The fine art of balancing a career and family

I recently had the opportunity to present at a Women’s Networking Forum. As a long time participant in this forum I was faced with a mixture of excitement and nerves at the thought of presenting to a group of my peers, many of whom are now clients and friends. Did I mention I agreed to do this at 6 weeks post-partum? Yes, timing may not have been the best but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped head first and hoped for the best…

With sleep deprivation only a mother of a newborn can relate to, it may not have been my greatest of delivery, but I hope my points still resonated with those in attendance, especially the ladies in the early stages of their career.

In 2014, I was faced with redundancy after 7 years in a Senior Environmental role. These days through a series of unexpected opportunities, I am on my fourth year as a freelancer, providing HSE and Quality Management support to a number of small and medium sized enterprises as well as large corporate clients, all whilst being a proud mother of 2 year old Mackenzie and 3 months old Abigail.

Here I reflect on key items that have enabled me to sustain a freelance career, be professionally satisfied whilst raising a young family and juggling the two.

  1. Get on the driver’s seat of your career planning

Expand your skills and knowledge, it will not only assist you in your current role but also position yourself to take on new challenges, remembering career progression does not necessarily need to be an upwards move, it can also be a sideways one.

In my last year of employment, I decided to become a lead auditor to the Quality, Environment and Safety ISO standards, this opened up opportunities into my first freelance gig carrying out third party audits.

I now have to make a personal financial investment into my professional development, so I consider not only my own interests but also those of my current clients and the current market conditions, so I can best position myself to continually grow and add value to current and potential clients.

  1. Develop, grow and nurture your network

There is a wealth of knowledge out there and many generous people willing to share their knowledge and experience. Find people you can learn from and people you may be able to assist in their career path. I take great pride in connecting people who may otherwise have not crossed paths and can assist one another. On the same token, I have met some of my current clients through networking events, not because I was pushing my business card under their noses, but because I established rapport and maintained contact with them since our first meet.

  1. Voice your career goals and aspirations

Following from above, if you share your career goals and aspirations with key people, they may be able to sponsor you for opportunities aligned to your goals and aspirations or simply let you know when one is available. As one of my clients was expanding, I saw the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience. I invested in a relevant training course and let them know I was keen to assist in the project’s approvals. Although I did not get that particular opportunity, when another opportunity came along, they thought of me. Before I knew it, I had a couple of approvals under my belt.

  1. Have a Mentor

I took part of a group mentorship program and not only did I gain great career advice, I made some long lasting relationships. A mentor reminds us that what we want is possible, we may learn from their journey but they also assist us in problem solving through asking the right questions of us.

  1. Back yourself

We all face moments of self-doubt, especially when stepping out of our comfort zone. When the dreaded imposter syndrome sets in, I contact those people whose opinion I value, who also happen to be the ones to pep me up. Be confident in order to instil confidence in others.

  1. Ask for help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and does not detract from you. I have a network of peers whom I call to bounce ideas off or ask for their input to help me gain different perspectives.

As for the what the future holds, I look forward to the challenge of expanding my knowledge and experience to continue in my freelance journey, assisting clients through their own business growth and through their success, take the opportunity to share the ride with others.