So many mums I speak to can’t see their (exponential) potential when it comes to their skills and strengths. It’s not only mums though, some employers can’t see what mums (and dads for that matter) bring to the table. This was reaffirmed for me when Karthik Hariharan posted on LinkedIn to say his wife had been asked at interview about childcare, what her husband did, whether she had a nanny etc (you can read the whole post here) which made my blood boil. For starters, I think it’s none of an employer’s business what childcare you have in place – if you are applying for a role then it’s up to you to have it sorted before you start (if you even get the job) and secondly, they missed the point. As a mum, you bring SO much to an organisation.
Career lessons learnt from motherhood
When I ask a client what skills they used/learnt in their last role, most people can reel off a list. If I ask the same question of a mum then I almost always get an embarrassed look and lots of umm’s. The truth is that as mums we acquire (and perfect) loads of highly employable skills and qualities, none of which we usually acknowledge, let alone broadcast to the world.
Seven skills which demonstrate your exponential potential.
Here are 7 highly-valuable work skills and experience that mums acquire from becoming a mum, often out of necessity! You can add them to your CV, personal statements or use them as interview answers…or even better, you can talk to other mums about them so we spread the word. I would also encourage you to talk to an employer about this so they can see the value in hiring a mum too.
You know when you mentally run through all of the things you need to do; choosing the most important tasks and those which can be delegated (or relegated) at a later stage. You might think that you are just getting through the day, mostly not doing what you set out to….but I bet if there is something really important like picking up the kids from school, answering an email enquiry and getting the shopping done, you tick those off the list. Sure, the dusting might not get done (who does dusting anyway?) but that’s ok; it’s not critical. This is all about planning, knowing what has to happen and what gaps need to be filled.
These are the same planning and organisation skills you use at work when prioritising a project or juggling meetings/emails and writing that report on your to-do list. It’s just a different context.
You know that moment when you are heading out of the door and one child pukes all over themselves as the other decides now is the *perfect* time to remove their nappy and get undressed? No? Just me then. What do you do? I bet if faced with that situation, you, like me, would get on with sorting it out. All mums need to be calm, collected and resourceful in a crisis. You need to be able to patch up wounds, tend to sick children, and dealing capably with when siblings turn violent.
Now imagine that you have got to work, your best client is threatening to cancel the contract because their finances are looking precarious and well, something has to give. Or perhaps the hotel at the event you are running has run out of red wine. Or maybe, two of your team has stopped working productively together and now it’s all sarcasm and it’s getting a little awkward. See, it’s the same problem-solving-quick-thinking-stay-calm-in-a-crisis set of skills.
Never underestimate your creative abilities when you’re a parent. If you have made up stories, talked in funny voices, played games on long car journeys. If you have drawn a (semi-) recognisable face or watched your child’s face light up when they have been sad a minute ago. If you have done these things or more, then you, my friend, are creative. Imagine the difference you could make at work if you believed you could.
Whether you are having to have a difficult conversation with your nursery, teacher, another child, your own child or perhaps another parent, we all need to communicate effectively. This requires sympathy, empathy and the ability to get your point across calmly (see above). You also have to tailor your language to your audience and speak plainly.
You might be trying to influence a decision or act (kids getting shoes on for example) or sowing a seed in your partner’s head to make them think they came up with an idea themselves. You may be negotiating bedtime or standing firm against the barrage of kicks or the silence of disappointment when you say no to another sweetie. Either way, some of these situations require superhuman influence and negotiation skills to convince a stubborn and often downright unreasonable person to do as you want/need.
If you need a work situation for this…imagine negotiating a salary increase, flexible working or taking on a risky project or proposal. I hope you are beginning to see how all of these skills cross over?
Coaching and mentoring
On an hourly basis, I use more of my coaching and mentoring skills on my daughters and crucially, on myself than I do with my clients. We have to tutor, mentor and coach our kids on a daily basis. From understanding their capabilities and finding the patience to teach and guide them through their development. I always say my job is to keep my kids safe but actually, it’s to bring out their best qualities. To equip them for the world by giving them confidence and independence to be a success at whatever they turn their hand to.
We listen to them when they have had a falling out with their best friend in all the world when they don’t win the prize for the best-dressed bear or any time they feel sad, angry or happy! We help prop them us, help them get a different perspective, encourage them to have another go, and give them tools to make life easier.
That sounds like a skill set of an amazing team member or even better, a leader. No?
I organised my daughter’s 4th birthday party as a pirate and princess theme. We wanted to do it outside on the estate we live on. I roped in my friends, their kids. I planned activities, costumes, cakes…as I write this I am so proud! It was awesome…though I may have made a rod for my own back. Anyway, as a mum you manage projects of all shapes and sizes – from events like Christmas, summer holidays and birthdays to those day-to-day events like getting everyone out the door on time, the shopping and ensuring you have adequate supplies of clothes, wipes and snacks. NEVER forget the snacks.
All of these projects require pre-planning and execution in the moment or on the day. Not unlike an event at work or a large project.
Parents are constantly thrown into the deep end and expected to learn how to swim. There is no instruction manual for bringing up children and quite frankly I am glad. I discovered so much more about myself and my capabilities since 2013. Yes, some days I muddle through, I am tired and fuzzy-headed. I risk huge failure and wild success. I learn on the job and I have to make it work. I remember that difficult times pass, as do the good times. I always remind myself that I only know what I know. Either way though, if I look at the things I can do now that I couldn’t before…well, it’s a pretty good list. What does yours look like?
When you start a new job it seems daunting, impossible sometimes. You might wonder how you are ever going to learn it all. I remember one of my bosses once saying to me…’don’t worry, you aren’t going to kill anyone with bad advice’ – it put it into perspective.
Start shouting about your exponential potential now!
So if you’re thinking about putting your CV together after a break from work, or putting yourself forward as a freelancer or potential business partner, or looking to impress an investor, don’t overlook the amazing skills and qualities you’ve learned over the last few months and years. Broadcast your skills proudly and ensure anyone considering working with you understands just how accomplished, trustworthy and experienced you are – all the more so for being a mum.