Moms Doing It For Themselves: Sinead Brady
Having children can really change your outlook on your career and working life.
It’s not easy for women to juggle work and childcare - while at the same time following their passion, but it can be done. Sinead Brady started her business, A Career to Love, because she saw the overwhelming importance of doing what you love.
Tell us a little bit about your business:
My business is called A Career to Love. I work with people who are choosing, changing or transitioning in their career. It might be someone who has decided they didn’t want to go back after maternity leave, want to set up their own business or want a complete change of direction. So, I work with people of all age-groups, all the way from the quite young - to people who are preparing for retirement. It’s all about career choice and change. I also work with clients who want to increase their performance in their current job. On the corporate side, I offer workshops and seminars on skill enhancement and career management in the face of a rapidly changing 21st-century workplace, managing your career and energy and building successful teams.
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What was your motivation to start up your business?
Well, I had always thought about starting my own business. I always had a bit of an entrepreneurial bug, I guess. I had been doing the role I am in, working in education and career guidance and ultimately in the area of career choice and change for about twelve years. I had my first daughter in 2012 and my second in 2013 and the decision came about from wanting to manage my own business and my own time. And to spend as much time with them as possible. I was also really seeing a huge appetite for the work that I was doing with other people, that people just want that little bit of extra input to help them choose a course. So it was a coming together of circumstances. Becoming a new mum made me realise that I needed to manage my time more. I needed to give as much as I could to my girls, but at the same time - I wanted to hold an element of my professional identity also.
What is your background?
I initially trained as a barrister and I made the choice very quickly after training that it wasn’t an area that I wanted to work in. I started working in education as a career guidance counsellor. I worked in that area for twelve years and all the while I was studying. I completed my masters and postgraduate diploma in psychology while working. And also building my business and my skills in the area. I was a “Sidetreprenuer” a phrase I use quite a lot. Unable to take the leap to leave my job and walk away without knowing something was in place, I had to strategise.
So for about six years while working full-time initially, and part-time as a new mum, I was building my business and building my career in psychology, so that I could work privately as a career psychologist. I have changed and transitioned myself on three separate occasions, including leaving a full-time, pensionable job. So actually, moving out of a job that you’d have for life into a less secure but more flexible career. Solo employment as I refer to it, because even though you’re working for yourself you really are doing a lot of pieces solo, but you have a lot of help from other people.
What have been the highs and lows of setting up your own business?
I made the decision to go out on my own after I had my two girls. I wanted to be more flexible with my time. If they were sick I could be with them. I had built up the business over the years so it wasn’t too much of a leap. One of the challenges I did find strange was working completely on my own. I found that and having a home office quite challenging because you tended to end up doing all the housework and cooking, cleaning but leaving my professional work behind me so I'd end up at 4 am trying to get the backlog done. Learning to accept that is is not possible to do everything was a real challenge but once I did I began to understand the things that were really important to me.
Setting up an office space outside of the home has been just life changing for me. It’s been so professionally important. I am meeting people, I’m getting out of the office. The kids are getting to see that I go to work. The networking has been brilliant too. Getting out and going to meet people at 7am at networking events gives me access to information in areas that I need to build expertise in. For example learning about digital media, branding and marketing.
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What advice would you give other moms wanting to start up their own business?
Start small and build gradually. It’s not something that is possible to do overnight and it is not something that will work instantly.
Don't let fear of failure, fear of success or fear of what other people may or may not think hold you back.
Network once per month at events that you will learn something at. Go to events that give you access to people that you would not otherwise get access to and information that you need.
Get a mentor, a thought challenger who is not a friend or a family member, to ask you the questions you need to ask yourself and gives you support as you begin your journey of starting up your own business. This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do.
Ask other Mums who own their own business for their help. They will only be too happy to do so or seek help through your local enterprise board.
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Do you have any tips for balancing your work and family life?
Stop trying to balance work and life. For me, the notion of balance is like trying to apply a mathematical equation to life, which is not possible. You are setting yourself up for failure and feelings of guilt as you try to split things equally. Instead, think blend - think about how happy you are with the contrast between life and work. Set out two or three things that are non-negotiable for you in general and stick to them every week. For example, my non-negotiables are that I either put my girls to bed or have breakfast with them every day. A second is that I get to exercise three times per week and a third is that I get to take my weekends off. It's not always possible to meet each of these non-negotiables but if more than one week goes past and I haven't been able to do these things I sit back and take stock as the contrast between life and work is not right. I have to re-evaluate everything and I then make a clear effort to make a change the following week.
What would you say is your next step for 2016 / 2017?
I want to continue to expand A Career to Love in Ireland and to focus on international growth. I hope to employ two more people over the coming year. When I set up the business I promised that I would say yes to everything (within reason) and then figure out how to do it later. To date that motto has seen me do numerous national radio pieces, speak as a keynote speaker, deliver training and open a second office in Dublin. I am going to stick to that motto!!
If you were to be granted three wishes for your business what would they be?
- To continue to grow and educate people about the changing nature of careers in the 21st-century workplace firstly nationally and then internationally.
- To do more public speaking in order to help as many young people understand that while exams and school are important that academic ability is great but it is not the determining factor in success. Rather hard work and sustained effort are the combined keys to success.
- That my business will continue to grow. In doing so my girls will see me as a role model who is leading by example and who is helping them to challenge assumptions with an air of curiosity and inquisitiveness.