Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Government Equalities Office Returner Toolkit

Return to work toolkit


The Government Equalities Office has recently published a Returner Toolkit which we co-wrote with our friends at Timewise. 

This amazing free resource has 51 pages of advice and tips - it's a A-Z for returning to work. We'd encourage everyone to have a look at it, whatever stage you're at in the return to work journey. You can start from the beginning and work through it, or dip in and out of the stages that are most relevant to you.

You'll find advice, ideas and information to help you on a range of topics:

  • setting yourself up for success
  • building your work confidence
  • getting clear on your career direction
  • updating your skills and knowledge
  • networking
  • finding job opportunities
  • exploring options for flexible working
  • writing your CV and cover letter
  • preparing for interviews
  • negotiating effectively
  • getting ready to return to work

There is also a detailed 'resources and signposts' section with links to lots of organisations and resources for general advice, thinking about returning to work, preparing to return and returning to work.

You can access the free toolkit via GOV.UK here


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Thursday, 21 November 2019

Interview with Women Returners' Head of Coaching

Karen Danker Women Returners Head of Coaching

In this blog, we speak to Women Returners' Head of Coaching, Karen Danker, about her background, why she joined Women Returners, what her role entails and her hopes for the future...


What is your professional background, Karen?

I started my career as a solicitor and then moved to a City law firm to run their graduate recruitment and development function. After a brief career break in the US with my young family, I returned to the UK and joined Women Like Us (now Timewise), a brilliant flexible working consultancy, where I first gained real insight into the challenges women often faced returning to work after a career break. I loved working with them to help them find quality flexible work that matched their seniority and skills, and to provide great talent to organisations. Most recently, I worked in the charity sector, running leadership development programmes for young adults and professional women. The common thread that’s run through my different roles has been this real driver to enable others to develop and flourish so that they can fulfil their potential in line with their skills and values.

Why did you decide to join Women Returners?

I'd known about Women Returners for quite a long time and had been following their progress. I was really excited about what they were doing - championing a route back to work that really helped maximise the success for returners. I also knew they were a voice within Government and had built partnerships with big corporates. I was excited by the impact they were having. 

Their values also chimed with mine - and that's become increasingly important to me as I've got older. Their aim to make a positive difference to society was a key driver for me. They're professional, innovative and ambitious and that for me makes them a really dynamic organisation to be part of.

What is your role at Women Returners?

I joined in January 2019 focusing on one-to-one coaching at first. As Head of Coaching, the main part of my role now is to be the focal point for our brilliant team of coaches and to make sure we continue to innovate, evolve and develop our materials and resources - and, of course, ourselves as coaches.

What do you think makes Women Returners' coaching work?

Firstly, we have a team of really skilled, talented coaches with backgrounds in the corporate world. They understand both our clients' business needs and the experience of being on a long career break and the challenges of returning to a professional role. They're also incredibly warm and empathetic people. So for returners who start on day one feeling a little anxious about returning to work, our coaches really help them start well and progress successfully.

Secondly, we work with our clients from the beginning to understand what their business needs are so that we can tailor a programme to support them. A key objective for us is to set up programmes for success from the onset. We offer initial training for a client's recruitment team and line managers so that they understand upfront the return-to-work marketplace and the practical steps they need to put into place to allow returners to perform at their best both at interview and when they join the organisation.

For returnship programmes, we run our Career Returners Coaching Programme which 
has been specifically tailored to address the practical and psychological challenges faced by professionals re-entering the workforce. The coaching workshops are very effective as they coincide with various transition stages the returners are going through. Our coaching for supported hire roles follows a similar pathway. The coaching is tailored to the group or individual and includes building professional confidence, sustainable working patterns, networking skills and action-planning for success.


We also offer a variety of Return to Work coaching for individuals outside of our corporate programmes, which include CV, LinkedIn and interview preparation coaching. 

We get fantastic feedback so we know the process works!

Finally, how do you see the job market for returners developing?

My hope is that, with people having longer working lives, taking career breaks for all sorts of reasons will become the norm. I'd also like to see supported routes back into work become a normal part of any recruitment strategy to find senior talent. I'd like to see
all returners have the ability to hit 'play' on their ambitions and careers knowing that they will be sought-after by top organisations. And when they do return, to know that they will be supported, trained and mentored so that they can get back up to speed really quickly. I hope all organisations will recognise that if they're not doing this they are missing out on some great talent.






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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Gillian's story: Returning to corporate life after a 15-year break


Fifteen years is a long time to be away from the corporate world but re-joining has been easier than I thought. For anyone considering returning to work, my advice is to go for it!

Before my career break, I worked for a global accountancy firm as an employment tax manager. My route there took me through university and working for a number of smaller accountancy firms before joining one of the Big Four. It was a dynamic, fast-paced environment, where I got a number of exciting opportunities and learned a lot. 

Two children and seven years later, the company was offering voluntary redundancy and my husband and I decided it would a great time to take a career break and spend more time at home with the children. That was 2003 – little did I know my career break would last 15 years!

During that time, I’ve been pretty busy. Working from home, I set up and ran an e-commerce business before selling it on in 2011. I also started childminding for my family and friends in 2003 and over the years, gradually built up a nursery business which now employs qualified nursery nurses, provides childcare for 30 children and runs smoothly with a manager in place.

Running both businesses allowed me to carry on developing my financial skills while developing a host of other skills! From number crunching to nappies, it was great to be home-based over the years while my kids were growing up. Now, with two older teenagers, I felt the time was right to take the big step back into corporate life.

After mustering up some courage and carrying out a bit of research I found Women Returners. It seemed perfect for me. I updated my CV, got a crash course in LinkedIn and applied for a role that seemed a great fit on their cross-company Returners to Financial Service, Legal and FinTech Scotland programme.

Grant Thornton appealed to me as they seemed to be doing things a little differently and I really liked their dynamic outlook. When I walked through the door for my interview, I immediately felt at home. My delight on hearing the news that I’d been successful was short-lived and quickly overtaken by the dreaded imposter syndrome. Would I really be able to learn new systems, to tackle this role, to keep up with the fast pace of corporate life after 15 years?

I really shouldn’t have worried – or had the sleepless nights. My experience of returning has been smooth and everyone in my team has been very supportive. While I had doubts that I wouldn’t be able to operate at the same level as before, I’ve been encouraged not to be too hard on myself and that it will take time to learn new systems and get back up to speed.

Importantly, I have been supported by a buddy, a mentor, coaching and an understanding people manager. This support has allowed me to relax into the role, knowing that I can ask for help when I need it. Grant Thornton also promote agile working to offer their staff a healthy work-life balance. I have chosen to work part-time, but I can also work from home when possible. This definitely provides a great work-life balance and it works well for me.

Now, over two months into the role, I’ve started to get into my stride and I was thrilled to have my contract extended. It has given me confidence, knowing that I am doing a good job. Now, I’m starting to work directly with clients and I’m enjoying this interaction and being back in a professional working environment.

Fifteen years is a long time to be away from the corporate world but re-joining has been easier than I thought. For anyone considering returning to work, my advice is to go for it! You will be surprised at just how much you have to offer employers and your confidence will soar. What you get back in return is simply invaluable.




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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Return to work planning for your financial wellbeing




Our guest blogger, Ian Simons from the Chartered Insurance Institute, highlights some financial aspects to consider when returning to work.

Planning your return to work is a great opportunity to take stock of your current financial situation and plan for your future. The tips below, taken from the Insuring Women’s Futures Financial Wellbeing Guide, show how you can actively engage in your own financial life journey and also raise awareness of the financial Perils and Pitfalls facing women.

Engaging in your own financial life journey

As you return or search for work you should consider the below:
1. When researching potential employers
take time to compare financial packages, pensions and perks

2. Research the gender pay gap
- reporting legislation requires employers with 250 or more employees to publish statutory calculations annually

3. Understand employers' opportunities for flexible workers – openly disclosing policies is a good sign

4. Find out from potential employers what are the career prospects for returners and those with family commitments and are there carer policies?

5. When you start a new job, check out your employer’s pension arrangements, free employer contributions and tax deductions, and fully consider joining the pension scheme. If there are options on how much to contribute, you might be surprised how much bigger your pension pot could be if you paid in at a higher rate, together with the added ‘free employer and tax relief money’

6. If you want to work part-time, in multiple jobs or temporarily, think carefully about how you can maximise your workplace pensions (including any existing policies you may have) and any eligibility criteria
that might preclude you. Reflect on whether you might be inadvertently missing out on valuable contributions

We encourage you to read the full Financial Wellbeing Guide, in particular the re-entering the workforce section, to review your personal situation in more detail.

Arming yourself with knowledge

Once you have assessed your specific situation there are many places you can go for more information including:
  • Insuring Women’s Futures website: The resource page contains research, videos and links to useful websites and tools
  • ACAS website: You can find out more here on equal pay and gender pay gap reporting
  • Your employer: Once you are back at work, many workplaces run sessions for returners or have helplines
  • Your existing pension provider: Find out the position of your existing pension schemes and understand your options for reinvestment and transferral
  • An independent financial adviser: If you need further financial advice, you can search for a qualified, local financial adviser on Findanadviser

Empowering others

This November, Insuring Women’s Futures are running a campaign called Talk 2 10K. They are challenging as many people as possible to talk to at least 10 other people about women’s financial wellbeing. To get involved all you need to do is:

  • Read the toolkit and watch the webinar
  • Organise your conversations (these can be anything from a chat with a friend to a formal session with colleagues)
  • Spend a few minutes on 21 November sharing an anecdote, photo or video from your conversations on social media – make sure to use the following in your posts - #MakeEachMomentCount #InsuringFutures #WomensFinancialWellbeing and @CII







Ian Simons is Marketing Director at the Chartered Insurance Institute. 





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Thursday, 10 October 2019

Returning to work? Don't let Imposter Syndrome hold you back

How to tackle Imposter Syndrome


Do you sometimes feel that you don't deserve your success or that your achievements are flukes that can be put down to just good luck? Do you feel that it's only a matter of time until you are 'found out'?

If you do then you're certainly not alone. These feelings are so common they have a name - Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome was first identified by psychologists in 1978.
There are three defining features: a belief that others have an inflated view of your abilities, a fear that your true abilities will be found out, and a tendency to attribute your success to luck or extreme effort. There have been many studies into Imposter Syndrome since then, including one in 2011 that found that 70% of people will experience the phenomenon at some point in their lives. And it's not just a 'women's issue' -  research now suggests that men are just as likely as women to experience impostorism. 

Imposter Syndrome is most common when we're moving out of our comfort zone and facing periods of change or uncertainty ... such as returning to work after a long career break.

If Imposter Syndrome strikes, here are our tips to help you tackle it:

1. Remember these feelings are normal. Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone, even people who seem to be the most confident and capable. Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg has been quoted as saying: "There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am." And even Albert Einstein considered himself an "involuntary swindler." 

2. Avoid putting your successes down to luck. Write down all your career and personal achievements to date, and think about the role that your abilities and hard work played. It will become clear to you that your successes were largely due to your hard work and abilities – not 'just luck'. Read this blog for advice. 

3. Reconnect with your professional self. If you're doubting yourself because it's been a while since you were in the workplace, remember that you are the same professional person you always were, you are just out of practice. Aim to reframe your time outside the workplace as a positive not a negative. 

4. Ask friends and family for feedback on your strengths and skills.
 Listening to what others say about what you do well will help you challenge your negative thoughts. Remember - you're often your own harshest critic.


5. Keep a feedback log. Once you're back in a new role, keep a log of all the positive feedback you receive - via formal feedback sessions, thank you emails or verbal compliments. If Imposter Syndrome does hit, look at this log to remind yourself that you are a competent and experienced professional who deserves to be where you are.



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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Why your career break is a positive not a negative

What's great about a career break


There are lots of reasons for a career break – to care for young children or other relatives, for health reasons, to study, to travel or simply to recharge your batteries.

Far from being something to try to hide when you want to return to the workplace, there are very good reasons why you - and your potential employers - should celebrate your break.

We know from experience that returners re-enter the workplace with a fresh perspective, together with renewed energy and motivation. Employers value this too. At our Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference, O2's Andrea Jones told the audience:

"There’s so much experience the returners have before their career break and they’ve gained so many skills on their career break. They come in with a really fresh pair of eyes....they can look at our processes and our systems and the ways we work quite differently. I think it’s a real breath of fresh air – and that’s what we hear from our managers."

Other employers spoke about the enthusiasm of the returners they had hired, the fact that they are incredibly efficient as time management comes more naturally to them, and their desire to contribute more broadly to the organisation rather than just doing their job. Returners were also valued as role models for younger employees of people who had taken a non-traditional career path.

Dependent on the reason for your career break, you are also likely to have developed a variety of new skills. For example:

  • If you've taken time out to care for others you will have honed your communication, time-management and organisation skills. And nothing improves negotiation ability more than getting to a compromise with a teenager! 
  • If you've done skilled voluntary work you will have developed both teamwork and leadership skills - managing volunteers is much harder than paid staff.
  • If you were travelling or studying, this can signal an openness to experiences and a motivation to learn and develop. 
  • If your break was because of a personal trauma or health issue, you will have developed resilience and fortitude.

When writing your return-to-work CV and cover letter and preparing for interviews consider everything you've done during your break. Make sure the skills and experience you've acquired come across - they are an important part of who you are now.

Switch your focus. Rather than seeing your career break as a negative to employers, focus on how it differentiates you and makes you a better employee,  gaining maturity, perspective and many new skills. You will be an asset to your next employer because of, not in spite of, your career break.


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