Now that's the sound of disappointment...
I took great pride in being a 'career girl'- whilst at Uni, I dreamed of getting a high flying job in the city. I imagined 100 hour working weeks. I had romantic notions of being sat in the office in the middle of the night surrounded by empty coffee cups as I stared out at the dazzling city lights below me, working frantically to hit a critical deadline. Picture a scene from 'Suits' and that's where we are.
OK, my career didn't quite work out like that (and yes, I am glad) but I had a job which was much more than a job. I worked as though my life depended on it. I was as committed as though the company was mine, I loved it and it defined who I was. I put every part of me into being good at what I did. I felt as though I was worth something and that I was making a difference.
Fast forward to 2015 and after 9 months maternity leave, I didn't return to the role which I felt at the time had made me, me. There were many reasons and to say I felt sad, was a bit of a bloody under statement. But I had an amazing little girl who brought me a level of sheer joy I didn't think possible and a supportive husband, so I reasoned that I was making the right decision. We moved from the bright lights of London to the Regency serenity of Cheltenham and I embarked on finding a part time job. I set about this with the same excitement and enthusiasm that I had done after graduation and I dutifully worked on my CV and sent it out to high street recruiters. I received many calls, as you do, from chatty recruiters who treated me like their best friend. Apparently, I had all of the skills and experiences that their clients wanted and I was exactly what they were looking for (you know the scripts)....the conversations went well, I spoke with my usual confidence and went into great detail about what I had been doing and they listened. Some even sounded as they were interested, and dare I say it, one or two of them, cared! Until I mentioned the F word and wait for it....the P word too. Don't be alarmed- not those words you're probably thinking of...I just explained how I was looking for a flexible or part time role so that I could get a balance whilst my little girl was still little. The sound of disappointment was deafening. I could hear a pin drop. The first time, I shook the phone to see if the line had been cut off. The second time, I found myself apologising. The third time, I could hear the recruiter whispering to her colleague about where they should go for lunch. I felt worthless.
Three years on and thinking about those calls still makes my stomach turn. Those people I spoke to had no idea but they made me feel insignificant. I get it now, they've got targets to meet and I didn't fall into any of the boxes that they were looking to tick. But at a time when I was struggling with my identity as a new mum, the last thing I needed was to have my confidence knocked. Those recruiters just weren't willing to look beyond the 'part time' part of my requirements and needless to say, I didn't hear back from them after the initial calls.
But I thank them now. Those calls and the pitiful supply of part time and flexible roles in Gloucestershire spurred me on to set up Flexperience. We are at the beginning of our journey but I start it with the promise that I will never make another lady feel the way those recruiters made me feel. I promise that the tone of my voice won't change when you mention part time. I won't be disappointed by anything you say to me and I will value you as the person you are- an experience, able, skilled, pretty bloody incredible individual who has much to offer. I promise that I will champion you to companies in a way you deserve to be championed. I will be an ambassador for all working mums out there who have so much to give but who are being held back in the workplace because they have children. I promise that I will respect you for all the wondrous things you do on a daily basis and I promise that I will NEVER ask my colleague about their lunch plans when I should be listening to you.