It can be hard to see what is obvious to others; that you have the skills, experience and contacts you need to create the career path you want. This month’s Inspiring Parent is Claire Nicoll, who is creating a new work-life balance and career progression for herself following redundancy. Her journey to entrepreneurship is an interesting one, and I hope by sharing her story, it will inspire you to see change as an opportunity.
Over to you Claire!
My name is Claire Nicoll. I was employed until I was made redundant earlier this year! Now I’m self-employed and developing my own business. Being made redundant wasn’t a pleasant process – I was told it wasn’t personal but much of what I experienced meant it felt very personal and that was the hardest thing to deal with. I didn’t really mind being made redundant and as it turns out, I’m really quite enjoying life as a result!
Even though the redundancy was the trigger to go self-employed, I had been wanting and needing a change for some time. I had become very frustrated with my job and needed a new challenge. I was very comfy in my role – I could do it and it had always been home based, even before I had kids. And I worked 4 days a week – perfect, you would think! It was for a long time but when I started looking for a new challenge, I soon discovered that if I wanted to use my brain and skills, the employment market was only offering full time roles away from home. This just wasn’t going to work for me and my family for many reasons. So, I knew I needed to start thinking outside the box and see what else might be open to me. My search started at the Mums Enterprise Roadshow in Birmingham in October 2017, where I met many amazing ladies and organisations. It set me on a journey to realise that my situation wasn’t just about me, but lots of other people are stuck in roles that under utilise their skills because having flexibility is such a high priority.
I’ve been working for over 20 years and have gained lots of transferable skills and experience. I’m great at organising, developing projects, making things happen and I’m a qualified trainer with an English degree! I did wonder for a long time if I lacked skills and needed to retrain, but I learnt that not being able to find a job with flexibility was about lack of flexible jobs being offered, not because I didn’t have skills and experience.
I’m now self-employed and doing Associate work for some different organisations. One I have been connected with for a while, the other is new. The work I’m doing builds on the skills and knowledge I already have. The work has come from honest discussions about how I want and need to work and that is being respected. As an Associate, I work on an hourly or daily rate so I’m not actually employed. This might seem insecure but it’s great for me just now as it means I can take on work that I enjoy and continue to gain new skills and experience. I can take up opportunities that interest me and I can avoid getting stuck again!
A key challenge has been developing a business idea that will work. I’ve known for some time that I want to work to fill the gap between people who want to work flexibly and employers offering it. As well as taking some time to look after me following redundancy, I’ve also been able to explore new networks and research about flexible working and people’s perceptions of it. As well as consider what I can contribute to changing the culture and perceptions of flexible working in the future. I’ve met some amazing people over the last few months who have given me ideas and support. Clara’s coaching has also been invaluable to help turn my woolly ideas into manageable actions! (Thank you Claire, the cheques in the post: CW)
I’ve been surprised by just how much I’ve learnt since coming out of a paid employment role. I was stuck in a comfort zone and by moving out of the comfort zone, I’ve finally been able to learn and explore new things which has been so refreshing. You may recall a quote in “The Greatest Showman”, “comfort is the enemy of progress” – this is so true! I really feel like I’m progressing professionally now, and it’s an amazing journey.
If you’re a parent and want to work flexibly, keep hold of that dream and why you want to do it. If you’re having difficulty finding a flexible role or trying to get some flexibility in your current role and not having much luck, please know that it is not you! It’s just the way the world of work is right now. Some employers can find it really hard to change the culture of their organisation and how it works, that’s even if they want to! But keep your goal in mind and explore as much as you can to find what suits you. There are many people out there who are passionate about flexible work and making it a reality, so I do believe there will be many opportunities for those who need it in the future.
If you are going through a big career change at the moment, it can feel scary. Hopefully, Claire’s story will have given you some insight into how you can use the change as a catalyst for doing something new; self-employment, career change or even retrain. Once you are clear on what YOU WANT, then you can make plans to make it happen.