(with thanks to Helen Letchfield from Parenting for Professionals for this blog)
I still remember the nervous excitement of the first day back at school in September after a long, summer break: meeting my new teachers, seeing my classmates after a long break, the (slightly stiff) feeling of the smart new shoes and uniform. And now as a parent, I re-live this every year with my 2 children.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could re-ignite the positive aspects of returning to school in September in our return to work?
Whether you are returning from a lengthy period of leave or simply from your annual summer holiday, the start of a new term can mark the start of a new challenge for all of us. After all, it’s much more motivating to make changes in sunny September than it is in cold and dreary January (no wonder our New Year resolutions are so hard to stick to).
As I cast my mind back to my school days, the fresh start of September made me feel energised and motivated. I put more effort into getting to know my new teachers, more effort into my appearance (spurred on by my smart new uniform), and maybe even set a target or two. OK, this effort and energy may not have made it past Christmas, but it felt like a fresh start to a new academic year.
So let’s look at what we can learn from our children returning to school and apply this to our roles as working parents:
New uniform: new professional image
New or even freshly dry-cleaned clothes just make us feel better. If we feel better, we stand taller and look more confident. Image management – how we feel about ourselves and therefore how we come across to others – starts from childhood and we mustn’t forget its importance at work.
New pencil case: newly organised-you
Taking a couple of hours before you get back into work to clear out old files, delete old emails and tidy your workspace will de-clutter your mind and help you focus on the important tasks ahead
Get to know your teachers: relationship-building with your boss
Whether you’ve got a new manager or not; whether you actually like them or not; taking time to really get to know them and understand what makes them tick can make your day-to-day life hugely more pleasurable. It can also open the gateway for future potential. Teachers naturally create more possibilities for the children they know well and respect for their hard work and interest; it’s the same for us with our managers at work
Organise your timetable: set goals
One of the main reasons why I find September so motivating is because there’s a nice 4-month period before Christmas to focus on. This makes goal-setting a lot easier. Your teachers will be setting termly targets for your children, so seize this opportunity to set some for yourself – whether it be a personal or a professional goal – what do you want to be doing/be feeling by Christmas?
As we will probably all be encouraging our children to pick up a maths or reading book as we get closer to the new term, it’s a good idea to focus your mind back into the world of business before the first day back. Whether you’ve been away for 2 weeks or 2 years, catching up with what’s been going on since you’ve been away will enable to you to go in on day 1 with more confidence, or at the least with a list of informed questions.
So there’s the September-challenge for all of us working parents: there are so many similarities between little ones at school and us older ones at work that we can learn from each other as we go. And the next time you are out shopping for new school shoes, buy yourself a pair too!
Helen Letchfield is the Co-Founder and Principal Coach of PfP Coaching, specialising in career management for working parents.