You spend five days of the week at work, so making sure you enjoy what you do is key to your happiness. This year, whether you’re sticking with the job you’ve got or you’ve got your eyes on a new prize, make a resolution to get the most out of your working day. Archana Bhatia, key skills coach at flexible recruitment firm Hopscotch, tells you how…

From a career perspective, the start of another year is not just the perfect time to take stock of what’s been achieved, but also to start thinking about what you would like to do in the next 12 months.  Maybe you’re happy where you are but would like to progress, or perhaps you need an entirely new challenge, getting back to work or moving jobs.

At Hopscotch, our role is to empower women at whatever stage they are at in their careers. Since launch, we’ve coached, trained and placed over 500 women, and we’ve learned a few things along the way.

Getting back to work

At the onset of a career coaching programme, our clients always ask us to help prepare their CV, and are often more than a little taken aback when I suggest there are many other factors to consider.
A good CV alone will not land you the dream job.

01 Know yourself and what you want

Having some clarity on your desired roles – industry, function, level, span of control – and working conditions – full- or part-time, working hours, willingness to travel – sets the direction for the job

search process. My favourite first question is: ‘What would be the best and the worst possible job you could have?’ This question sets in motion thoughts around what is practically possible given one’s educational background and skill set. I encourage undertaking a skills inventory – list everything that you do well and map it against your aspirations.

02 Reach out to everyone in your network

By this I really do mean everyone. Women who have spent many years caring for their children protest when I ask them for a list of their contacts, saying they mostly interact with other moms. But I point out that these moms likely have working partners and friends, and letting them know you are exploring opportunities raises their level of consciousness about your needs. A very close friend landed a plum assignment by attending a social lunch at home of a friend who doesn’t work.

03 Announce your intentions

Even before you start a formal job hunt process, inform people you meet that you are planning to re-join the work force. It’s true that the stars align some days, and some person may well remember at just the right moment that you are available
for work.

04 Position yourself and your skills

Being a full-time mother is an admirable role in itself, so it helps to think of activities you have undertaken and skills you have built during this time which can be leveraged in the workplace. Examples are organising events at school, fundraising for a non-profit or attending seminars and workshops.

05 Do your research

Prepare a list of organisations that are progressive and take the lead in implementing women-friendly policies. If you are new to Dubai, familiarise yourself with the work culture here. One of my top job search tips for clients is to always re-confirm interviews or meetings a day before they’re due to occur. Plans change dynamically in Dubai and you may not be informed in time.

06 Be prepared to ‘let go’

A wise person once said “perfection is the enemy of excellence”. When my daughter was 14 months old, I went back to work. I called home at least five times every day to check if she had finished her meal, played well with her friends and napped adequately. I could sense my nanny’s growing resentment and my own frustration with my behaviour. Finally, I did what I advise my clients and made a written commitment –  ‘if my daughter isn’t suffering from any health issues and doesn’t look unhappy, I will not interfere with my nanny’s decisions.’ It’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, but it worked. I know some meals weren’t perfectly prepared or eaten, some play dates didn’t get coordinated properly, but my daughter grew up being loved and getting plenty of emotional and intellectual stimulation.

07 Update your CV and LinkedIn profile

There’s plenty of literature around about LinkedIn and creating a great profile. Read some articles, update your profile accordingly, contribute to relevant groups and add contacts. On LinkedIn, there’s no greater sin than having only 50 people in your contacts list.

Getting ahead

Some of us are already working but want a change, or want to do more of what we are already doing. I believe that finding a new job is actually easier than doing something different or better in your current organisation – your boss and colleagues already have a view on your strengths and development areas and will always look at you through that prism. That said, improving upon your current situation without changing firms is possible if you incorporate the aforementioned advice with the following top tips.

Top Tip #1 Show the change

To be viewed differently, you have to behave differently. If you are shy to speak up at meetings, set yourself a target of speaking at least once at important ones. If you don’t normally extend yourself for special projects, raise your hand now. People sit up and notice when they know you are serious about making a change.

Top Tip #2 Don’t assume

We think that people who have known us for many years should know what we want, but what is left unsaid might be left undone. Speak to your managers about your new aspirations and let them be your brand ambassadors.

Top Tip #3 Impact people and their lives

Most often, when we make career-related new year’s resolutions, they pertain only to ourselves. But the old adage ‘one good turn deserves another” holds true in organisations, too. Speak up for someone new or shy, be a crusader for women or participate in a project that has a social impact.

Top Tip #4 Figure out what shadow you want to cast

Research shows that job success is 60 per cent dependent upon exposure (who knows what you are doing), 20 per cent upon image (what people say and think about you) and only 10 per cent is dependent upon fulfilment of your assigned responsibilities. It’s time to take off those blinkers in 2018 and think of your ideal shadow that will move you ahead of the curve.

Top Tip #5 Be cool, but be authentic

A few of the things that matter tremendously these days – diversity and inclusion, cultural awareness and sensitivity, multi-geographic exposure, unusual experiences. If you have climbed Mount Everest, tell people about it. If you have experience in any of these fields, make sure to highlight it in conversations, your CV and performance feedback sessions. But, above all, be authentic. Don’t fake and exaggerate these experiences – many people do it, but their reputations catch up with them.

To sign up with Hopscotch, head to hopscotch.ae or email [email protected] for more info on its individual Coaching services.

Hopscotch hotshot

Kuntay Simbatova participated in Hopscotch’s Relaunch Your Career with Mastercard initiative in 2017. The mother-of-three has since gone on to win a senior role with the corporate giant…

Tell us a bit about your background.

I’m a native of Kazakhstan and a finance professional with a diverse background gained in 15 years of experience in oil and gas and banking.  Throughout my career I held multiple international assignments in the USA, Colombia and UAE. As a family of three we moved to Dubai in 2012, both my husband and I holding new assignments. Over the following years, we had two more children and I decided to take care of them full time for their early years.

How long had you been looking for work opportunities and what kind of tactics had you used when you decided to return to work?

K: My interest in the market resumed in the second half of 2016. I was looking for the niches that were specialising in women’s empowerment, gender diversity and inclusion, places where I could interact with similar people who were also on their paths of career reconstruction. My action plan was simple – to go out and network, get in various events, learn and let people know about myself. This is where platforms like Hopscotch, Lean In and LinkedIn were very helpful. They raised my awareness and, most importantly, allowed me to be part of events that guided me through my search.

How did you hear about Mastercard’s Return To Work scheme and why did you decide to go for it?

Initially I read about the programme through Hopscotch and LinkedIn platforms, and it appeared just in time for my professional aspirations to be tested. Mastercard is a technology company on the forefront of innovation, diversity, inclusion and social interaction. It is also one of the first organisations in the Middle East to openly promote policies including mentorship, relaunching careers, women in leadership, flexible working, extended maternity and paternity leaves and more.  All these features made me interested to go for it.

What was the interview process like?

First, I had a phone interview with HR. Then I had a few more interactions via email and phone to finally go for a job interview with the stakeholders. It was held in a panel style, where they asked a combination of competence and behavioural questions. At that stage, I was not aware whether I passed or not – but I felt really good.

What did you find attractive about the scheme?

K: It’s a three month programme designed to give the company and myself the opportunity to learn about each other and whether we are fit for each other’s needs. Additionally, I was interested in the change of industry. Mastercard is a great place to start that transformation.

What do you feel are the benefits are of such initiatives and what do you hope to achieve?

The benefits are endless, starting from your self-esteem and confidence increasing to finding yourself in such a dynamic and positive workplace that helps you grow as a professional within a team of driven people. It pushes you towards new ventures.

How do you balance your time with family?

I did work with a family alongside before and I am extremely grateful to my amazing friends and family for their ongoing support. I wouldn’t be able to do it alone. In a nutshell it’s teamwork; it takes a village to raise a child.