Fiona Meyer: Business mentor of the year

Mum-of-two Fiona Meyer has been named Business Mentor of the Year in the Yell Mentoring Works Awards 2011, in recognition of her efforts to help people via online mentoring site  Here, Fiona gives advice to

Mum-of-two Fiona Meyer has been named Business Mentor of the Year in the Yell Mentoring Works Awards 2011, in recognition of her efforts to help people via online mentoring site  Here, Fiona gives advice to

Fiona is co-founder of Now Training, which provides managed learning services to large corporates.  Now Training was set up 14 years ago by Fiona and her husband, Tony. “We always had it in our plan to one day work together and when Tony was unexpectedly made redundant, we decided the timing for Now Training was right,’’ said Fiona.  ‘’Our son had just started school, our daughter was going into juniors, so, for us, it was taking the opportunity to realise our ambitions whilst also accommodating the needs of a young family.” 
The couple met 24 years ago working for NCR corporation.  Fiona, 48, from Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, has had a long and varied career in both administration and HR roles.  She started out at government benefits offices in Birmingham , then moved from the public to the private sector when she was employed as a HR manager at a Japanese bank in London.  During a career break to have a family, she set up her own freelance project for an advertising agency so that she could have the flexibility to earn an income whilst fitting her work around her children’s schedule.  Her children are Hayley, 22, and George, 19.

Q: How has your background given you insight into the problems that working mums face when they they’re trying to go back to work after maternity leave or a career break?

A: ‘’I really understand and can empathise with some of the problems associated with going back to work after a career break because not only have I faced the situation myself but I’ve also met countless women on my journey who have been through the process. Talking about our experiences highlighted some personal issues which affected us to varying degrees during this phase, such as a new-found lack of confidence or assertiveness acquired simply as a result of being away from the workplace, and the anticipation of a changed environment where we may have to start from scratch learning the new procedures and whether we can adjust and learn quickly enough.  Also, there is often stress or anxiety experienced whilst adjusting to change and new routines, learning to successfully juggle these with existing childcare responsibilities, along with the sometimes tricky subject of negotiating flexibility with our working schedules in order to achieve a suitable work/life balance. When I began the project of setting up the administrative side of Now Training I felt many of the things I’ve mentioned – creating a system and procedures was a bit daunting as technology had definitely moved on from where I’d left off. However, I soon found that they were all just little hurdles that were very quickly overcome and I also discovered that in my time away I had developed excellent organisational and time management skills.  My approach is to break problems down into bite-sized pieces, to offer my perspective and, where appropriate, suggest ideas and potential solutions.  Most importantly, I always ensure my mentees go away with lots of positives.  I really draw on my own life experiences and I think people respond to my openness and honesty.’’

 Q: Do you have any specific advice for mums who want to ask for flexible working so they can seek a better work-life balance and see to their family commitments?

A: ‘’The advice I would give to mums who want flexible working is to go ahead and ask for what hours they want and can comfortably commit to, e.g. school hours, or Monday to Thursday etc…Arrange a time to sit down with your employer to discuss possible ways forwards.  Depending on the nature and size of a business an employer may be able to agree with your terms easily or they may suggest compromises such as doing a certain amount of work from home, coming in earlier, leaving later, doing longer days and less of them etc.  A good employer knows they will get the very best from staff if they are happy and have enough flexibility with their schedules to promote a harmonious personal life which naturally leads to a more productive employee.’’

Q: What advice do you give to people today in a time of economic uncertainty and predicted jobs loss?  

A: ‘’Working as a volunteer business mentor on Horsesmouth, I have seen an increase in the last year in people who are experiencing redundancy and job losses, those whose jobs are under threat and those who just haven’t been able to find work due to the economic downturn regardless of age, skill or experience.  It just so widespread. My advice to them is not to take the rejection personally since the recession has and continues to affect thousands of businesses who are cutting back daily.  They are not alone.  I encourage them to persist in actively looking for work, possibly diversifying into other areas to consider all of the options out there, keep active and healthy, network with others and only anticipate success.  I am a great believer that when one door closes another opens.  This is a time of great change and people are naturally fearful of change, so I recommend that whilst going through difficult times one should simply take each day as it comes and live it the best you can.’’


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