Retirement doesn’t mean retiring

Our guest blogger is Caroline Coxon from Quirkyworks .  When 60, 65 or 67 starts looming into your horizon it can feel as though you’re entering the world of retirement, paid work is coming to an end.  But that’s not the end as Caroline tells us.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something

Making a difference – pathway to empowerment

Go on any social media platform and there are always, everywhere, those uplifting quotes that might inspire you – or might make you reach for the sick bucket because they’re so tearfully sentimental. At risk of causing an instant bout of nausea, here’s one that’s important to me:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” 

It was written in the late 19th century – not by a woman – but by an American author, historian and Unitarian clergyman, called Edward Everett Hale. Fine words indeed.

A little about me first, to put all this into context. I’m 63 and I recently retired so I found myself with considerably more time on my hands. At first, I really enjoyed waking up every morning thinking that, beyond the household chores and looking after the animals, I had nothing that I had to do. After a while, that thrill wore off and I began to feel lethargic and unmotivated, which isn’t like me at all. What to do? This. Take some actions that would make a difference in the world.

Just to be clear, this blog doesn’t set out to enrol you the causes I care about. Everyone has different things that they’re concerned about and how good is that? Life wouldn’t work too well if everybody cared about the same thing.

As for me, for several years I’ve been involved with a grassroots organisation which supports refugees stuck in Northern France with no safe passage to the UK even if, in many cases, international law says they’re entitled to have their claims for asylum heard.

This found me, on a bitterly cold New Year’s Day, plunging into the sea at Brighton to raise money for and awareness of so many people, including young children, who had drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean of the English Channel to seek sanctuary in another country. It’s also found me collecting clothes and supplies to send out to the camps there, to provide a little comfort for some desperate people.

Until February, all my work for had been carried out in the UK. Going over to France to volunteer wasn’t something that I thought of particularly, but more and more, I wanted to see for myself what the situation was so I could report it first-hand.

Believe me, it was at the same time the most uplifting and the most distressing thing I’ve ever done. I worked with the Refugee Community Kitchen for three days. There, not only are 1200 meals a day provided for people scattered in small enclaves around the area, but clothes, tents, sleeping bags and other supplies are distributed. And distributed again, because the French national police have been tasked with creating a ‘hostile environment’ for them, so their tents are slashed, they are doused with freezing water or tear gas, and their warm clothes and shoes are confiscated. Night after night.

I can tell you it was a tough environment, even as a volunteer – and I was lucky enough to be able to retreat to the comfort of a little hotel every night and have a glass of wine and a satisfying meal.

The point is, the experience left me empowered. I was working amongst a group of wonderful people, mostly women, who had seen a need and wanted to do what they could to make a difference. To me it was inspiring. We were told never to assume that just because someone was female and slightly built, they hadn’t the strength to carry out physical tasks. So, one day I worked in the woodyard, breaking up pallets andoperating a powered chop saw – the sort that my dear husband wouldn’t let me go near at home. How formidable and fulfilled I felt!

I was exhausted when I got back, emotionally and physically, but without doubt it made me feel less impotent and useless, even though my contribution was only tiny. Rant and rave all you like about issues that upset you, no matter what they are, but nothing beats taking action. Even tiny ones.

 

WayfinderWoman Presents… Work and Well-being Day

The Eastbourne based charity, WayfinderWoman are taking over Eastbourne Town Hall on Friday 21 June for their inaugural Work and Well-being extravaganza!  Running from 9.30-4.30 entry is free.  The Assembly Hall will be full of stalls promoting different types of health and well-being whilst in the Court Room there’s a series of renowned speakers talking about staying healthy within the workplace.

“We’re about helping women build their confidence and one of the first steps in doing that is to look after your own welfare”, said organiser Amanda Andersson.  “Often it’s in the form of a treat and so we’ve got 30+ stalls showing a variety of ways in which you can treat yourself.  From homeopathy to organic skin products, nutritional drinks to various types of massage; we have a sweet stand, reiki, various arts and crafts, styling and colour to lift your mood.   There’s a chance to find out how you can dress to impress using charity shop clothing and we have an extensive choice of teas, cakes and Higgidy Pies for those who fancy popping into our all-day café.”

If that’s not enough, WayfinderWoman have also taken over the Court Room for the day with 13 speakers giving their insights into how people can stay healthy at work.  “We want to work alongside employers too,” said founder Laura Murphy, “and with levels of stress rising in the workplace we wanted to give employers, and their staff, the opportunity for free training in how to generate and maintain a healthy workplace.”

Speakers include the Chief Executive of Eastbourne Unltd Christina Ewbank, who is talking about how to manage teams in a positive way, Judy Pearson from Southdown Housing exploring mental health in the workplace, Learn Direct about how to improve your skills, and Katie Day from RDP International about managing menopause in the workplace.There’s also insights into how to manage behaviours with speakers talking about the use of positive words, how laughter helps to defuse tension, how you can help the brain think effectively and other therapeutic interventions.

“Both the exhibition and the speakers are free to attend, it’s open to men as well as women, and you can drop in to any of the talks or visit the stalls at any time throughout the day,” said Amanda.  “Full details are available on Eventbright – just search WayfinderWoman presents Work and Well Being Day.  It helps us to gauge interest and to make sure we have enough cakes if people register their interest but it’s not essential.  Remember to bring some cash though for those cakes – and the Higgidy Pies!”

Sponsored by Carrot Events, Angela Marden Estate Agents, Custard Design and Draycott Corporation it’s shaping up to be a hum dinger of a day and one not to be missed!

Further information can be obtained by emailing info@wayfinderwoman.com phone 01323 886171 or drop into the information and advice hub at the Labyrinth, Mark Lane, Monday to Wednesday 10.00am-1.00pm.

 

Top ‘stand out’ tips to nail that perfect job

Our guest blogger is Nicole Holden one of the team from Flexibility Matters.  With flexible working hitting the headlines now Nicole gives you her top tips about how to stand out.

It can be hard coming back to work after maternity leave or a long absence and there’s a lot of women out there who want to work part-time.   It’s the answer for many of us in order to get the right work-life balance but I know that competition for the available work is fierce.   I’ve found that you need to step up your job hunting tools to stand out, get a dazzling CV,a cracking cover letterand make the right impression once you get to the interview to get the job that’s really right for you.

 

YOUR CV

 

  • Personalised gets picked: Tailor your CV content to individual roles. Take the job requirements and match them to your skills and achievements from your most recent roles.
  • Catch the eye:Make sure your CV format fits the position you are going for. If it’s a creative role, for example, then how it looks is important.
  • Highlight transferable skills. Especially important if you are making a career change. Highlight in the first page your relevant skills and experience drawn from your entire career history and make the connections explicit, so employers recognise them as transferable to the role.
  • Nail it with the opening statement. Think about the recruiter and what they would need to know immediately. A succinct opening statement, tailored to the specific role, could make all the difference, especially when CVs are scanned.
  • Keep it short:The maximum length for a CV is 2 pages, so focus onmaking relevant your two most recent roles and pulling out transferable skills from previous roles into an overall competencies section.
  • Edit and edit again. Make sure there are no typos in your CV. As well as self-editing, get a friend to check through it too. Nothing screams sloppy worker than a spelling mistake on a CV.

 

YOUR COVER LETTER

 

  • Do your research:Demonstrate that you are up to date and have done your homework on the company, perhaps citing challenges, impending regulations and recent trends in the sector relevant to the position.
  • A dazzling opening paragraph: The perfect opening paragraph should contain who youare and why you are so excited to be applying for the role. It’s your opportunity to impress them with your personality and how much you know about their work.
  • Tick-off the must-haves:Follow the introduction byhighlighting what you understand the role to be and how you match the job description must-haves.
  • Concise and clear:Keep sentences short. Edit and edit again the next day with fresh eyes. Read it aloud and then get a friend to check it.
  • Finish strong:The closing line is your last chance to underline your interest in the company and how you’d be a great fit for the position. It could be a personalised version of:“I’m excited by the opportunity and look forward to speaking to you about how I can contribute”
  • Don’t send your CV without one: The cover letter is your chance to write about how committed you are to the role and the company. If its optional in an application or doesn’t ask for one, always provide one anyway.

 

THE INTERVIEW

 

  • First impressions last: Given that employers come to conclusions about a person in the first minute, first impressions are key. Be smart and punctual. Offer a confident hand-shake with lots of eye contact and be genuine.
  • Do your homework: Demonstrate that you have fully researched the company’s background, current challenges and recent trends within the sector.
  • Know your CV: Your CV will generally structure the process. Knowing it inside out and preparing what your project and competency examples are that match the job spec is fundamental.
  • Show your social side: Building a rapport with the interviewer can be as important as matching the skills criteria and will demonstrate that you are pleasant to work with. It’s notjust about smiling. Use your body language to display interest – nod in agreement, maintain eye contact and no slouching.
  • Identify your expectations: Knowing what you expect of the role and respectfully seeking the answers to ensure the company is a good fit for you too is important and demonstrates confidence.
  • Be ready to ask questions: It’s important to have a few questions in mind to ask at the end of the interview. They can be about the company, the role, or the team. They will demonstrate your assertiveness and enthusiasm in being the right fit.
  • A good follow up: It’s a nice touch and not something often remembered to follow up with a thank you email letting them know you are looking forward to hearing from them.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Flexi-working and flexi-schooling

Our guest blogger is Dushana Pinfield who faced a dilemma that all working mums face: how to carry on working whilst giving her family the attention she thought they needed.  Dushana decided to choose a creative way to solve her problem of getting her work-life balance right for her.

I am a part-time freelancing mum because we are choosing to flexi-school our children. Being a working mum can be tough. You always seem to making some sort of sacrifice but I continue striving to achieve the balance between the ‘career me’ and the ‘mum me’. I’m not sure I’m exactly winning, but it feels like the right choice.  In this blog I share how I am doing it and a bit more about why.

In 2015, with a 4 year old and a one year old, I was working part-time in an office and taking on the child care the rest of the week.  I was ‘time poor’ and felt I was not really achieving with either! This all came to head in the September when my eldest son started school and we chose to part-time school him. I needed to work differently in order to free up some more time to add flexi-schooling into our family mix.

Flexi-schooling is when your child is in school part time and home schooled for part of the week. For me this is 2 days a week at home with the kids and 3 days (+++) trying to keep my business and career on the track that I want.

England is one of the few countries that sends its children to school at 4 years old (88% of the world’s school starting age is between 6-7).  We felt it was too much too soon and flexi-schooling seemed like the perfect solution. It’s a constant battle to get the school to allow us to continue flexi-schooling.  It’s down to the headteacher’s discretion and in a busy, oversubscribed London school it’s hard to get them to support our thinking, but maybe this is for another blog…

So I decided to set myself up as a freelance event management specialist.  I left behind the security of a regular salary, sick pay and holidays and in return I got a chance to fit my working life around my family life.

It’s not easy.  I am competing in a job market where the majority of employers still prefer full time working, and a bum on a seat, 9-5pm.  This dwindles your job pool significantly and might be why my contracts so far have been with past colleagues!

And that’s how I started.  I contacted friends and former colleagues letting them know that I’d set up on my own and was available for work if they ever needed it.  I didn’t set myself up as a limited company. I didn’t spend hours creating a website. Whilst I may do this at some point, I have been lucky so far and the network of contacts I have built up over my career has been invaluable.

I have had to learn to work differently. Gone are the days when I had the luxury of an 8 hour day to manage my workload.  You learn to break up work tasks into 1-2hr chunks.

I prioritise deadlines, meetings, liaising with external organisations etc during core business hours (when everyone else is at their desks!). I keep the background tasks that do not need immediate collaboration on to evenings, weekends.

I put in extra hours during crunch times and I’ve learned to ask for help from family.

Most importantly is that even though I may not at my desk, working on my laptop, during work hours I am available on the phone.  Always. (well nearly…). I may have a child in the background shouting on repeat ‘who are you talking to mummy… Mummy? … MUUUMMYY?’ but I’m contactable.

And what do I get in return? 2 days a week with my children to explore life and learn outside of the classroom.  This for my 4 and 7 year old is currently dinosaurs, monster trucks, biking, skateboarding, museums, supercar spotting and most importantly – one to one time.  Learning in outdoor spaces – bug hunting in the forest, snail racing, supermarket trips – adding up your shop, counting people getting on the bus.

Is this the work/life balance thing that they talk about?

It’s pretty hectic, but freelancing has definitely made this balance achievable for me and I enjoy it. Working on contracts keeps things interesting and fresh. You aren’t bogged down by an organisation’s politics as you parachute in and are that fresh pair of eyes that can refocus a project. You get to learn your trade inside out (in my case organising events) as you have just been hired to do this one job for each client. Working from home means I don’t spend time commuting to and from an office. There are no work interruptions. These all definitely help with getting as much out in the short time before I’m back being a mum/teacher!

And this is my motivation and the compromise.  Time is precious and my children are growing up fast.  I am taking this time to see them grow and educate them outside of the norm.

Reasons to be Brave

Our guest blog is from Tania Pieri.  A talented singer, songwriter she also runs PA for creatives.  Her blog deals with something that we all face at some time in our lives – being scared. 

Fragility, Fear and Bravery. Do they all fit together? And what do we need, to face our fears and do something brave? To go and do that thing that scares us even though it’s absolutely, well….. Scary?!

I repeatedly find myself in situations requiring bravery. It always feels the same: Huge, Big, and Scary, and always feels like the first time I have ever had to face a scary task. Which of course it isn’t at all. Being an introverted performer – singer & dancer – I have faced many of these feelings time and time again. I have been through endless situations where I have had to find my inner strength and yet each time feels new. You might think it would get easier to face these things, but often to me, they are still big mountains.

And yet, climb them I must. Every, single, time. Sounds like a person who likes a bit of torture right? But no… So why do I do it? What drives me? I believe it is because of my ‘Why’. My driving force in life. When we can recognise this in ourselves it can help give us strength when we need it.

Personally, my ‘why’ is all about growth, development and sharing my voice. Therefore, I have to do the scary things that I am faced with so that I may continue to grow. Perhaps knowing what drives us helps us to face things with even greater Bravery because you know it will be beneficial to you.

Another great thing about feeling fear is it gives us the chance to exercise our bravery muscles. So each time we can choose to face slightly bigger or more challenging tasks. Also, we can’t know how strong we really are until we have something that tests us.

The timing of writing this post couldn’t be more fitting because I am just about to face something that needs my own brave-self to come out and present its self. I am having to dig deep, as it’s something that makes me feel pretty sensitive, but I know out of that, my strength will rise. I know, too, that if I don’t face it I won’t be able to live with myself and I will feel even worse for not having the courage to even try. So try I must. Whatever the outcome.

We can’t hide from opportunities for fear of failing. But we can grow through trying! So onwards we go….

If you want to find out what drives you I recommend this short quiz: https://wwwviacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

Introducing our first Patron

WayfinderWoman have their very first patron!  Helen Greaves Warren is well-known in Eastbourne being a highly talented artist, designer, publicity officer for Sussex Guild and teacher.

Chair Laura Murphy said, “Helen has been an ardent supporter of WayfinderWoman, talking at events, helping out with fund raising and spreading the word about the work that we do.  The Trustees were unanimous in their decision to ask if she would become our inaugural patron.”

Helen said, “It was a wonderful surprise and I was honoured to be asked. I have enjoyed being part of WayfinderWoman and the team of volunteers deserves huge thanks for all that they do.  It is good to be part of such a worthwhile venture.”

The Today, Tonight and Tomorrow of Networking

Our guest blogger is businesswoman Hilary Fraser.With her years of experience  she has some great hints on something that can raise anxieties in all of us: networking.

Life’s better when we’re connected! What do we mean by connection?  Social media is a powerful way to keep in touch and raise your profile.  Don’t, however, mistake connections online for the real, human contact that comes with shaking someone’s hand, sharing eye contact, speaking and listening together, in the same place at the same time.

Here’s how to think more strategically about your networking. There are three categories to be aware of and by consciously choosing to develop each kind, you will gain maximum benefit in the short and long term.

1. TODAY
You don’t usually get to choose who you have to work with on your daily projects and tasks. There can be a lot of contacts needed to get things done, all connecting via you in some way. If you view yourself as a facilitator of this de facto network, you can build trust and enhance relationships which will lead to significant business benefits of speed, efficiency, collaboration and product or service quality. Plus you will have more fun doing the job!
Ways to do this include ensuring introductions are always made on conference calls,asking people to share something that’s going on for them at the start of a meeting, or using the phone to talk and build the relationship instead of sending an email.

2. TONIGHT
Find stimulation, creativity, referrals, useful information and personal development from networking with people outside of your day job. What are your interests? Study groups, sports, theatre, school governorships, volunteering – when you connect widely, opening up to new people and new experiences, life gets richer.

One challenge women especially find is that we may need to delegate more to ensure we make time for ‘Tonight’ networking.  Can you re-jig your resources and priorities to claim this investment in yourself?

3. TOMORROW
Take a strategic view.  Build and maintain a network of internal and external contacts who will matter as you progress in your career.  Try to see this network-building through the lens of your future interests, needs, priorities and challenges. It’s about finding supporters, mentors and those who will influence you and/or be influenced by you. It can be hard to know who will be relevant; and it can be a mindset-shift to not see this as ‘politics’ but as an essential aspect of your successful journey.

Finally, some tips for successful networking:
– reciprocity is better when you give before you expect to receive. (It feels good – but remember to ask for something in return before too long)
– personal brand matters, so be consistent and make it easy for people to know who you are
– ease your way into a conversation with small talk but don’t forget to talk about business
– keep it two-way. Do avoid both interrogation and taking excess airtime to talk about yourself
– bring the interaction to an end positively and authentically, e.g. “It’s been very interesting talking to you and now I must move on. Thank you!”

A Missed Opportunity

Our guest blogger, Elizabeth, has a tale to tell which we all should heed about how one wrong decision can totally transform your life and work prospects. Some might find this too distressing but we believe it an important message to pass on.

This is the story of what might have been the biggest missed opportunity of my 62-year old life. Ironically, it would only have taken a few minutes, didn’t require any qualifications and wouldn’t have cost me any money.

Life was pretty good in 2007. I was 50, had a reasonably well paid job, happy relationship, a mortgage free home and no real cause to worry about my health. So, in 2016, when I developed a yellow vaginal discharge I wasn’t especially concerned. However 3 months later the ‘infection’ hadn’t cleared up and the GP referred me for a.  Whilst waiting for my referral I had a vaginal bleed just like a period, not right given I was post-menopausal, and that’s when the panic set in.

The next I know biopsies are being taken and I received the diagnosis no one wants. “Squamous cell cancer of the cervix”. I had a radical hysterectomy, my pelvic lymph nodes were removed and 6 sessions of chemotherapy, 27 sessions of radiotherapy.   18 months later and cancer-wise, so far so good.  But the long-term side effects have not been so good.

The surgery caused a lot of nerve damage and I, very unusually it seems, now suffer from urinary retention. I have to constantly self-catheterise and the lymphoedema in one of my legs and lower abdomen means I have to wear compression tights/stockings which fit so snugly I have to use garden gloves to get them on and off.

Because of these side-effects I had to give up my job as they made it hard to function well in a demanding fast paced role. If I was younger, I would also have to cope with a premature menopause and infertility.

Perhaps the saddest part of the tale is that my cancer might have been prevented, had I kept up to date with my screening tests. So, if you haven’t guessed already, my big missed opportunity was not taking up my invitations for cervical screening.

I chose to start this story from the year 2007 as this was when, age 50, that I stopped going for screening. I gave myself reasons/excuses for not going such as: ‘it might be painful’, ‘it’s not going to happen to me’, I’m low risk’ etc. WRONG! With glorious hindsight, a minute or so of unpleasantness really is a very small price to pay for something that could prevent a cancer.

I’m not alone: 1 in 4 women, between 25 and 64 don’t get screened despite receiving reminders. Please ladies, don’t ignore or overthink it, just make the appointment and go.  Or, if you feel you really can’t face the test, how about making an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns – you can always ask to see a female doctor.

I am now passionate about raising awareness of the importance of cervical screening and the wonderful work of Jo’s Trust. Some women really do need an extra bit of support to go for their tests, I know I did.  Mutual support is effective and I encourage women, and sometimes men, to check if their partners, friends, sisters, daughters, nieces, mother etc. are getting tested.  That simple caring thing could prevent a lot of suffering, save a career  or even save a life.

Community Talks

WayfinderWoman is available for community talks in East Sussex, all year round, WI groups, Soroptomists, Lunch clubs etc. We offer talks about WayfinderWoman, the services we offer, as well as Heritage talks around our Women of Eastbourne exhibition, which was all about influential women in Eastbourne’s past.

If you would like to book a talk from us, or want more information please contact us on info@wayfinderwoman.com or call us on 01323 886171.

Here are a couple of photographs from Laura’s last community talk with the Eastbourne Soroptomists on the 26th November.

Strictly Charleston – News and Pictures

A Wonderful time was had at our Strictly Charleston fund raising event. The guests enjoyed good food and music, and had a good ole giggle learning the Charleston Dances, thanks to Yvonne Wright’s School of Dance.

Here are some of the happy Flappers on the night, if you were there and you have some photos that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us, please can you contact us, we would love some more!

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