31st May 2019 in Business

By Dorcas Crawford, Senior Partner, Edwards & Co

After spending over 30 years at Edwards & Company, first as an apprentice and working my way up to Senior Partner, I’ve put in more than my fair share of hours and found there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.

In my early career, I worked really [put in] long hours, but after having children it became harder to maintain. I remember when my first child, Niamh, was just 10 months old I was pleading with her to go down for a nap as I had work to finish, and when I realised what I was doing, I knew I had to reassess things to redress the balance [achieve a better work/life balance].

This was easier for me than some others may find it because by that stage I was in a senior position, but whether you are a young person starting out on your career, the owner of your own business, or a new parent, there are some things I’ve picked up along the way which may help you make your path a little easier.

1. Climb the ladder while you can

Reassessing my own working pattern once I became a mother was made easier because I had worked hard early in my career and risen to be a partner in the law firm, and then senior partner.

Start climbing the stairs to success and achieve those career milestones early.

2. Create a happy culture

If you’re able to, whether as a business owner or manager, creating a happy culture in the workplace reaps many rewards. We spend a good amount of time at work, so being happy to be there is crucial. Staff who dread going back to work on a Monday are not going to be as productive as a team who are thriving.

In Edwards & Company, we’ve always had an open-door policy for staff to approach the senior partners for help or support. We take a genuine interest in people’s home life, partners, and children – we know whose kids are taking exams or who’s starting a new job. My own children have been frequent visitors to the office and everyone knows them and what they are doing.

Promoting this openness also helps if anyone is struggling, whether at work or at home, and being able to talk and be listened to helps reduce their stress levels and hopefully help them find a solution to any issues they’re facing, which will ultimately lead to them being happier and therefore more productive.

A bit of humour goes a long way, especially when you have young children and have the crazy morning schedule to get through. Arriving at work frazzled and strung out because your three-year-old insisted on dressing themselves doesn’t make a good start to your work day. Even after the most frantic mornings, by the time I reach my office on the top floor I can guarantee I’ve had a laugh with someone to release the tension and set me up for a better day.

Dorcas Crawford

3. Find good childcare

As a working mother, finding a great childminder made life so much easier. Knowing my children were happy made me happy, and not having to worry about them meant I could focus on my work.

4. Make time for your family

While I have worked long hours in the past, once I had a family I made sure weekends were for them. One thing that freed up some time was hiring a cleaner, so my free time could be spent with my family in the park or doing other things together. It wasn’t a luxury for me, it was a tool that helped me achieve more time with the children and that was priceless.

5. Find what you love and do it every day

Interacting with clients and helping them solve their problems was what I loved about being a solicitor, however after a particular case I was left feeling disillusioned with the whole process of examination and cross examination – it felt unkind and rather than solve problems, I felt they’d been made worse by the litigation. It was a hard-fought case and I was burnt out and jaded, no longer feeling the love I once had.

It was during this case I’d been introduced to mediation, and I took the opportunity to train and develop the service in Northern Ireland. By helping two parties find a middle ground and reach a resolution to their issues put me back where I wanted to be; helping people solve their problems.

Don’t cling on to something that makes you unhappy. You spend such a great portion of your life working, if you get an opportunity to adapt or retrain to bring you greater satisfaction then take it.

6. Give without expecting to receive

There are so many people facing hardship of one kind or another, I believe it’s good to get in to the habit of supporting good causes. Even small acts of kindness can make a huge difference to people’s lives; from a cup of hot tea for a homeless person, to being sponsored to run a marathon. And although you’re not giving to receive, the dopamine kick you get from doing something to help someone else is a great feeling.

If you can spread that philosophy through your workplace then all the better. Together, as a team, you can achieve great things.

To find out more about Dorcas Crawford or Edwards & Co, based in Hill Street within the Cathedral Quarter, go to edwardsandcompany.co.uk

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