New year’s resolutions

It’s here – 2012; the year of the Olympics, or the year of the supposed Mayan apocalypse, depending on which you think is the most appropriate. You’ve made it through 2011 so now it’s time to harness your powers to surge into another new year. gives you some tips on how to prepare.

1. Looking for a new job? It might seem that you face a huge uphill task at the moment, especially if you have taken time out to look after small children. Confidence is key. Remind yourself of your skills and experience, not just in the work sphere but also in voluntary roles and in terms of how parenting skills you have gained can be transferred to the work arena. It can also help to treat the whole job search as a job in itself so you clock off at a certain time each day and give yourself a break from thinking about it.
Think creatively about the kind of jobs you can do with your professional background and cast your contacts net wide. Even if you are not actively looking for a job, you should keep all your lines of communication open, for instance, link up with like-minded career-related groups on LinkedIn, follow people in your industry on Twitter, keep up with friends and ex-colleagues on social networks like Facebook. Arrange to meet up, even if it is just for a coffee. Keep your options as wide open as possible. It’s also vital that you know your bottom line regarding flexible working, but be prepared to negotiate. You may not want to work five days a week, but could you do so if one or two days were from home, for instance?

2. Seeking flexible working? If you’re already in a job, but wanting to work more flexibly think carefully about how you will approach your manager. Try to put yourself in their position and present your preferred work pattern as of benefit to both your employer and you. It is worth, for instance, doing some research beforehand on how your proposed work pattern will affect your colleagues.
Perhaps you could tailor your job in such a way that you take some strain off them  by taking on tasks that other people don’t like doing or find arduous? Flexible work legislation is all about negotiation so use all those parenting skills to come up with a good business case and allow some wriggle room so you can meet somewhere in the middle if your first proposal isn’t met with an instant yes.

3. Thinking of working for yourself from home? Consider all the possibilities. If you want to reduce the risk of starting a business, a franchise offers a tried and tested business model. If you prefer the cut and thrust of starting up your own business from scratch, Workingmums’ careers section has lots of advice.
One of the upsides of working for yourself from home is having more control over your work life balance, although you may have to work long hours at first to establish your business. You can also consider yourself a mentor to your children and get them interested in helping out, even if it is only to explain Excel to you or to stuff envelopes. Tell yourself [and them] that you are equipping them with the skills they will need for the future world of work.

4. Feeling over-advised? Parenting advice is everywhere these days. If it’s not on the telly or in a plethora of books and pamphlets, it’s on the internet or in the playground. Listen to it politely – after all, everyone is entitled to a point of view – and then do whatever you think is right for your family. Hone your sensory radar to spot mothers on a mission. Agree with them about whatever it is e.g. that children should only eat organic and never watch tv or you will be subjected to a long lecture. Ensure your children don’t say or do something that totally lets the side down eg entering clutching a cheesestring and reeling off a list of Disney Channel’s latest plotlines.

5. Feeling over-stressed about dealing with those childcare emergencies? Talk to other mums like you in the school playground/on the nursery run. Cast your net as wide as possible to ensure maximum dividends. Throw children’s parties and invite the parents in en masse and ply them with cake. Collect lots of phone numbers and call in the favours one by one. Remember to repay every favour so that you create a virtuous favour circle.

6. Finally, resolve once again to rediscover your partner, if you have one, and yourself. You may have forgotten who you are so give yourself a regular time slot in your week to do something you enjoy, even if that is only having a bath alone reading a book that does not have Biff and Chip in it.

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