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Staying Relevant

Whether you are a mum who has been out of the workforce for some time, or a mum who is thinking of starting your own business or even a mum who is taking some time off to stay at home with the kids…don’t forget to stay relevant. My many years in the recruiting field made me realize employers (and clients) love to hire/ work with people who say

– “I have what it takes to be a productive and efficient employee/ business owner.”

There’s no denying the fact that the Internet has changed the way business is being done. Every day, new tools and software have sped up the old processes. Every month, a new product or service comes into the market. Sometimes, a short 1-year hiatus can mean a world of changes the next time you get back to “work” mode. You probably are not alone lamenting how “behind the times” you are. Employers/ Clients can sense such fear/ insecurities like wolves can smell a deer. (OK, that’s a bit of exaggeration – but you get the point.)

So, how do you stay relevant? Constantly upgrade! And in many ways. Let’s break your universe down into little worlds:

– THE WORLD OF TECHNOLOGY – MS Word/ MS Excel proficiency are a given. Try to find opportunities to try out the latest version of commonly used tools. Sign up for workshops, make friends with Techies! Read up on the Internet about the latest Social Media evolution (learn how to use it, especially if you intend to run a small business online). Find out the hype behind iPhones and BlackBerry. (My prediction is that more and more business processes may rope in these devices in the months/ years to come.)

– THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD – read, read, read! Or watch the news. Know what the trends are. As a mum myself, I find my Mozilla Firefox bookmarks to be dominated by children-related sites, mums-information portals and all WebPages that call out to my maternal instincts. But if I want to be attractive to the HR world, it’s important for me to read HR sites and be logged on to HR-related news as often as I can. (On a weekly basis…ok, maybe monthly…) Whatever your profession is, make sure you are still in touch via magazines, forums, linked in groups etc. (Meet your ex-colleagues for lunch sometimes and refrain from talking about your child – find out what’s going on outside of Baby World)

– THE WORLD OF FASHION – one piece of advice I was given by my ex-boss when I told her of my decision to be a WAHM (work-at-home-mum) was: “Don’t forget to stay pretty!”. I laughed at her then, but 2 months after I had left my managerial job, I found myself dressed in my “mama-clothes” attending a social networking event which had stated ‘semi-casual dressing’ in the invite. Needless to say, the women in their little black-dresses made me, in my GAP blue tight-fitting tee & Esprit denim jeans, very out of place. The ‘sans-makeup’ look didn’t do much for my self-esteem either. It’s not to say you have to dress like Audrey Hepburn all the time (especially if you have a 85% chance of getting baby banana puree all over your neatly pressed top). Fashion should be a woman’s first love. Indulge!

– THE LINGUISTIC UNIVERSE OF WRITING – I don’t profess to be an excellent writer and I hate to admit it, but sometimes if I had to draw out my thought bubbles (similar to those found in comic strips), I think SMS-language would form part of the dialogue. Business writing is an art form and it’s not hard to remember how to write, but write well! Find a “business pal” to practice with. There’s a lady I know who proudly proclaims on her English business site that she has language ability that leaves much to be desired. Her callous attitude towards putting up a professionally written site is admirable and I am sure it works for how she wants to reach out to her clients. However, Branding is important in a business. Like attracts like. If you are a business owner who intends to attract professional & well-paying clients – project a professional image. (Honestly, it’s very challenging trying to read a FAQ page of sentences, which I am itching to correct with a red-ink pen). If you are seeking employment in a professional organization, give the employers reason to believe that you are a cut above the rest. Practice. Dun wait til u start churng out msgs tt dun make sense 2 any1 else but u…

– MADAME BUTTERFLY’s SOCIALISING WORLD – Some mothers may have a similar experience as I did. A few weeks ago, I decided to take an old friend out for lunch. With no babysitter available, little Miss terrible-twos came along. The universe was kind and the little Miss behaved well. Unfortunately, my single, gorgeous, hip, “party-every Friday night” friend and I realized that outside of little Miss and my work, we had nothing else to talk about. My friend was definitely still interesting, but all I wanted to talk about was which playschool to bring my kids to etc. I was horrified – had I become boring? Of course, you would say “Ditch your friend!”….But the truth is – 40% of the adult world is male. The remaining 60% is divided up into: 30% unmarried babes, 15% married ladies with no children. So unless you can ensure that all your female friends fall within the 33% of the adult world (i.e. Mamas like you & I), chances are you have to find something else to talk about besides Examination results, diaper change boo-boos or teenage arguments (depending on the age of your children). Socialise

– make friends with people outside your comfort zone. Stay relevant!

These are just some personal suggestions. I love being a Mum, but I also love being a business person, a daughter, a wife, a sister and a friend.

If staying relevant helps me achieve all my goals, then it’s worth it. Isn’t it?

The author, Sheri-Li Torrey, is the founder of Mums @ Work (Singapore), a portal for mothers who seek work-family balance through flexible-work options or setting up small businesses. She conducts workshops on career coaching and Mumpreneur businesses. For more information you can visit http://www.mumsatwork.net