Entrepreneur, career coach and start-up adviser Kath Sloggett is the founder of Runneth London. She helps people (often mums) return to work, change careers or just sort out what they’d like to do next. With Runneth, Kath’s goal is to help women to “rediscover their work mojo” and find the work/life balance that works for them. We asked her about some of the obstacles mums face, and how we can meet those challenges head-on.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Mother of two. Entrepreneur/CEO. Straight-talking. Coffee-fuelled. Flexible work advocate. Recent athleisure convert (yep, I know—it’s disgraceful but I will now happily wear gym kit on the school run with no intention of doing anything active straight afterwards). Lives to help others.
I currently run my own career coaching and start-up mentoring business, called Runneth London, where we help people find working lives that they love. We work with both corporate and private clients, and usually focus on helping people at pivot points in their career or working life—returning to work after a career break, stepping up in a career, changing careers, or starting a business. We also run workshops and events on career or start-up related topics, we recruit for interesting and flexible roles, and we help employers with their return-to-work programmes.
My background is both professional (Chartered Accountant, consulting, big company roles, etc.) and also in SMEs [small and medium enterprises] and start-ups, having worked in, advised and run smaller businesses for the past ten or so years.
What inspired you to start Runneth?
Runneth started almost without me noticing. I had been running my own businesses for a while and advising other SMEs and start-ups. When I became a mother, I started getting approached by other mums and being asked about how I’d started my own business. They were often looking to change jobs—to find something more flexible or less intense—or wanted to return to work after having a family career break.
In many cases, our quick chat would lead to a coffee meeting and lots more talking. And in many cases what these women wanted was an interesting role, but not necessarily to run their own business. Soon I was doing more of these meetings than I had time to fit around my other commitments, so when I exited another business that I had co-founded (a parenting consultancy business), I decided to launch Runneth more formally.
Today we work with both private and corporate clients, and coach both women and men at all stages of their working lives. We are delighted to continue to support many of our fellow mums and are thrilled to be part of the amazing mum community.
What are some misconceptions/insecurities that mums have about returning to work?
When faced with the idea of returning to work, either after a longer career break or a shorter maternity leave break, many of us can feel daunted. There is research to show that the initial period after becoming a mother is the most intense period of new learning that adults experience in their entire lives. So, it is no wonder that our brains decide to help out—by filing away all the work-related details that we no longer need to access on a regular basis.
For many women, it can feel like this part of ourselves, our working identity and this part of our memory and experience, is lost forever. I often encounter women who say, “I can’t remember how I ever did my job.” It gives us a crisis of confidence and takes a lot of self-will to return to work or to job search when facing this type of barrier. But the great news is that, often within a very short space of time, all of that “filed” information is taken out of storage by our brains and the memories, knowledge, experience, and language of work come flooding back into our consciousness.
This the biggest issue that faces most career returners, and especially returning mums.
A common return-to-work misconception is that returners need to trade down on their role or salary in order to gain more flexibility. Recent research has proven yet again that more senior roles tend to offer more flexibility, so we should be aiming higher, not lower, in our return to work aspirations.
What hurdles do mums face and what can be done to tackle them?
When returning to work mums face a few hurdles.
There are the practical issues to consider—choosing childcare arrangements that you are happy with and can afford, negotiating the timings of your work commitments in a way that you never had to do before becoming a parent (how to attend after-work drinks when you have to collect your child by 6pm, whether you can take two hours off mid-morning on a Thursday because the school has scheduled your kid’s play at 10:30am, and so on). Talking to other working parents for practical advice and understanding what your employer might be able to offer in terms of flexibility and other benefits (some employers provide access to emergency childcare for example) can really help.
There is also often guilt: working mother’s guilt is a very common experience. Feeling guilty when you are at work, that you are not at home. Feeling guilty when you’re with your family that you are not working. It is a game of two competing sides—both wanting all your time and attention—and you need to find a healthy balance that works for you, as well as for your job and your family. It is not easy at the best of times, and worse with an important work deadline looming or a sick child off school.
Take some time to think about how and when you like to work—e.g., are you a morning person who is struggling to cope at work because you are doing the drop-off and can’t be at your desk until later? Or are you happy to work a few hours at the weekends if you can get home for your child’s bedtime a few nights a week? Also, think about when you enjoy being with your family—for example, do you find dinner and bath time difficult and would be happy for someone else to do these, but you really want to be able to drop off your child every morning at nursery or school? Then you can decide in a more objective way how you divide your time and where you draw the boundaries.
Research shows us that children of working parents do not suffer, and in fact the daughters of working mothers have higher aspirations for themselves. I work long hours but flexibly around my children, with the luxury of collecting them from school two afternoons a week. My children still moan that they wish I didn’t work, despite the fact that I’m present for almost all their non-school hours and they adore their nanny. Having worked with lots of working mothers over the years, it seems that almost all children moan about something—either you are working too much or not enough. You can’t win so it’s best to ignore it—and definitely don’t make a fuss about whatever they say, or they will realise it’s a good way to get your attention.
We focus on the practicalities and aim to leave the guilt behind—most of the time.
What services does Runneth offer and how do you help women get back into the workforce?
At Runneth we help women get back into work by providing career coaching, including return-to-work coaching for people who aren’t sure what they want to do next or need some help in finding their next role. We also run regular return-to-work events and career-focused workshops to help people with practical things updating their LinkedIn or CV. We regularly interview and write about inspiring working women—mostly mums—on our blog, and we advertise returnships and jobs on our website. Feel free to get in touch if you have a question or would like to find out more about how we can help.
For more, visit Runneth London’s website