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Is a gap year what school leavers need?

fatimaheadshot2By Fatima Kazee, fulltime mum to Imaad (8), Zayn(6) and Zahreen (3), part-time wife to fisherman husband Aadil. She’s addicted to sneakers anything chocolatey &  is an invaluable part of the Jozikids and Kznkids team.

I was recently approached by a family member whose daughter is finishing school this year.  She thought it would be a good idea for me to give her some career guidance…. Beeeg mistake!  Not because I’m not qualified to give such advice, in my infinite wisdom, but because what I had to say was not entirely what she wanted her daughter to hear.

When I was finishing school, the idea in my head was that no matter what, I had to go to university and I had to study something immediately.  So off I went and studied law. (Yes friends, I am a qualified attorney, surprise, surprise!)  And all through my studies and my articles, I absolutely hated it.  It just didn’t fit well with me and I found that I didn’t give it my all as I was unhappy doing it.  I have many friends that I studied with that are thriving and making a huge success of themselves but for me, it was a completely wrong choice.  There are many people that I meet that still suggest that I start practicing again when all my kids are school-going, somehow it’s just not my thing.

So what is my thing?  I actually still don’t know.  There are many things I enjoy doing, but making a career out of eating chocolate unfortunately doesn’t seem viable!   I guess it’s not a waste having studied something and not be practicing it as I always have the possibility of returning to it, if the need ever arises.  What I do know is that as I finished school, there wasn’t anything that I particularly would have liked to pursue.  It would be great if all of us were like the X Factor contestants that just knew since they were 5 that they were born to be singers (some of whom I seriously beg to differ with) but that’s not the reality.

So my advice to her was to take a gap year. Her mom reacted with, “No ways!  That’s a waste of a year!”  Not really.  The gap year would not be to sit around the house sponging off her parents but to take some time doing work in different fields to find out what what she feels fulfilled doing,  what makes her wake up each morning not with dread but with a sense of excitement.

I know many people who go to a job everyday simply because they have responsibilities and they need to bring home the bacon (or macon, in our case).  My better half for example would much rather be spending his days making fishing documentaries but how would we make ends meet if he did this? I’ve been able to make the change to something I love. I’ve becoming a website administrator (sounds important right?!) at the same time as being a full-time mum, so it is possible.  I do  however, feel a pinch of guilt for spending so many years doing something I hated.

So at the end of our conversation, we all agreed that my ‘advice’ came through experience and that it may be a good idea to take a year off, to explore a world where the possibilities are endless.

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The challenges facing working moms

Lindsay Grubb, wife & mom to a nearly 3 yr old daughter and owner of L Communications where she helps you get the right message across to the right audience. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

Working mothers are less dedicated. Working mothers are less adaptable. Working mothers’ skills are outdated. Working mothers are going to take maternity leave as soon as you hire them.

These are just some of the reasons 69% of companies in South Africa won’t be hiring working mothers in 2011 according to www.Fin24.com journalist Vida Booysen’s article “Hard times ahead for working moms

Does this make you as mad as it made me when I read it?

I was retrenched along with 900,000 other people in the 2009 recession. With few employment opportunities available, I started my own marketing and public relations agency, L Communications, I’m also a freelance writer and I run www.hiccupsandgigglessa.com a parenting website.

Like every other working mom I know, I work incredibly hard. I’m in the home office every morning at 07:20, sometimes even 05:00 if I have a deadline and run flat out till five that evening, when my amazing nanny Mirriam goes home.

Then I swop my busy executive hat for my mom hat and my full focus turns to Ciara, my nearly-three year old daughter. She is 92cm bundle of energy and light, who is full of wonder and excitement wanting to learn everything, help with everything, and taste everything. I don’t stop till I pass out around midnight every night. If there’s a deadline I have to hit, my supportive husband wakes me after an hour’s nap and herds me back to the office where a strong cup of coffee sits steaming on my desk. He stays up with me till I’m done to make sure I hit the deadline.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could change the perception of working mothers? Wouldn’t it be great if we could show the business community the following traits that make us great mothers and great employees?

  • We are flexible
  • We are patient and tolerant
  • We are time management gurus
  • We are great with budgets
  • We are great at listening, interpreting, understanding, empathising, helping and solving
  • We are excellent problem solvers
  • We are fantastic at researching and exploring
  • We work well under pressure and meet deadlines
  • We are constantly planning
  • We are creative
  • We are excellent teachers and trainers of others
  • We are strong decision makers
  • We thrive at developing and coaching and mentoring others
  • These are skills we use every day as mothers, and they translate beautifully into the workplace.

    So working mom’s hold your heads high, 31% of South African companies are smart enough to recognise the talents we bring to the table. Let’s show the other 69% what we’re made of.

    Copyright © 2011 Lindsay Grubb

    Career women can also be career moms

    by Jude Foulston,  new mom, wife, entrepreneur,  friend and crafter who’s loving the challenge of trying to  keep it all together on a daily basis. She works for  TomorrowToday and is  the creator of jamtin– an online directory for all things handmade

    Having recently returned back to work from maternity leave I realize how fortunate I am to work with a company who not only speaks to the New World of  Work, but who practices it too. I see the other mom’s on the tea party circuit faced with what can end up being a rather traumatic decision of whether to go back to work or be a stay at home mom, and realize how crazy it is that this decision even has to be made, and just how few companies are tapping into this valuable resource , aka ‘the mother’, to create a win-win situation for both employer and employee.

    So here’s my suggestion, instead of insisting these mom’s should be at your office from 8am to 5pm, or even 8am to 1pm if they’ve been ‘lucky enough’ to have been offered a half day job, why not consider working on an outcomes based principal – and enabling the mom’s to work from home most of the time – having roaming desks for when they need to come into the office. All this isn’t a new concept, just concepts that aren’t used as effectively as they could be.

    By offering this flexibility you automatically gain the full attention of the mother when she’s focused on her work – not distracted while she wonders what her precious bundle is up to at home with the nanny or how he’s coping at day care? This flexibility also gives back up to 2 hours that would have been spent in traffic – wasted. You will also gain the respect from these mom’s who appreciate you taking their needs into consideration and will reward you for that in return with the effort they put back.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love the time spent some mornings with other mom’s where I can talk about all things baby, but I also love knowing that my opinion and talents that were appreciated and used before being a mom can still add value, and when I do work it’s without the guilty conscious of abandoning my child to go to work. I don’t feel that I work any less effectively than previously – in fact I would say my time management has improved drastically. Before Layla, 10 minutes was such a small piece of time, now if I have a free 10 minutes I can cross at least 6 things off my to do list, and if you think woman can multi-task well in general, wait until you see a mother multi-task!

    The hours I work are no less than what they used to be – yes, I enjoy the odd tea party during the week, but technology allows me to check and respond to any urgent emails or queries where ever I am. My day doesn’t end at 5pm either – I have my laptop open at 8pm making sure my work is done for the day. It might not work for you, but it sure works for me and my baby, and the bottom line is, that it’s working just as well for the guys I work for as well!

    Job sharing: a new way to balance a career and kids?

    by Kerry Haggard,( @kerryhaggard) writes for a living, parents for fun, joy, excitement and curiosity, and is married to @Brettski for love.

     A friend and I were chatting recently, about the tough choices (or lack thereof) that moms are given. To put your children through decent education, you most often need to be a double-income family – but what are the implications of not being at home for the crucial formative years in your child’s life? “What about job-sharing?” she asked.

     I turned to my bff (the web) for research, and learned that in the US and Australia in particular, job sharing is common. Two people with similar skills share a full time job – and the salary that goes with it – so that they can still work at a level for which their skills are suited, adding valuable experience to their CV, and earning a decent income, while being available to invest important time in their children.

    The sharing is done in a number of ways – either one works mornings and the other afternoons, or they take all the tasks for the position and split them, so that everyone else knows who is responsible for what. Another common way of working it is for each of the parties to work three days a week, so that there is one day where they are both around, to make continuity easy for everyone else that they are working with.

    It seems though, that most of these situations arise where women working together create the job-share, once they have the buy-in of their existing employer – it’s not the kind of vacancy you would see advertised.

     I would so be keen for this kind of progressive thinking in the South African workplace – but the question is: are any South African companies up for it? Are they willing to adapt the rules to keep and nurture their best employees – those who have another full time job as mom and homemaker?