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Business And Careers Careers Advice Parenting

Dads: Careers advice for your children

As your children get older, your role as a father changes. While my eldest daughter is only 12, I have found myself having to give careers advice. And have to talk to her about the educational choices required to achieve her career choices.

Giving careers advice to youngsters presents certain challenges because the world of employment moves rapidly. When I was young, internships didn’t exist. Neither did modern apprenticeships and if you didn’t go to university, people would cross the road to avoid you (okay, slight exaggeration but university was the expected route for most people).

So what careers advice should a father give to their child in 2021? How can you make sure you are not giving advice suitable for the 1990s? I’ve spoken to a recruitment expert and leadership expert (both dads, fittingly), a higher education expert and a Government Minister to find out.

Don’t expect to have everything figured out from day one

As a teen, I felt under immense pressure to decide what I was going to do with my life. Much of the pressure came from my family who wanted to know I had a firm career path. But transformative coach Matthew Fox says this is a mistake.

“Don’t feel that you have to have worked out how life is going to be from day one. There are many chapters that will unfold which you can’t predict or control. Enjoy each of them as they lead to the next one.”

Fox, who works with senior leaders and business owning dads, added that you “shouldn’t compare yourself to others” and that you should “be ready to jump at opportunities when they arise.”

I found these comments very interesting. I was expecting something about choosing your A-levels. Fox, however, seems to be suggesting flexibility and a positive mental attitude will take you far (you can check out Fox’s leadership and fatherhood podcast here).

Consider vocational qualifications

The Government has made no secret of its desire to make more vocational qualifications available and to increase their appeal. One of the newest qualifications is the T-Level which was launched last year.

Rather like A-Levels, T-Levels are available to study immediately after GCSEs. You study them for two years and they are a mix of classroom learning and on the job experience. A T-Level is the equivalent to three A-Levels.

Speaking exclusively to DaddyJobs.co.uk, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan said:

“With course content designed by over 250 leading employers and a nine-week industry placement included, T Levels offer young people a unique opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills businesses need so they can get a head start on their future career.”

As a new qualification, T-Levels are only available in a few industries right now. But they’re going to expand massively between now and 2023. Keegan explained:

“Those interested in designing buildings or managing construction sites should take a look at the T-Levels in Construction, young people keen to explore a career working with children should think about the Education and Childcare course and anyone thinking of becoming a programmer or a software engineer should consider our Digital T Levels.”

T-Levels look like a superb option to academic study and the planned subject areas (see here) are very impressive. These are definitely a qualification to watch, especially if you have a younger teen as more options will be available to them in the next few years. Encouraging children to look into this route could be a good piece of careers advice.

Career paths can be “wiggly”. So your careers advice may need to be “wiggly” too.

Josie Whiteley is a former lecturer, freelance education consultant and vice-chair of the National Education Union Leadership Council. (In other words, she’s a big deal in the world of higher education).

As you might expect, Whiteley is an advocate of higher education. Stressing that youngsters should make choices based on their interests:

“When making choices whether for GCSEs or jobs choose subjects/specialisms/areas that interest you, not what your parents or teachers say you ought to study.”

While big on education, Whiteley says practical skills are important: “Dads should ensure their kids know how to budget to survive college, the real world or a job.”

Whiteley also said dads should encourage their offspring to research career choices. As they may be working in their chosen field for years, maybe decades. Even so, she said young people should not panic if something doesn’t work out: “If you make a wrong subject or career choice you can always change. Your road map to reach your ideal job might just look a bit more wiggly than a straight route from A to B.”

It’s about YOU

“I’ve interviewed thousands of people over the years and I can categorically tell you, not one person has been offered a role where they didn’t fit the company.” says recruitment specialist and dad Phil Palmer, AKA The Corporate Dad.

Palmer has not only worked in recruitment for 12 years, but is trying to help his 18-year-old daughter navigate “the important choices in her life”. He believes that “education is just one of the tools that you will need. A lot can come down to ‘you’.”

He adds that having a degree can be important for certain roles. He states:

“I wouldn’t want an unqualified doctor working on my appendix”. But stresses he’s known graduates starting in admin roles and senior C-suite executives without degrees.

Palmer says social skills are vital, especially in an interview scenario. Answering with yes / no answers won’t get you far.

“What do you like? Can you hold a conversation and talk about interesting and relevant facts? Do you actively listen?”

I thought this advice followed on nicely from Fox’s. Employers want to know that you are the right person for the role and that you have the skills to do the job well. Again, it’s not simply about qualifications as it can come down to your ability to hold a conversation and communicate.

In summary; a good piece of careers advice is that character is important

Providing your children with careers advice is never going to be easy. Speaking to these experts, however, shows that an individual’s character is vitally important. This will dictate their attitude to decision making and study. It’ll also dictate whether they fit in an organisation and have skills such as communication and listening skills. Qualifications definitely have their place, but youngsters shouldn’t feel railroaded down the academic route. If there’s one thing I have taken away from this exercise, it’s that career paths are not always straight. Youngsters should not feel pressured to have their life mapped out at a young age. They may not know what they want to do at first and mistakes can be undone. It’s up to us parents to support the decisions our children make. And accept the fact we may not necessarily agree with them.

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Flexible Working Parenting Shared Parental Leave

Supporting Men in the Workplace upon Return to Work

As Governments of the United Kingdom cautiously signal a slow easing of lockdown restrictions, employees are going to trickle back into the workplace. They may not return five days a week, but return they will. This begs the question: What steps are employers taking to welcome back men into the workplace?


That may sound like a sexist question, but it isn’t. Allow me to explain why:


Many employers are used to welcoming female staff back to work after a prolonged period of maternity leave. Employers often have Keeping In Touch days and other initiatives for women, but not men. Added to this, in most households it is mum who balances work while doing most of the childcare. The past year has been very different. Fathers have been around to help with getting the kids ready in the morning, with remote learning and been much more involved with family life.


This has resulted in a big shift in mentality for lots of men. Far from being sexist, what we’ll hopefully see is men taking on more of the childcare and domestic burden at home. Thereby freeing women up to concentrate on work and their careers. The question is, are employers ready for this monumental change in working culture?


Men’s domestic roles have changed


I asked Ian Dinwiddy for his opinion. Ian operates Inspiring Dads, a coaching service for men in the workplace who struggle balancing work and family life. I asked how he thought employers should prepare for welcoming dads back to the workplace:


“For many people, the return to the workplace will be fraught with tension, potential ongoing concerns about personal safety, and the ‘simple’ emotional challenges of change.


“To support men, it is vital to take the time for an individual assessment of needs, both from a mental health perspective and work life ‘balance’ perspective. Many men will have fundamentally changed their domestic role, especially dads caring for children, and altered their expectations of the trade-offs they are prepared to accept.”


As you can see, Ian confirmed what I’d been thinking: Many men will have reassessed their role in the home. Ian also issued the following warning:


“Any failure to recognise and carefully support men are likely to store up well-being, performance, and talent retention issues for businesses everywhere.”


What the employer organisations say


With Ian’s words ringing in my ears, I approached the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). I asked what advice it was giving employers about welcoming back men into the workplace. I was directed to this article on the FSB website.


Credit where it’s due, the article addresses Ian’s concern that employees might be concerned about the risks posed by returning to the workplace. It also mentioned childcare and the possibility of furloughing staff for longer if necessary so they can deal with children. That said, the FSB didn’t offer any specific advice for supporting dads (or mums) when they return to work.

My next stop was the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The CBI had a dedicated Coronavirus Hub on its website with some great resources. There were ideas and case studies to help employers support staff mental health and support staff working from home. There was mention of the stresses faced by “working parents” but nothing about easing working dads back into the workplace.


Having looked at a couple of employer organisations, I approached an employer directly. Zurich is a company with a reputation for being a very forward-thinking organisation with a good approach to gender equality. I made enquiries about how it was preparing for staff to return and if it had identified any issues where men in the workplace might need some additional support.

The insurer hasn’t yet firmed up its plans. It is still “considering how to welcome staff back to the workplace” so it’s unclear at this stage what support will be available.

How to support men returning to the workplace

All things considered, I felt more than a little underwhelmed with how UK employers are preparing to welcome men back into the workplace.
With no one else providing tips for helping male employees back in to the office, I’ve put together a few suggestions:

  1. Be mindful of the fact men are less likely to acknowledge and admit they are having difficulties re-adjusting to office life. Have regular catch-ups. Ask how they are doing and make sure they are familiar with any workplace counselling services or mental health support that is on offer.
  2. Why not introduce Keeping In Touch days for all employees before they return to the office? There is no reason why these can’t run virtually.
  3. Look at the diversity training undertaken by your management team. Do they undertake training to better understand the stresses and strains faced by mums AND dads? A lot of diversity training ignores dads. This is a big oversight. The reality is that many employers are more flexible in their approach to working mothers. After a year of working from home, much of it spent in the company of their children, dads will expect equal treatment. Managers need to be aware of this.
  4. Are you ready and prepared for a surge in requests from male employees who want to formalise flexible working arrangements? They’ve spent a year balancing work with childcare responsibilities and been productive. And employers need to give all such requests serious consideration thinking long and hard before turning them down.
  5. Keep in mind that employees may have other caring responsibilities. They may be looking after an ill or disabled family member or spouse.

Being Aware that Change has taken place

To wrap up, let me make clear that women should receive the same levels of support. But employers need to be aware of how a year of working from home will have impacted and changed the expectations of fathers.

Things have changed a lot for men and employers need to accept this and take appropriate action. If they don’t, men will talk to employers who offer greater understanding and flexibility.

Categories
Parenting

How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Community

A Daddy Support Community – It’s More valuable Than You May Think!

A little while ago, I was taking part in a panel discussion about flexible working. I was the only man on the panel. I found myself getting very frustrated with how the discussion was going.

Time and again the female panel members said it was important to have a network of friends to call upon for support. I should make clear that “friends” was code for “mum friends”. One of the panel said she was part of a WhatsApp group that featured 25 friends she called upon for help. Help such as picking kids up from school at the last minute, I simply had to respond. 

The microphone was passed to me. I made it absolutely clear that a dad could only dream of that level of support. I’ll paraphrase, but I said that what dads desperately need is “mum friends”. That mums needed to be more willing to mix with and support dads. Even if I say so myself, my comments caused a bit of a stir and I’m glad they did!

Issues For Dads. . . + What To Do About Them

When it comes to seeking support and help, dads face a few barriers. In this article, I’ll focus on two of the main ones.

First of all, men are often raised to be strong, silent, solitary types. They can feel awkward admitting they need help or someone to talk to. It can seem like weakness.

My advice to any dad is to smash this barrier down. You’ll need help and support and your children will throw unexpected curve balls at you. You can’t and shouldn’t be expected to deal with this on your own. Re-evaluate what you were taught about men and how they should behave when you were growing up. 

You are, after all, simply trying to care for your children. What could possibly be more masculine that that?

Second, informal support networks are often very mum-centric. Nursery groups, Parent Teacher Associations, school WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups can seem very mum-heavy. 

As a stay and work from home dad of many years standing, I’d say it’s imperative on you have a presence in these networks. Mums need to get used to dads being active in these groups. The only way that’ll happen is if dads engage with them and make a positive contribution. It can be lonely and it isn’t always easy, but it would be in your interests to get involved.

What Support Exists For Dads And How To Build Your Own Daddy Support Network?

Okay, so let’s take a look at what support does exist for dads. At the beginning of the parenting journey are National Childbirth Trust groups.

I personally found the support from the NCT limited. However, if you are willing to get together for coffee with the boys from your NCT group, I’d strongly recommend it. I often hear of mums meeting up with NCT mums years after giving birth. Why not dads too?

I’d also suggest getting in touch with your local Sure Start or health centre. In most localities you’ll find some kind of group for fathers. The group in my area was called Saturdads. As the name suggests, it gave dads a chance to mix and mingle with other dads and their kids on Saturday mornings.

Just one observation I’d make about these groups. They usually meet the needs of working dads. Saturdays are often ‘mum time’ in households like mine where dad does most of the childcare. Stay at home dads who look after the kids during the week, are unlikely to want to mingle with dads and other people’s kids at the weekend. 

This brings me nicely on to the subject of where at stay at home dads can look for support. Since the introduction of Shared Parental Leave in 2015, there’s been an increase in fathers undertaking the ‘at home’ role, albeit often for just a few months. Even if these men are only fulfilling the main carer role for a few months, they still need support.

Outside of the trendiest parts of East London, stay at home dad support is incredibly thin on the ground. You’re best heading online where you’ll find communities such as the UK At Home Dads Facebook group. This group, is a great resource and in the pre-COVID days, organising the occasional face-to-face meet up.

TheDadsNet also has a variety of online groups plus local groups run by volunteers across the country. It’s worth having a look to see if there is something in your area.

Daddy Support Community Apps

Over the past year, we have seen the launch of a couple of apps. These give dads a chance to meet like-minded people. These are for stay at home or working dads. DadApp is one such app while DadAF is another (just don’t ask what the F stands for). 

Online, Offline And A Little Dose Of Confidence

If you’re going to build a community you can call upon for dad support, it is likely to be a mix of online and offline communities. I’m afraid there is no escaping that mums do have more access to formal and informal support. But, if you look around, there are opportunities out there. I’d also say there the future looks rosier than it did when I became a dad over a decade ago. More recognition that dads need support exist and more has become available. Even if more is needed. 

You may need a little dose of confidence to meet with dads (…and mums) you’ve not spoken to before. If you can muster that confidence, you’ll find some great networks do exist. Don’t worry, everyone you speak to will have been in exactly the same position as you!

Daddy support is just as important as mum support.