Sunday, December 21, 2014

Part 1. Stay at home mum wants to return to work, but doesn't know what to do.

From stay at home mum to business owner: Melissa Gemmell

It’s not every day you answer the phone to be greeted with “I’ve been wondering how to introduce myself. You won’t remember me, but …”

However, some clients are memorable and I hadn’t forgotten Melissa! When I saw her about four years ago, she was a vibrant, enthusiastic stay at home mum, keen to re-enter the workforce when her children entered primary school.

She followed on by saying: “Seeing you changed my life, and I’ve been meaning to phone and thank you.”

Well if that’s not an invitation for a lengthy follow up over coffee, I don’t know what is! 

Melissa clearly had a story to share, and her frustrations, challenges and ability to overcome obstacles with good humour, and then to look at her transferable skills creatively, is well worth retelling.

We’d planned to spend an hour together, but that extended into more than two!

The frustration of being a stay-at-home mum
Four years ago Melissa was full of energy and ideas, but completely lacking in direction.  She was frustrated with her inability to focus on something that would strengthen her skills, support her values as well as earn an income; so she’d called me for some career counselling, to work through her ideas and learn more about what motivated her.

Melissa had left school and had gone straight into a job without any formal training. She enjoyed a variety of administrative positions and changed employers with little conscious thought of career progression or what her options were.

She married and had two children 18 months apart, but found that the change of pace from a fun, hectic work and social life to being home alone with young boys lacked the challenge she craved. She loves her children dearly, but “kid world” though rewarding, wasn’t fulfilling on its own, and she dreamed of something to “break the monotony of being at home.”

“Parenting is such hard work, it’s relentless and exhausting. I was consumed by being a mum and ‘I’ disappeared. I wanted to find myself again and have friends and a social life.”

Many women who long to re-enter the workforce express similar sentiments to Melissa. They find their personal needs are put on the back-burner for such a long time that some forget who they are; they yearn to rediscover some balance where their needs are not only acknowledged, but fulfilled.

Melissa’s experience of career counselling.
“Sue gave me a deck of Values cards and working with them changed my life. I sorted them and then we discussed them. The process seemed simple, but it encouraged me to think deeply about what’s important to me in the long term. (There's more on this process here)

I know myself much better now after doing those cards. I’m far more self aware and that’s been really important in thinking about what career would support my values - even though it didn’t work out how I’d planned.

I’m now aware that part of me really loves the bubble of a group. I love bouncing ideas off others.  The Values cards were a guided way to improve my self awareness.  It’s brought it all into consiousness. It challenged my thinking and it started the lifting of the fog of parenting.

I sat with it all for along time. I couldn’t have forgotten or ignored what I’d learnt about myself – I’d changed and it was great!

One thing Sue asked me was “If you only had 5 mins to read the newspaper what would you read?” “I gravitate to human interest and crime, the background stories to victims.”

All of that got me thinking deeply. Jobs that seemed suitable for a mum (I wanted to be home for the boys after school) and a follow-on from what I’d done before I had kids, wouldn’t be satisfying now.

I’d have gone crazy with cashiering. It wasn’t intellectually stimulating – which is what I need! Career counselling helped me see and accept that I also need human contact and something fast paced. I now know and acknowledge who I am, and what I need.”

Choosing a course to study
I had an interest in criminal issues and found a course in Criminal Justice at the local TAFE. It sounded good!

I was so scared when I queued up with all the young people who had their parents nearby to pay their fees. I felt I didn’t know anything and wouldn’t fit in, it was so long since I’d studied at year 12!

How much would it cost? Would I be able to keep up? Would I be overloaded if I enrolled in full time study? It all seemed so intimidating and I didn’t want to set myself up to fail, so I chose to go part time.



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. that's excellent Melissa has found her way through into a productive life ..

Cheers and Happy Christmas week to you both - Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Hi Hilary!
Melissa is so full of energy and a 'can-do' approach to life that's it's been a pleasure to work with her and see her achievements.
Have a wonderful, safe Christmas!