Category Archives: employment

Have you ever thought about a career in Early Years?

The Early Years Sector is a rewarding and vitally important sector which needs high quality staff at all levels. There are many exciting career options available, whether you are looking to work full-time, part-time or on a voluntary basis, with plenty of opportunities for training and progression.

If you have enthusiasm and enjoy working with young children and want to play a key role in supporting children’s learning and development, this could be the career for you.

The Early Years and Childcare Service can provide you with information about the different roles within early years, qualifications and training pathways and where to look for the latest jobs.

Contact us for a copy of our ‘Working in early years and childcare’ booklet  which has been designed to help you to make a more informed choice about your career options so that you feel confident about what steps to take next.

For Information on jobs, qualifications and training routes visit: www.devon.gov.uk/eycs, email: natalie.elston@devon.gov.uk or phone: 01392 385398.

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Magazine News!

This year, we have been awarded funding from Awards for All to create three magazines for Mums, all about improving your confidence and motivation, inspiring you to make choices that will improve your work-life balance.  We are very excited to have got the first copy printed – it looks great!  It’s packed with inspirational stories from Mums who have started their own business or dealt with the worry of returning to work or training, as well as loads of information that will help you to progress.  We’ll be posting some of those stories on this blog, so don’t forget to keep checking back!

If you’d like a FREE copy of the magazine, please give us a call on 0800 043 2440.  If you have a story you’d like to share, please email cmathers@opsw.co.uk or get in touch through our Facebook group.

If you’ve got your hands on a magazine already, please let us know what you thought!  Comment below, or on Facebook – we’d love your feedback!

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Filed under creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance, writing

Fancy doing some volunteering?

Voluntary work is a great way to learn new skills, make friends, and build your confidence, as well as adding to your CV and giving you a recent reference.  If you’re considering a career change, it can be a perfect way to try out a new role and show potential employers how dedicated you are to the new career.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved with volunteering.  The Do-it website is a great place to start.  If you’re already involved with a local organisation that you’d like to support, then you could ask them directly about volunteering opportunities.  Pre-schools, playgroups, schools, and Children’s Centres often need all kinds of volunteers, from receptionists, to gardeners, as well as roles that are more involved, such as playwork or breastfeeding peer support.  Most charitable organisations will be looking for people to help out with fundraising – from selling raffle tickets, to events organisation.

Here are some organisations that we have identified that offer voluntary positions that we think will be of interest to Mums in particular:

Home Start is a national charity, supporting families that are finding it difficult to cope.

Balloons is an Exeter based charity, supporting children who are dealing with bereavement

Real Nappy Advisors help new Mums get to grips with reusable nappies.  In many areas this involves providing a trial kit for a month and supporting the parents in using the nappies and deciding on the best options for them.  This goes well alongside a real nappy retail business, as the family is then offered a discount voucher if they buy from you (refunded to you by the local council).  Read blog posts from local nappy brand, Eccobots, and retailer, The Natural Nursery.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporters help new Mums deal with the many issues they can face with breastfeeding.  They can volunteer within Children’s Centre groups, and in hospital maternity wards in some areas.  Training is usually undertaken through the local Children’s Centre, and locally has been done through Healthy Babies UK.

Have you done any voluntary work?  What sort of voluntary work would you consider doing?

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Filed under charity, childcare, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, work-life balance

When to take a break

I like keeping busy, and definitely find that the more I do, the more I want to do.  As regular readers will know, I have two young (and very energetic) boys, a part time job, my own business, and have been planning my wedding over the last few months.  Last year I trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and was really enjoying volunteering at local Sure Start groups, but things were so hectic over the last few months that I decided to take a break from Peer Supporting to give myself some more time.  (Though I have met so many breastfeeding Mums through the Flexi-Mum project I’ve probably ended up doing just as much peer supporting!)

I am someone who wants to grab every opportunity I can, and I find it very difficult to say no, so making the choice to take a break was difficult for me, but it was so worth it.  I’d much rather do what I do well, than spread myself too thin and not manage anything as well as I’d like to.  Now that the wedding is over, and I’ve enjoyed a few quieter weeks, I’m looking forward to getting back into some more peer supporting, and spending some more time on my own business.

It can be difficult to make the decision to take a break, and sometimes it’s not possible.  But I think it’s really important to assess everything you are doing and cut back on things when and if you need to.  I’m lucky to have a very hands-on husband and we are surrounded by family members who can help us out with childcare when we need it – not everyone has so much help (hats off to anyone who manages to be a Mum living away from their own Mum!) and we do really appreciate it.  If you don’t have family close by, then try making arrangements with friends for childcare – even if it’s just so you can take a bath or get your hair cut, or catch up on housework.  It’s often easier to look after an extra child as they entertain each other.  Try setting up something like my “Team Tea” idea on a regular basis too.

It’s important to assess your life balance every now and then to see if you need to cut back on anything, or if you need to make more time to do something (it could be time with the kids, housework, reading, relaxing, seeing your friends that don’t have kids, having a date night with your partner) and then really make an effort to rearrange things so that you can fit everything in as best you can.  For me, one of the big things is seeing friends.  During maternity leave it was lovely catching up with friends most days, but now that we’re all back at work it can be ages between seeing friends and I have to remind myself that that is just the way it is when we all work!

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Filed under childcare, employment, food, Inspirational Women, planning, self employment, sleep, work-life balance

Yawn! Working when you haven’t slept

Ok, so everyone knows that having a baby means you will be having a few sleepless nights.  And for some parents that’s all it is: a few weeks of broken sleep before your baby gets the hang of it and sleeps through.  Not too disruptive as you are on maternity leave for that time anyway.  But for many, many others the broken sleep goes on well into the second and third year.

So how are you supposed to cope with sleep deprivation when you’re back at work?  Sure, before kids you might have had the occassional drink after work that went too far, so you were tired and useless the next day, but with a baby it’s night after night after night after…  The sleep deprivation can really build up, and it can become a choice between going to bed at 8pm every night or staying up to a reasonable hour but spending the next day half asleep!

In all honesty, if we’ve had a bad night and I’ve got work in the morning, the worst bit is just getting up and trying to make myself look presentable.  It’s the days where I have to get up and deal with two tired children that are the hardest!!

So, I’m afraid to say that I don’t have any tips for dealing with the sleep deprivation at work, but if you do, please, please share them below!  Also check out The All Night Milk Bar group on Facebook, to see that you are not the only one who’s up all night!

I also recently wrote this guest post for the Close Enough to Kiss Blog.

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Filed under children, employment, self employment, sleep, work-life balance

An Inspirational Story…

Today we have a really inspirational story from a lovely lady called Emma Jones, who unexpectedly became pregnant whilst travelling.  Emma is now trying out a few different business ideas to create a flexible business that will give her the ideal work-life balance:

I had quit my job as a teacher and gone travelling to South America to change my life. Seeing as I returned ten months later having found the love of my life, and with the shock news for everyone back home that I was pregnant with our baby (not to mention the shock it had been for us), I would say that my goal had been achieved!

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Our little accident in Argentina, Eva, is now 15 months old and is the greatest delight of our lives. However, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys. We had returned without anywhere to live (and as Ciarán is Irish, we hadn’t yet even decided which country we would live in), and without any income between us. My savings had been completely depleted – mostly I think on too much alcohol in Peru – but thankfully Ciarán had some in a separate account. We were also extremely lucky to have very supportive and generous parents, including mine who remortgaged their house in order to provide us with a monthly income. I had gone from having a good income and being completely self-reliant, to suddenly being dependent on family once more. It was this, I believe, that was the main spark for my antenatal depression, which stayed with me to varying degrees until Eva was born.

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I had never had an exact plan for my return to the UK, but that was just as I wanted it. After years of feeling tied down and stressed (not just from teaching in a challenging inner-city London school, but also as I had been a local councillor in a highly deprived area at the same time – I had averaged 80-90 hour weeks, including evenings and weekends), I needed the feeling of coming home and still being free. I had assumed that I would work in any old job and didn’t care where I slept, and/or that I might go abroad again to work, then at some point I would do a Masters and start my new career path from there. But the baby meant that a real plan was needed, and we only had about seven months in which to get reasonably settled. Abortion crossed our minds several times, but our unborn was the product of the happiest time of our lives, so we knew that we wanted her.

Once the terrible morning sickness had finally vanished (the same morning sickness that had started when we were in 40°C heat in India, and which I had initially assumed to be a strange case of Delhi Belly), and on days when the antenatal depression wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed, I started applying for a few jobs. But I was quickly starting to show, and when I went to an interview and saw the interviewer glance down at my tummy with a knowing smile, I knew that this was a pretty fruitless exercise. So I threw myself into my writing. I had done some freelance travel writing while I had been away, and had also spent a month working as a guidebook writer in Uruguay. I continued to do this throughout my pregnancy, mostly education and travel writing, but by the time Eva was born I could still count the number of paid commissions I had received on my fingers.

Meanwhile, Ciarán’s jobhunt had not fared much better. After a couple of months of his applying to a variety of jobs that we knew he didn’t really want anyway, we made what many people called a very brave decision: he would study for his Masters in Meteorology then aim to get a job from this. To us, it seemed the obvious thing to do – we knew we had to start thinking longterm, and there was no point in both of us giving up our post-travel dreams.

Fast forward to the present day, and after spending a year living in Reading where Ciarán successfully completed his Masters, we are now in Exeter where he has been working at the Met Office for the past six months, but this is not going the way he wanted. I look regularly at jobs, but nothing I could do other than teaching would make any money after having to pay for childcare. And the very thought of teaching again literally gives me the shakes, so I fear a return of depression if I tried it. I still have a place held at University College, London, to study my MSc in Neuroscience, Language and Communication, but it is unclear when – if ever – I will be able to follow this dream.

Instead, I am following another interest. Having taken up running while a teacher and councillor, which I found was the best stress reducer, and having continued to run during my travels and throughout my pregnancy (including a slow one miler on my due date!), I am studying by distance learning for a diploma in personal training. I hope to use this to work flexibly around Eva. I am giving myself experience of leading group exercise sessions by having started Mummy Active, a buggy fitness class on the Exeter Quayside. Currently, I am asking for donations to the charity for which I am running this year’s Brighton Marathon, but once I am a qualified instructor and can be insured, I aim to expand this as a small business. I also have a number of other similar ideas up my sleeve, which I will reveal at a later date.

Mummy Active pic

Unfortunately, my other business venture, parent and baby Spanish classes, has not taken off in the way that I wanted, despite good feedback from those who have attended. Hola Bebé will therefore have to end before I lose any further money, sadly.

Ciarán, Eva and I are not yet self-reliant, and as well as being eternally grateful to our parents, we are very thankful for Child Tax Credits. We don’t know where we will be living in a few months’ time, and our careers are very much up in the air. But we are together, and we are happy. And Eva has been worth every moment of worry, every tear, every fear and everything we have given up. One day, we will return to South America as a family, and hopefully stay there for a good length of time. Unlike in our 20s, when our work was the focus of our lives, it is now merely the method by which we can aim to give our family the life we really want.

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I got married!

This weekend I married my super-Steve.  The last year of wedding planning, working, running my own business, training and volunteering as a breastfeeding peer supporter, and of course bringing up my two boys, has been busy to say the least – but it’s all been worth it and we had a great day.  I haven’t got the work-wedding-life balance right all the time, but I have managed to get through the busiest year of my life with a smile on my face – and that’s my main aim in life!  I keep telling myself that things will calm down post-wedding, but I’m sure I’ll be working on my next project soon!

The key to keeping on top of everything for me is LISTS.  My lists are the bane of Steve’s life, there are hundreds of lists all over our house and he hates every last one!  But without them I don’t think I’d be able to keep my head straight.  For me the act of writing out the list is the main thing, once it’s on paper, I can stop repeating it over and over in my head!  But crossing things off once they’re done is a real pleasure too.  I might even be known to put things on my list that I’ve already done, just so I can cross them off straight away!  (But don’t tell Steve that!)

Speaking of lists, over on the Opportunity Plus South West blog, I have written a list of all the great suppliers we used for our wedding.  If you are planning any kind of event, check out some of these great small companies (and let them know where you heard about them!).

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