok), applications, documentation, training. So much French. Drowning. Assimilating. 
  • Heinous blisters on feet from several pairs of “comfortable” shoes. They looked comfy when I bought them but MURDERERS.
  • Got my first Program. Some newbies have been waiting weeks – feeling chuffed. 
  • Office is LIT. Beautiful. Great location. 4 tram stops from home. Winning! 
  • Had an oral French test and failed. Teacher suggested 2 weeks intensive training. I should be ashamed but I’m not. Actually content in knowing I can only get better.
  • Rooftop will be completed next week. Priceless. 


My current view. Not too shabby.

For every “where am I” moment there are a bahzillion “I’m so freaking lucky” moments so pretty much all the things I mentioned above are  trivial in the grand scheme of things.

Looking forward to week two.

Bon week-end a tous ! 

Photo credit: giphy. Arrested Development, my fav. 

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Patience Is a Virtue but Perserverance Is Key

Two years.

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. 

Two years.

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.

Two years.

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. 

Believe.  

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. 

I start Monday, 12 June with Renault Digital.

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. 

What Does a Career Break Really Cost You?

What if I fall quote
One of my favourite quotes by Erin Hanson. Wise lady that Erin.
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
  • career advancement
  • retirement benefits
  • career confidence
  • loss of identity
  • imposter/fraud syndrome
  • anxiety

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, an actual 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

Image credit: theglobewanderers.com.

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