Complementary Character Defects

I’ve been thinking a fair bit recently about the fact that Joyce and I live and work together, partly because we will soon be recording a podcast with Ian and Tracey Earl to talk about this very thing.  Then, last week, I was talking to a new business acquaintance of mine, Glenys Chatterley of EBN Networks, and she said that she and her partner had ‘complementary character defects’ and I immediately asked her if I could steal the phrase.  So here we are.

There are many challenges and joys to marriage or long-term cohabiting life, and there are a surprising number of us who choose not only to live together and raise a family together, but to earn our money together.  For Joyce and me, this just sort of happened.  There is a story, but I don’t want to pre-empt the podcast.

Challenges

I won’t say it is without its bad moments, but we’ve never had a row about the business.  Parsnips, yes.  Business, no.  The joys far outweigh the downsides.  Joyce is imaginative, a people person, she loves to talk, to advise, to stretch people.  I am task oriented; I don’t like risks.  She thinks it is easier to beg forgiveness than seek permission, I want my permission slips in triplicate.  We both love to serve people and if we can make them laugh along the way, that’s a bonus.

My character defects are countered by hers.  You could say that she is impetuous, and I am sensible, or you could say that I am fearful, and she is brave.  Whichever way you couch it, her character strengths are my defects and vice versa.  There are many couples like this, but they don’t always see the differences as a good thing, they try and make the other more like themselves, but that is like buying your dream house, knocking it down, building a block of flats and then wondering why it is not your dream house any more.  Somewhere along the line, the point has been missed.

Egg shells
Photo by Elle Hughes on Unsplash

Of course, not everybody can work with their partners for money, some of us do it in our hobbies, and our households, but my question is, do you see their character defects as complementary to your own? The chances are that you compensate for each other in all sorts of ways, like two halves of an eggshell.  Of course, you can fit them together to keep the egg inside safe, but this takes being aware of where the points and recesses are.  Or, you can keep jabbing the sharp bits into each other in the hopes that their pointy bits will break off.

Hopefully this is just a phase, a re-adjustment to some change of circumstances, or simply the dross life can throw at us.  Some couples do this a lot, as they work out how to make life fit, but my suggestion is that the solutions will not lie in where both sets of strengths sit, but in aligning your complementary defects.

Act!

If you are jabbing each other, think about contacting us for some mentoring so we can help you fit the shells back together again.

The power of apologising

We all make mistakes
By Chuttersnap on Unsplash

We all make mistakes.  That’s one of the many irritating things that make us human.  Sometimes we make little mistakes.  Sometimes we drop enormous clangers that have major repercussions.  Most mistakes are because of communication issues. Sometimes we compound the mistake by blaming other people, and while that’s not ok, its understandable.  None of us want to feel responsible for making other people’s lives harder. We all want to achieve the feel-good factor, because it makes us feel good too.  Its how we handle it that defines what kind of person you are.

Apologising genuinely.

I messed up big time yesterday, nothing deliberate, but it had major repercussions in the piece of work I was doing and more importantly, it hurt somebody. It made their life harder, made them cross, and I suspect, made them sad.  I only found that last bit out this morning.  I emailed the person concerned, taking note in detail and importantly, I took responsibility for the bits I could have done better.  I also explained where the responsibility lay for the bits that I depend on other people for.  Note, that, I didn’t blame them, I simply explained who was responsible for what.  I offered to reflect on my errors, I was polite, and I pressed send.

Apologising appropriately.

After I pressed send, I still didn’t feel right.  So I rang the person I had hurt and apologised, I took responsibility, I didn’t make excuses.  I literally said, ‘I’m really sorry, I dropped the ball, it is my responsibility’.  That wasn’t the end of the conversation, it was the start of a constructive way back in our working relationship.  Actually, saying the word sorry matters.

Apologising proportionately
Photo by David Holifield on Unsplash

I know several people who say they will never say they are sorry because it is only a word.  These people tend to make grand gestures, buying gifts, doing great acts of penance (often badly) or similarly embarrassing actions.  I find this utterly cringeworthy.  I have trouble believing these people are genuine.  Why is this?  Been there, done that. It’s not about being sorry and making the person you have hurt feel better. It’s about gaining some bizarre sense of nobility.  Yes, sorry is just a word, but words are powerful and sorry is one of the most powerful there is, especially when it is not accompanied by excuses.  A genuine apology can stop a tirade in its track, if it is said with enough depth of truth to be heard.

Moving on

In the day, apologising was often accompanied by an act of contrition or repentance. Sometimes making amends is important, but in general, and in business, correcting our mistakes and putting mechanisms in place to ensure they don’t recur is normally the best course of action.  Off the back of my apology today came one of the most useful and clear sighted conversations I’ve had with this person ever.  Now we need to follow up and do what we said would be more likely to work.

Self-reflection
Photo by Anthony Tori on Unsplash

And now we breathe.  We think about what went wrong, we put it right, we move forward and most importantly, we learn.  We learn to do things better.  We learn to take responsibility proportionately.  We learn that thinking rather than reacting is always going to work better.  The measure of a person is not being perfect, its about how we handle the fact that we are flawed.  Finally, we let it go.

If apologising is something you could be better, contact us for some help. And no, I don’t always get it right either.

Don’t, no, DO get me started!

This week we have a guest post from my friend Taz.  It’s not the kind of thing we’d normally go for, but as I can honestly say that she lives what she speaks, I’m delighted to host this post for her.

Don’t DO get me started!

If there’s one thing positive to come out of Covid19 it’s the boom to the online fitness industry meaning that there is a wide range of workouts to choose from.  There’s so much choice from the king of PE Joe Wicks, to Kayla Itsines sculpting that summer ready bikini body.  But how do you choose an online fitness instructor that is right for you?

Choose a live workout:

It takes a lot of discipline to set aside time for a YouTube workout, there’s always something else that will crop up.  By signing up for a live workout you know that you have committed to being in front of the screen at a particular time, it’s harder to get out of!  Live workouts also allow you to connect in real time to the session, and the instructor can see you and provide you with guidance for important adjustments and well-earned praise.  A good workout should always start with around a 10minute warm up and finish with a cool down to protect you from risk of injury.

Workout your workout goal:

What do you want to achieve?  Are you looking to build strength, sculpt muscle, burn fat or a way to switch of and relax?  Set some short, medium and longer term goals, figure out what might stop you from achieving them and find strategies to overcome those barriers. There is always a solution to help keep that motivation in place.

Whatever the goal, you need to enjoy the process!  Whether it’s a strength circuit session, pilates, high intensity interval training, cardio or yoga, you have to think what is right for you and keep your eye on those goals, reminding yourself of what you’ve set out to achieve.  Telling friends and family what you want to achieve also helps to keep you accountable.

The Perfect Workout? 9 Steps to Find the BEST Workout Plan | Nerd Fitness

Combat the confidence:

If you are new to working out, the idea of starting can fill you with dread.  You will worry you’ll make yourself look silly, that you don’t know what you are doing or that you’ll not even be able to keep up with everyone.  The gremlins will creep in.  But the truth of the matter is that a good instructor should help take that away from you by guiding you through the session.  Everyone has had to start somewhere, learn the various movements and are continuously working on improving their own form. You’ll soon realise that everyone is focused on their own workout and very quickly you will feel familiar with your new surrounds, and more importantly, gain fitness.

Gym Anxiety – Fighting the Exercise Fear! – Exercise.co.uk

7 Ways To Overcome Exercise Anxiety (womenshealthmag.com)

Find the time and prioritise:

Your health is the most important and valuable thing you have, and it needs to be prioritised.  If our body is healthy, so will our minds be.  If our mind is healthy, we are happier and achieve more.  It’s an upward spiral of positivity.  So, whatever the barrier whether it be work, children, tiredness that generally takes over, try to make some tweaks to your weekly routine and find an online workout that allows you to do what you can.  Even a couple of short 15 minute sessions throughout the day will help you reach that recommended level of 150minutes of activity a week.

Get active your way – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

What now?

If you are keen to start working out and need a friendly helping hand, do get in touch at taz@tazfit.co.uk and we can do it together.  You won’t look back!

Taz x

Defining the edges – meditation for those who don’t meditate.

I’ve been doing a lot of painting over the last week or so – the wall and ceiling kind, not the Michael Angelo kind.  I’ve painted in 2 colours – pink and black.  Not my choice, but not my living space, so our call to service means we serve, even if we don’t entirely agree with the choices.  The only limit on that is if supporting that choice would put the person or somebody else at risk of physical, mental or emotional harm.

Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

I hate doing the edges, particularly that fiddly bit at the top right-hand corner where three walls meet. Weirdly, I don’t find the top left corner so difficult.  Perhaps it’s because I’m right-handed yet left eye dominant.  This leads to interesting eye patches made out of tissue paper on the shooting or archery range, but that’s a story for another day…

Strangely though, I’m quite good at the edges.  If I can get to the point where I’m not thinking about it too much, the act of edging can take on quite a meditative state, from which I emerge with a peaceful mind. I’ve often, I discover after the event, thought through issues that were bothering me, or simply calmed my brain.

Noisy brain

My brain is a frightfully noisy place.  I have a theory this is linked to my high IQ.  I don’t say this as a brag.  I’m factually in the top 3% of the population, maybe slightly higher, but my emotional intelligence can be rather low. This is not always a great place to be for somebody whose job and study can involve interviewing people from an experiential approach.  Actually, I suspect my emotional intelligence can simply never get my IQ to shut up long enough for the emotional intelligence to come to the fore.

The noise can take any number of formats, the least comfortable always happens at bedtime.  This is when anything up to 3 or 4 songs can layer themselves in my head, in full, glorious orchestration.  There will almost always be a Latin number, Clare Teal’s 2009 rendition of ‘Tea for Two’, with the amazing Christopher Dagley on the drums, and often a rousing hymn from my Church of England/free church heritage. All of these are fantastic pieces or genres, which I love, but not all at once. These aren’t on loop. They are playing over each other, vying for prime position until the sheer cacophonous collage becomes overwhelming. The ONLY way to stop this noise, for me at least, is to listen to the spoken word as a I drift off to sleep.  This situation perplexes and disturbs my wife, who is convinced that my brain never has chance to ‘defrag’.

Finding the quiet
Photo by Le Minh Phuong on Unsplash

Classic meditation works sometimes, but this concept of sitting still and doing something for me strikes me as sinfully indulgent.  This is not an attitude towards mental wellbeing that I endorse by the way, just one I live with. We are all complex beings with flaws. Instead, I have a number of activities that allow my brain to wander into a place of quietness on its own.  These include edging the walls, audio typing for PhD students, heavy digging in the garden and sieving the compost.  The wonderful thing about three out of these four is that they also, so some extent, exercise my body.  They are however, often weather dependent, so I haven’t solved it entirely.

If you have a noisy brain like me, many of the classics – meditation, yoga, pilates and prayer, may work for you, and if they do, that’s fantastic.  If, however, like me, you need a kind of active trance, do let me know what it is. Then we can share with others and understand that whatever works for you, works!

Proofreaders – the goalkeepers of Quality Assurance

Danele Buso, Unsplash
Danele Buso, Unsplash

When you get on a plane, it’s filthy dirty and you watch the neighbouring plane having its luggage thrown carelessly out of the cargo hold, do you think to yourself, ‘I hope the mechanics were a bit more thorough’? Yet very few companies have their websites and service level agreements quality checked before putting them out in the public domain.

Then the trouble starts.  A client pushes their luck and there’s nothing you can do because your service level agreement has a gaping hole in it. Your website promises the earth because in your familiarity with the text, you didn’t notice you missed a word out.  That word is normally ‘not’, so you’ve just promised the exact opposite of what you’ve intended.

If all this seems logical, my question is, why aren’t you engaging the services of a proofreader?  It doesn’t have to be me, although of course I’d prefer it if it was.

Would any team, football, ice hockey or netball, take to the pitch/ice/court without a goalkeeper?  I think not.  Yet the majority of PhD students won’t pay to have their theses proofread until they’ve been given minor corrections.

If this seems like a false economy to you, why not change this?

What is proofreading?

Officially, proofreading is checking for spelling, grammar, punctuation and sense.  This is different from editing.  Proofreaders aren’t responsible for making sure you stay ‘on message’ or that you don’t have a glaring hole in your plot or argument.  In truth, those of us who are good, and who have a sense of integrity, are not going to set you up to fail like that. We  will go out of their way to pick you up on those things.

Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Officially, proofreaders don’t make changes.  They make suggestions for improvement.  Many of us have worked in some kind of training, teaching or other empowering roles, so our reports do sometimes read like marking, but we don’t use red pens!  In fact, these days we mainly use computers, but traditionally we use blue pencils.  My great aunt was a proofreader for the BBC World Service and I still have some of her reassuringly chunky pencils.  One is in a memory box; the rest are still being used for their original purpose on the rare occasions I get a printed out manuscript.  The work is in my blood.

So, my question is, do you treat your quality assurance and proofreading like a ropy Sunday League team, who puts the kid who turns up every week, full of enthusiasm, but with no aptitude, in goal?  Or do you treat it in the same way the first division teams do, investing in trained, experienced personnel, and encouraging and empowering them with as much information and support as possible?  If you want to move the quality of all your words to the premier league, contact us now.

Phoenix from the Ashes – Happy New Year!

My first company was called HG Phoenix.  It didn’t last long – I met Joyce and it quickly got absorbed into what is now CoomberSewell Enterprises.  As any business which has survived the ashes of 2020 may be doing right now, I’ve been thinking about the symbolism of the phoenix from the ashes. I’ve been thinking about the future and how sometimes to move forward, we need to acknowledge our backgrounds and how we are the product of our upbringings, for good or ill.

New Beginnings

When I started HG Phoenix, I’d just resigned from a job with a boss who later had a class action taken out against them for bullying.  The choice of Phoenix was the obvious one. I was rising from the ashes of my tattered confidence, but there was also a family connection.  My mum always told stories of a distant ancestor called Sarah Phoenix Perfect, who, she had always been led to believe ‘came from the gypsies’.  I couldn’t call the company ‘Perfect Proofreading’. That would be opening myself up to all sorts of trouble, but I had always had a romantic fascination with SPP, as I call her in my head. I never believed the ‘gypsy’ tales but resolved that if I ever wrote romantic or erotic fiction, this would be my pen name.  I haven’t written the novel (yet). Years on however, my parents have genealogy as their major non-faith pastime and it turns out its probably true. SPP is real, and she was adopted into the family from a traveller background.  As my theology colleague Steven Horne can attest, traveller records can be a little… oral, so after that, the trail goes cold.

Background

The HG was simple – my father’s middle initials, and I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl.  It was with my parents’ faith in me, and encouragement from an unforeseen quarter, that I set out on my new adventure.  The internationally renowned jazz singer and radio presenter Clare Teal, who I knew a little and whose opinion I value to this day, encouraged me to do what I was passionate about and made me happy. The rest would follow.  The path has been winding, but CoomberSewell Enterprises is a quietly successful business.  Some people question the use of the word Enterprises, but we use it as a reflection of our mindset; innovative, enterprising, hopeful and kind.

Moving Forward

As you shake the ashes of 2020 off your feet, whatever it has cost you whether that is your job, family members or security, I encourage you to look at the strong foundations your upbringing has provided you, however barren the landscape looks.  I totally acknowledge my good fortune in my upbringing in have hard working parents who instilled strong values in me.  No family situation is perfect, and others will have got their strengths and values despite their upbringing.  Nevertheless, that is where the stories we tell ourselves are rooted.  If you are having trouble seeing the wood from the ash, do contact us for a mentoring session with Joyce.

Work Life Balance at Christmas

Joyce and I have made the decision to close the business for a few days over Christmas for the sake of work life balance.  Actually, that’s not true, we’ve agreed that unless the work is already in the diary, from the evening of 22nd December to the morning of 4th January, we’re not taking any more work on.  I have one student to see and one small proof reading job in that time.  It’s time for some Us time.  I last opened an email connected to my school work on 19th December.  So, there’s the first commitment broken, that was supposed to be 18th December.  It’s the morning of 21st December and I’m already fighting the guilt.

Work life balance is a funny thing, especially if you are in any way self-employed, if you work in education, academia, or any of those other industries where the assumption that your good will means that you will go far beyond your job description.  Already, I have a list of at least 5 tasks to be tackled over our ‘leave’ and 4 of them are career or business related.

The See-Saw of Work life balance

For all of us, but particularly for the self-employed, balancing the see-saw (teeter-totter for my American friends) of work/life can be very hard.  There is a strong temptation to say, well, if I just do a half day on my emails, I can get a head start on the first day back… That is the thin end of a sticky wedge.  Yes, most of us went into self-employment to do what we love, but it is too easy to spend the quiet times on the bits we don’t love.  I’ve just spent nearly two full days catching up on the accounts.  Yes, it needed to be done, but did it have to be done right now, in the run up to what is left of Christmas?

Prioritisation

Often, I work with my students on managing both their study and their personal time, in the full knowledge that I could always be somewhat better at it myself.  There are many charts, apps and tables you can use to help with this – just google it, or look at Stella Cottrell’s Study Skills Handbook, a great investment for academics and students alike (The link is to Abe Books, other book sellers are available).  My favourite tool, however, was originated by Dale Carnegie.  I probably don’t have the copyright to reproduce the tools here, so let me just ask the pivotal question.  In your planning, do you consider what is important, or simply what is urgent? It sows the seed in our minds, that if something is only urgent, but not actually important, perhaps there is no need to do it at all?

Take a Beat

Unplug by Jess Bailey via Unsplash

So, as we run up to what is going to be a Christmas like no other (I write this while the news that we are in Tier 4 is still sinking in), I am asking you, telling you, maybe even begging you, to think about what is important, not what is urgent.  For me, this will be Zooming family and friends, going for walks, digging fresh spud and picking fresh Brussel sprouts for our Christmas Dinner.  It will be sitting through the Dr Who New Year special with the young members of the household, because they enjoy watching it with us.  It will be taking a breath.  So, by all means, contact us for mentoring, proof reading, or whatever else it was that is urgent that we can do for you, but also, sit down for five minutes to make important plans.

Ethical Dilemmas: Can you fake it till you make it with integrity?

This blog was partly inspired by communications I’ve had with close friends and family about confidence, imposter syndrome and the rational knowledge we have skills, whether we realise it or not.  My best friend, Lou, has launched a new career as a photographer, while also changing her day job, and we talked about the gender issues connected with confidence, and whether those thoughts still hold in the 21st century.  In that 2-hour meandering way that best friends do, we came to the conclusion that you just have to fake it till you make it.  But how do you do that with integrity?

Integrity

Now, I have to say, I have a roller coaster ride relationship with integrity.  In my Civil Service days, I hadn’t even considered the need for it, and was quite happy to get down and dirty with and against my colleagues, stealing placings and whatever it took to hit target.  Now, I see integrity as an ideal that, as soon as you accept that it can never be reached, you get a lot closer to attaining.  It is impossible to get through life without telling small fibs, these are called tact and discretion.  Nobody needs to know everything, all the time, indeed, if they did, it would be disastrous.

Integrity is about the small things.  If you say you will be at a meeting at 9am, be there at 8.55.  If you promise somebody some work in two years’ time, and then fall out with that person, as has happened in my working life once or twice, do the work anyway.  Be the bigger person.  You don’t have to become their best friend again, just keep your word to the best of your ability and move on.

Fake it till you make it

Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

But what about that old career adage, ‘Fake it till you make it’.  The problem is keeping control of the fakery.  Dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have is all very well, but is it ok to tell people you already have that job when you don’t?

Well of course not.  Is it OK to display confidence in your knowledge when you still have information to check?  Yes, within limits.  I always had more respect for my trainers when they answered one of my notoriously nitty gritty questions with ‘I’ll check that over lunch and get back to you’ than waffled on with what was obviously a shaky answer on a very narrow foundation.

Imposter Syndrome

There are times when you have total integrity but it feels like you are faking it.  This is really the epitome of imposter syndrome.  Here is mine: I am the world’s leading academic researching Joyce Grenfell.  This is, at the moment of writing, a true statement, and has been for the last 5 years.  There are 3 other experts on Joyce Grenfell: Janie Hampton, Maureen Lipman and James Roose-Evans.  None of them are academics and none of them have done any active work on Grenfell for nearly 2 decades.  Therefore, the statement is true because I am the ONLY Joyce Grenfell academic in the world.  Other academics acknowledge the validity of my claim to the leading academic in this field,  but it feels like a lie. So, we can say then that imposter syndrome is when you have integrity but it feels like you don’t.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I have a Joyce CoomberSewell who has, throughout our married lives, coached me in my continuing journey to building a stronger relationship with integrity, taught me skills to fake it till I make it with that integrity still in tact and has booted imposter syndrome out of my life on a weekly basis.  If you would like her to do the same for you, CONTACT US today.

Engaging with the Gatekeeper

There are lots of ways to build the profile of your business, your academic expertise, your passion.  Joyce talked about networking groups the other week, and I’ve attended many networking opportunities, including exhibitions and conferences.  It is when we go to follow up these initial links that many of us fail. We forget to follow up, or find it awkward and therefore avoid it.  Often we become so intent on building rapport with a CEO or other figurehead, we forget to build rapport with the de facto key person: The Gatekeeper.

Who is the Gatekeeper?

Even in the 21st century, in this world of online meetings and directors managing their own emails, there is still a large percentage of gatekeepers and they are mainly female!  I am of course talking about the army of mainly women who hold the title of PA, receptionist, occasionally Private Secretary, Chief Administrator and so forth.  There are some really good blokes doing this role and I am sure some would identify as non-binary and trans, but that is not my rabbit hole for today.  I’m talking about relationships, power, and how we can wield it with integrity.

Photo by Laura Davidson on Unsplash

In 1952 Betty Marsden debuted the Joyce Grenfell sketch ‘Private Secretary’ which, in addition to revealing a secret, explores many of the contradictions of these roles.  By their nature, they are often unseen and undervalued, yet they hold the key to information, action and attention.  Rather than asking ‘Who watches the watchman?’, perhaps we should be asking ‘Who gatekeeps the gatekeeper?’. I’ve met some shocking ones in my life, including the school secretary who on the first occasion I ever asked to speak to the head exclaimed “Why do you keep bothering him, you’re useless to him?’.  As I was offering training and support for parents and staff, that school lost out.  Embarrassing!

Gatekeeping with integrity

There are two gatekeepers I’ve encountered in my life however, who have operated with integrity, kindness, communication and skill, both professionally and personally.  It is to these two women I’d like to pay tribute today, now that they are both exiting my life.  Sheila Wraight, one of the Graduate College Administrators at CCCU retires at the end of this week.  It’s jokingly said that one of the other Administrators ushers you into the Grad College and Sheila looks after you through the last 6 months and ushers you out.  This is so true.  Sheila has been the focus of many a frustrated email from students over issues that are nothing to do with her. Every time, she has steered us with calm, clarity and kindness to the right answer, person or process.  It was a real moment of sadness for me when we went digital because of COVID and I could not therefore place my three bound copies into Sheila’s devoted hands.

The other is my Godmother Gloria (Goy) Fuller.  Rather like the Private Secretary in the sketch, Goy professed no real ambition, but ended up in a range of rather senior positions in the Civilian support staff for Kent Police. These included gatekeeping for a Chief Inspector who was notoriously almost never at his desk.  She was Assistant Secretary and Treasurer to the Police Social Club, a role which probably led to more decision making and action taking than the actual treasurer, and she continued this post long after her retirement from her day job. Goy died this month, and I did not realise how much I would hear her voice in my head. Though neither of us knew it at the time, from an early age Goy taught me about a different kind of ambition – an ambition to have integrity, build relationship at work and outside work, to enable the young ones even when they are infuriating (I was a very gabby child), and to simply be kind.  The rising through the ranks to a position of trust often comes quite accidentally from there.

So, what are my concluding thoughts today?  Whenever you want to make a lead, make a friend first, or at least a friendly acquaintance.  Don’t just ask to speak to the boss.  Make sure you know the name of the person who picks up the phone and who checks their emails for them. Ask after them, pass a few friendly comments.  At worst, these are the gatekeepers, who can shut the gate in your face as well as open it. At best, they will be people who will enable that business relationship, so make sure you genuinely appreciate them.  They are your de facto key person.

Can study be good for business?

I think we all know that as a PhD candidate, of course I think the answer to the question is yes!  There’s a lot more to my views on this and how they were formed though.  I’ve made some mistakes in balancing work and study over the years, but here are some of the reasons why I think study and business support each other, and some tips and tricks to make it work.

Reasons

  1. If you work in another field, learning theory will improve your practice and vice versa.

I was fortunate enough to have my Masters paid for by me then employer, the Civil Service.  As a front line worker in JobcentrePlus, it was not until I started examining policy formation and strategy that I began to comprehend:

  • how my tiny cog fitted in to the machine which is public service,
  • how that related to the political party in power at the time,
  • how the Civil Service keeps its political neutral role while advising its party political masters, and so much more.

Nobody is saying that the only study you should do is work related, but it can help with your relationship with the office.

2. If you work in education, continuing to study, and being open about it, helps your students trust you.

As a study skills tutor, I hold some teaching qualifications, of course, but I find that talking about my own challenges and how I have overcome them builds a sense of trust with my students.  Got a deadline?  So do I?  How can we both meet them?  Don’t understand the brief?  This is how I analyse mine – are these techniques useful to you? Got a bogie module?  Have I ever told you about my relationship with Economics and Governance?  (No, really, somebody ask me – I’ll happily tell you how I slew that dragon).  Being a student yourself creates a sense of rapport with your students that nothing else can forge, and you will both reap the rewards.

Tips

  1.  If you are studying something relevant to your job, make sure your colleagues know about it.

I learned this one the hard way.  I initially kept my Masters studies to myself and was accused by several colleagues of being both lazy and privileged.  How dare I, as a single white woman under 40 be working part time?  What gave me the right to laze around the rest of the time?  They had made a wrong assumption that I was a lady what lunched, who played at work to remove the boredom.  They had missed the part that when I wasn’t in the office I was studying, in lectures, or travelling the four hours each way to get to Uni. One stand up row later, a now educated colleague became the first to volunteer to take part in the research for my dissertation.  My point is, you may inspire respect, a new reputation for yourself or even somebody else to go and learn a new skill.

  1. (A tip) Organisation is key, as is a touch of ruthlessness.

In the 21st Century, time is a precious commodity. Taking on study is only going to make it more precious.  This is a key example of working smarter, not harder.  You will need to get your family on board.

If you are already studying and your family are not supportive, now is the time to sit down and have a full and frank discussion with them.  What are the benefits to them of you getting this qualification?  What practical skills can your other half/young ones/house mates learn or take over that will help free up your time?  Batch cooking, putting their own washing away, dusting and hoovering, these are all gender neutral tasks. It is important that you carve out time for your study then guard it with your life! If work is a more conducive environment for study than home, go in early, or stay late (clear this with your employer first). Make sure that you don’t suffer from study guilt – you do matter and the more you prioritise your study and empowerment, the more positive role model you become for those around you.

In conclusion, then, if you’re thinking about studying while you work, get on and do it, but make sure you have your loved ones on board before you start.  If you’re already studying and have got a bit stuck in the mire, I understand, why not give me a ring and see if I can help?