I was very lucky to win a ticket to go to last Saturday’s Workfest hosted by Mumsnet at Bafta in London.
Although I won the ticket through my blog I was not under any obligation to blog about the event, drum up business or do any sort of sponsorship for it. I am going to write about it though, because it was a very inspirational day and I picked up a more than a few tips that I’d like to pass on to you all. As one of the keynote speakers said; “We are all in this together”!
I won’t pretend I wasn’t incredibly nervous about the day. I didn’t really know what to expect and although I had pre-booked my breakout sessions I was thinking it was going to be a bit like an expo with lots of stands all trying to entice you in and sell their idea. It couldn’t have been further from the truth and I think that’s why I was so pleasantly surprised. I also thought I’d be a bit “billy no mates” as people would go in groups, but that also wasn’t the case. I would say that close to 100% of the delegates who attended, went alone. Which of course meant that every coffee break or the lunch break, was an opportunity to chat to the person sitting next to you, listening to their working life vs home life story and discuss our aspirations for the future. At no point did I feel lonely or uncomfortable.
I arrived at around 9am for registration and coffee/tea and pastries. This was my first opportunity to discover how lovely it was to be chatting to other working mums. Within 5 minutes I was talking to a woman who had a parallel life to mine, right down to the job she did and the people she managed. Bizarre!
We were then ushered into the Lecture theatre for the Welcome and Introduction and the Keynote Panel. I didn’t take any notes as this was laying down the common issues we all face as working mums. The Panel were made up of a pretty inspirational bunch of women, notably Lorraine Candy, Editor of Elle, who pointed out that production of the magazine had been altered to accommodate her hours. Justine Roberts, CEO from Mumsnet, Sarah Brinkley who was a head teacher who has done all sorts of permeatations of part-time working, Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu, Amanda Mackenzie from Aviva and the Chair was Gaby Hinsliff who is a journalist and author. They covered such topics as starting your own business with young children to the split of housework between both parents. “Share your housework.Stop emasculating men.Give them some power in raising their children.Share housework=better marriage”. Something I am quite passionate about myself. Not really sure why, in this day and age we are still doing the bulk of childcare and cleaning.
After the keynote panel we went into our Breakout sessions. I went to the CV session but I could have also gone to “build your confidence” or “Running a franchise”. I found the session really useful. Here are some of my notes:
- Keep your CV simple
- On average it takes 45 seconds for someone to read your CV. That means sometimes it might be 20 seconds. Make sure that in those 45 seconds the points you want to get across are put across. Ask a friend to read your CV and time them. Find out what they see. Move your CV around if the wrong things are being picked up.
- Nowadays there is no need to put date of birth or marital status. Keep your name and address and email on 3 lines maximum. Don’t fill up the top quarter of your CV with a fancy, centrally aligned address.
- Don’t put useless interests on there and if you do put interests on your CV, write around them. Don’t put “reading” down. Say “Reading thrillers when I get the chance”. That tells the reader you are busy and you like thrillers. Lots of people “read”.
- Personal statements aren’t highly regarded, especially when spoken about in the third person and “big upped”. For example “Rachael is an exceptional Project Manager, with the skills to deliver….” You’ve written it yourself. Of course you’re exceptional. Better still to write around facts in your business history, pinpointing the challenges and achievements you’ve made.
- If you can put a third dimension activity on your CV, all the better. Charity work for example. This can be very helpful if you’ve taken time off from work to raise children. Keep your hand in doing something, so there is no gap in your CV.
- If you have a degree, put that in first on education. Don’t mention A levels or GCSEs. If you don’t have a degree, don’t have an education section.
- Latest employment is always first!
- Keep your CV to one page
We then had a morning break, more chat and then off to my second breakout session. I went to Personal Branding with Zena Everett but there was another “Build your confidence” session and “Get Ready for Business” which was run by Barclays, one of the sponsors of the day.
My session was very helpful and dovetailed beautifully with the CV one. It focussed on remembering that you are a brand and you project that brand onto others, so you need to work out what you want to project before hand. She says “Stop LOOKING for work. Create an opportunity”. 20% of all jobs are advertised, including through recruitment agencies. That means 80% of openings are created or managed via companies being approached directly.
- There were 4 key things to bear in mind and unfortunately I only scribbled down 3, but these were “be visibly good at your job”, “Have a good reputation in your own job”, “Project a good reputation outwardly to others too”. You can do this via linkedin, this is used a lot by employers. By keeping your CV up to date on Linkedin, you are doing all of the above, reminding your current employer about how good you are too, so don’t feel you will look like you are touting for a new job.
- Be specific about what you can do for an employer / client and do people favours. If you do favours for other people, they will do the same for you. You never know, that might be a job in the future.
- On average employers receive 300 CV’s per job, they need to cull, so if you apply to a job that requires a qualification you don’t have, don’t bother. They won’t read through your CV to find out what other skills you have. However, you may find a way to create the skill based on what you do now, so think outside the box. If they ask for communication skills, demonstrate this.
- Write this out, fill it in, memorise it and use it in interviews: “I am a person who can…………and…………and……….. I am looking for an organisation that is/needs/does……………….. and…………………………………….
- CV is a marketing piece. Sell yourself!
I noted much more, but don’t want to write it all down here.
After a really lovely hot lunch and an opportunity to win a new car by doing an “elevator pitch” with Honda (which was lots of fun to do after I got over my nerves), I went to “Taking the Plunge” but also available was “Returning to work” and “Build your confidence”.
Taking the plunge was chaired by Carol Smillie who had recently started her own business and she was so slick and perfect in the role of chair, the whole Panel discussion worked really well. We had Lynne Franks from SEED (the inspiration for Eddy in AbFab), Kate Hardcastle, Katie Powell and Gemma Payne. Perfect split of experience and new businesses. Gemma ran a small craft business from her house. I quite liked the idea of this workshop even though I have no immediate plans to start my own business. Here are some gems from the discussion:
- Make sure you have a good business plan, even if it’s just a single A4 page scribbled with info about projections, margins and marketing plans, what is your product? Market research is essential.
- Find a mentor. Banks will often help you create a business plan. There are a lot of mentoring websites that will hook you up with someone, but perhaps you have a friend who runs a business and you can use them
- Get a business idea that fits around your life.
- Do a wishlist but accept you won’t get all of it.
- It is difficult but not impossible to run a business alongside your day job
- Be strict about your working hours, be flexible but when you are with your children, don’t dip in and out of work.
- It can be isolating running your own business so focus on your confidence levels and keep reminding yourself what an amazing job you are doing.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. Making mistakes is a learning opportunity.
- Set small targets and congratulate yourself at every stage as you climb your “Everest”.
I took so many more notes, but can’t share them all here. I found this the best session of the day!
My final breakout session was the weakest. It was about online marketing and spent a lot of time explaining google ads (which I guess, I now understand) but I thought was too detailed. Then a bit about creating a Facebook page for your business (did you know you can sell from that page? for Free? I didn’t). Overall though I found this information too simple. I didn’t take as much from this session as I had hoped, but I’m sure there is a need to have a session like this. Maybe one for beginners and those that already have their own business. I’m sure some people found it very useful.
We then had 2 Keynote speeches at the end. The first one was by Thomasina Miers who was a masterchef winner and runs 9 restaurants. Her story was very interesting and inspirational. She reminded us that it’s all hard graft and that we should always ask for help when we need it. As embarrassing or awkward as it is, it will always push you on. My favourite comment from her was “As mothers we know what it’s like to get everyone’s shit together”. That makes us good at business!
Last Keynote was supposed to be James Caan, but he couldn’t make it as he had a family emergency so Yasmina Siadatan did it. She is currently in partnership with James but had previously been a winner of the Apprentice. Her story was great and she was a natural presenter. She ended by explaining the company “Start up Loans” was setup to receive money from the government to give to new businesses. It currently gives to new businesses run by 18-30 year olds but will shortly have that age gap lifted and it will be open to everyone.
Overall Workfest was brilliant. It was inspirational and informative and the opportunity to speak to other mums in a similar situation as me was fab. I got talking to another ticket winner at lunchtime who admitted (like me) that she hadn’t planned to come and pay for a ticket because she was still trying to figure out what she wanted. What we both agreed was that this was the perfect time to visit an event like this because it helped us to start to formulate that plan. For that reason I would recommend an event like this to anyone who is unhappy with their current work life balance, but can’t quite work out what they do want! I’ve already started to think about possible businesses I might like to run and I didn’t even know I wanted to run my own business.
Next year’s Workfest? Bring it on!!
PS: the lovely blogger @headinabook also blogged about the day. You can read about it here.