There are plenty of times in hindsight that I wish I had asked more questions of my employer, had that bit more confidence and taken a few more risks. Hannah completed Game Changers in Sept and did all of this and more so I knew you had to hear her story…
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Hannah, mummy to 2 gorgeous children – Thomas (3) & Ellie (1), married to Rich and we live in Wetherby, West Yorks with our crazy black Labrador, Lottie. I love photography, writing, cooking & getting out and about in the fresh air be it walking, running or horse riding! I also work 3 days a week in HR at a law firm.
Q. Why did you decide to do Game Changers? How did you feel and what was going on at the start?
I’d gone back to work (at the head office of a major retailer) 3 days a week after my first maternity leave. I’d applied to do the job I’d left (and enjoyed) as a job share with a colleague who was returning at a similar time and felt really lucky when we were granted our flexible working request. Except the week before we got back we were told that our Head of Dept had since decided we couldn’t do that role as a job share after all, and we were both given much less interesting work to do.
The other girl left for a better job and I fell pregnant with my 2nd baby. Returning from maternity leave round 2 wasn’t much better, I felt that my employer was paying lip service to flexible working by offering 3 day roles….but no one really supported me, or seemed to care what I was or wasn’t doing….everyone was too busy. As a result I quickly became disheartened, disengaged and bored. I didn’t feel I could say anything as there was an air of “we’ve given you the 3 days you asked for, what more do you want?!”
The job I came back to 2nd time wasn’t completely horrendous but it certainly wasn’t one I’d have applied for internally or externally and it was so far removed from what I’d been really good at and due to several restructures, there was no one senior to me who knew what I was capable of, or even bothered to ask. I lost a lot of self confidence because I wasn’t getting any positive feedback or doing work that played to my strengths. I stopped caring and that is just so not me.
I thought, there’s got to be more to life than this. I wanted to work part time, being a full time mummy was never on my agenda, so I literally sat down with a pen and paper and listed all the things that make me happy and things I’m good at, with a view to finding something I could do that I’d put my heart and soul into. Nothing concrete came up until I posted a pic of my kids on Facebook one night, and I got loads of positive feedback.
I suddenly realised I’ve always had a passion for photography (even though I didn’t actually own a camera at this point) and I started to wonder if I could do something with that. I’d even written “taking pictures” on my list of things I enjoy.
That’s why I joined Game Changers, because I had a vague idea and I wanted to turn my idea into a concrete plan.
Q. What have you learnt about yourself?
I learnt that I had lost way more confidence than I’d allowed myself to realise. Everything had changed for me since becoming a mummy & I’d started to just accept my lot, thinking that if I wanted to work part time then I had to make sacrifices and accept whatever work came my way. I’d started to believe I wasn’t worth very much and had even applied for a job on minimum wage at a particularly low point (my husband talked me out of that as he believed I was worth more).
During week two of Game Changers I’d realised that actually I still had loads of valuable skills and experience to offer. Just because my priorities had changed it didn’t mean I’d lost the ability to use my brain, and so I started to ask questions and challenge the status quo.
In doing so I started to regain confidence and believe in myself again. I now have a real determination and a belief that I can overcome whatever barriers I need to, to do what makes my heart sing.
Q. What if anything has changed for you?
The day after I’d completed workshop two of Game Changers, and realised all of the above, the universe did its thing and I got a call from a recruitment agency, having seen my profile on LinkedIn. The role sounded really interesting but it was a full time fixed term contract. Instead of saying I wasn’t interested, due to the contractual arrangements not being ideal, I said it sounded perfect for me but I needed to work part time as I had 2 small children. The agency said they’d ask the question for me and came back to say the client would like to interview me. I went along ‘just for the interview experience’ and was offered the job. Initially this was offered on 4 days a week and after thinking about it long and hard I realised I’d still rather be in an unfulfilling role on 3 days than lose out on time with my 1 year old daughter, as I wouldn’t ever get that time back. Again, instead of just declining it, I asked them to consider compressed hours over 3 days and to my absolute surprise and delight they agreed!
I felt more valued in that brief meeting than I had in several years in the job I was in.
I know I said earlier that photography is my plan, so you might be wondering why I’d just taken a new HR role?! Well, I need to keep a steady salary coming in for at least 3 more years until my youngest starts school and also, I can’t just say “ta-dah I’m a photographer now” because it’s a competitive industry and I need to practise a LOT for people to take me seriously.
The change of job has made me happier and more creative though.
Q. What are you doing now?
For the (new) day job I’m an “Emerging Talent Advisor” for a law firm in Leeds. That’s looking after the graduate lawyers’ development during their 2 years training contract and a bit of generalist HR in plain English. I do 24 hours over 3 days there….and then the rest of the time I’m either spending quality time with my kids or out practising my photography skills.
I bought a decent camera, attended a beginners photography course and asked my Facebook friends for volunteers for free photo shoots to start building my portfolio up. I’ve had great feedback from the pictures I’ve produced so far (couple of examples below if you’re interested) and I literally have the biggest smile on my face as I’m editing my pics. I feel like I’ve finally found my “thing.”
After Christmas I plan to release an introductory offer and start getting paid for my work, and I plan to do this part time around my work and the kids until the time comes when I have enough customers to make the leap.
Q. How do you make it work combining work and family life?
Life sure is busy and I’ve had to make some short term sacrifices. For example I don’t do quite as much exercise as I was doing, but I still make sure I get my 10,000 steps in a day (easy done with 2 kids and a dog to run around after) and for now, that’s enough.
My hubby works away in London 2 or 3 days a week so to make my life a little easier, I enrolled my eldest for an extra preschool day on one of my days off to give me some much needed quality time with my youngest and to get some time to do the housework whilst she naps.
I use the 2 evenings my hubby isn’t around each week to concentrate on my photography business, so as soon as the kids are in bed, I’m straight on my computer researching or playing with my pics in photoshop.
We always try and keep Sundays clear for some quality family time.
Q. If you could change one thing for your fellow mothers what would it be?
Wow that’s such a huge question! I’d change the perception employers and other people have of working mothers. Yes we have different priorities and if nursery/school call to say our kids are ill, then we will drop everything. But treat us right at work and we will deliver great things, because we’ve also built up some important additional skills since we had kids that employers often don’t think of or seem to care about….resilience, multi-tasking, patience and kindness to name but a few. When we arrive at work in the morning we probably haven’t had the best nights sleep, we’ve fed and then wrestled young kids into their clothes & shoes. We’ve possibly even had to wake them up earlier than they wanted to and dealt with the ensuing upset on their part and guilt on ours, to get them where they need to be so that we can get ourselves to work on time and in one piece. So it frustrates me massively when people underestimate the working mum (I’ll step down from my soap box now!)
Q. What advice would you give for anyone currently feeling like they need to make a change?
That’s easy – do Game Changers! In just 12 weeks I’ve changed my job (an outcome I hadn’t even considered possible beforehand) AND I’ve got a solid plan for my photography business. Oh and I’ve also got a great support network of the mums who were on GC with me, they’re a very special bunch of inspirational women in so many different ways and we’ll all be cheering each other on for a very long time.
Failing that, write down what you enjoy doing on one piece of paper and then what you need to earn on another….and start to think practically about how you can make that happen. Ask questions of people who are doing what you want to do. I’ve had some fab conversations with photographers that I admire, I’ve got some work experience and coaching booker as a result and I’ve found that in general, people are really supportive.
Q. How can people get in touch or find out more?
I haven’t created my website yet (it’s a work in progress) but if you’d like a nosey at my pics I’m on Instagram as @hannahbrookephoto, my Facebook page is here or you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
We have a FREE mini 7 day Game Changers course if you’d like to get a taste for what is involved. Just head over here to sign up.