Friday, 21 September 2018

How to be a Successful Returner Candidate

Return to work successfully


There are many reasons why employers want to attract those returning to the workplace after an extended break. Returning professionals offer a wealth of experience, maturity and a fresh perspective. Employers are now starting to recognise this and other positives of bringing returners into their organisation. By hiring returners an employer is able to tackle skills shortages, improve gender and age diversity, tap into a high-calibre talent pool, and improve their organisation’s attractiveness to potential employees in general.

But what do employers look for in individual candidates and how can you make the most of your skills and experience when you apply for a returner programme or any open role?

Here are our five top tips:
  1. Don’t try to hide your break on your CV or make excuses for it in the interview. If you're applying for a returner programme, it is especially important to mention that you have been on a career break, including the length of your break at the time the programme starts. You risk being excluded from these opportunities if you try to cover up your break. If it’s been a while since you updated your CV and cover letter, read our blogs How to Write Your Post-Break CV and How to Write a Back-To-Work Cover Letter.
  2. Don’t undersell yourself. Learn to tell your story. Make sure you’re aware of, and appreciate, all the skills, experience and perspective that you can bring to an organisation. It’s likely that you will return to the workplace recharged, refreshed and enthusiastic to take on the challenge with new skills developed during your break. Make the most of this in interviews. This is the time to blow your own trumpet!
  3. Low professional confidence is common in women who have taken a career break. If you feel this is an issue for you, take steps to build your confidence back up again so that you believe in yourself and in your skills and experience. And don’t forget to read the success stories on our website for proof that, no matter how long your break, you can get back into a great job.
  4. Research and prepare thoroughly for interviews. Consider why you are a great fit for the organisation/role and articulate what sets you apart. Develop detailed examples of your competencies and skills - including transferrable ones - and prepare answers to typical questions.
  5. Show your enthusiasm and positivity. How you behave and the way in which you communicate is just as important as what you say in an interview. Make sure the interviewer can see the energy and motivation you'll bring to their organisation!
Remember that employers aren't doing you a favour. They have sound business reasons for encouraging returners back into the workplace to take on stimulating and rewarding roles. Taking the time to prepare yourself to make the most of this will put you in a strong position to resume a successful career.

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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Adopting the right mindset for your return to work

How to get into the right mindset for a return to work

For many people, September brings with it that old ‘back to school’ feeling – a sense of fresh starts, renewed energy and optimism. And, of course, September is a great time to kickstart your return to work journey as companies tend to start hiring again after the summertime lull. So how do you capitalise on this 'new start' feeling to help you achieve a successful return to work? One of the most important things is to adopt the correct mindset. 

If you’ve been out of the workplace for a number of years, it can be hard to approach your journey with unremitting optimism and indeed this can be damaging to your progress and self-esteem. Being too optimistic, without adding a dose of realism, can lead to unrealistic expectations. For example, underestimating the effort needed or a feeling that if you just keep using the same job search methods, even if they're not working, everything will ‘come right’ in the end. 


On the other hand, we often find that the returner who claims she is being 'realistic' actually has a pessimistic perspective and that she too quickly dismisses the possibility of finding a rewarding job. The ‘pessimistic realist' tends to believe the worst, quickly becomes disillusioned when she hits a few setbacks and decides that returning to work is hopeless and not worth the effort. 



A more effective mindset

Far better to adopt a mindset of ‘realistic optimism’ - as 
psychologist Sandra Schneider advocates. Schneider tells us that optimism and realism are not in conflict - we need both. Realistic optimists are cautiously hopeful that things will work out the way they want and will do everything they can to ensure a good outcome. The realistic optimist finds out the facts and acknowledges the challenges and constraints she faces. Her optimism comes into play in her interpretation of ambiguous events. She recognises that many situations have a range of possible interpretations and chooses a helpful rather than an unhelpful one. She gives people the benefit of the doubt, is aware of the positives in her current situation and actively looks for future opportunities. 


Here's an example in practice. You send a ‘getting back in touch’ email to a former work colleague and don’t receive a response after a week. It’s all too easy to conclude that she just isn’t interested in talking to you, but consider other interpretations. Perhaps she’s on holiday, swamped with work and hasn’t had time to reply, or the email has landed in her junk mailbox. Now decide how to respond: contact her through a mutual friend, resend the email in a week, contact her via LinkedIn or even pick up the phone and call her. If she still doesn't respond, choose a realistically optimistic interpretation (e.g. she's too busy) and focus on making other connections.


Tips to develop your mindset

Here are 5 of our tips to help you adopt a more ‘realistic optimism’ mindset for your return to work:

  1. Combine a positive attitude with a clear evaluation of the challenges ahead. Don’t expect your journey to be a smooth one - you are likely to have setbacks - but trust that you have the ability to get yourself back on track
  2. Avoid dwelling on the negatives or jumping to overly negative conclusions. Recognise this ‘negativity bias’ is a result of how our brains are built (read more on this here)
  3. Don’t wait for the right time – it may never come. Simply taking action will move you forward
  4. Focus on what you can control rather than worrying about what you can't 
  5. If you think that lack of confidence is making you pessimistic, check out our advice on how to re-establish your confidence  
There is evidence that 'realistic optimism' can boost your resilience and motivation, improve your day-to-day satisfaction with life and lead to better outcomes. And be reassured that it's not about your genes - we can all learn to be realistic optimists!


If you are interested in Sandra Schneider's research see:
Schneider, S.L. (2001). In search of realistic optimism: meaning, knowledge and warm fuzziness. American Psychologist, 56(3), 250-263.


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You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Routes back to work after a career break

How can I go back to work after a career break

Once you’ve made the decision to return to work, the next big question to ask yourself is HOW? There are many different routes back into the workplace. Here are some ideas to help you with your job search:

Employed Roles

Returner programmes – this is a generic term for initiatives targeted specifically at returning professionals, eg, returnships, supported hiring programmes, returner events, return-to-work fellowships and returner training programmes. You can read more about what these terms mean and find listings of both open and past programmes on our website. And don’t forget to sign up to our free network to hear about the latest launches.


Applying for advertised roles – if you apply for online jobs, be aware that you may be competing with thousands of others for attention, so be selective and keep realistic expectations. Most organisations now use their own website as a recruitment vehicle, so identify those you are most interested in and see if you can sign up for alerts when new roles are posted. Some employers are now welcoming returner applications for a variety of open roles (for example, see O2 Career ReturnersM&G Career Returners and Willmott Dixon Welcome Back). You can also search for roles which are advertised on LinkedIn, making sure your profile is up-to-date. Another more focused channel is specialised job boards and recruitment agencies such as those listed here: recruitment agencies specialising in flexible/family-friendly roles

Interim roles - joining an organisation in a distinct role for a defined period of time can be a great way to use your skills and experience without making a long-term commitment to returning to work. Short-term roles also usually receive fewer applications than permanent jobs. Opportunities arise as cover for maternity and long-term sickness and also when organisations are in transition and need someone on a temporary basis. There are established interim management agencies (such as 
Russam GMS and Alium Partners), however returners with longer career breaks usually find these kinds of roles through networking. 

Apprenticeships – there is usually no upper age limit for apprenticeships and the advantages for employers – who are able to bring in new expertise and experience by hiring older apprentices – is clear. You can find information on higher and degree level apprenticeships on this Government website.

Self-employed options

Freelancing – this can give you flexibility and may be an ideal solution for those of you with significant family commitments. However, lack of security can be an issue and many freelancers find they have peaks and troughs in their work. For practical advice, see our blog on how to set yourself up as a freelancer and the freelancer resources page on our website.


Associate work - if you have a specific skill or expertise that you want to offer, associate work can provide advantages over freelancing: as an associate, the company you contract with is normally responsible for winning new work. However, companies which use associates rarely guarantee the amount of work, so consider having different associate relationships.

Project-based work - although organisations rarely advertise this kind of work, offering to work on a project can be a great introduction to an organisation. It may open doors to a full-time role or you could discover that you enjoy working in this way and develop your own consultancy.

Starting your own business - sometimes this can develop from freelancing or project work, or you may have an idea or a hobby that you want to develop into a product or service. In previous blogs, we gave some tips for starting a home business and advice for starting your own service business. You’ll also find links to many useful resources for starting your own business on our website.

Other routes


Strategic Volunteering – Volunteering can be a great way to refresh your skills and networks. a LinkedIn survey found that 41% of the professionals surveyed said that when evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. Do think strategically if you decide to look for a volunteering role, looking for opportunities to develop new skills or brush up on the ones you already have. You could also use a volunteering role as a way to explore a new area that you may be interested in working in.

Retraining/further study/updating your skills – if you decide that study is the best route for you, you’ll find links to useful websites here. There are also many vocational retraining options, such as those listed here.

There are many examples of different routes back to work in the Success Story Library on our website. Remember that the route back can be a windy one and that it's likely to take more time than you think. If you’ve already returned to work, we’d love to hear your story too - please email info@womenreturners.com.


Note: updated from a 2104 post


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

I've been on a career break for over 10 years – is it possible for me to return to work?

Returning to work after a long career break

So, you’ve had a long career break and now want to return to meaningful work that builds on your skills and experience. It’s only human to feel daunted by this and we won’t pretend your route back to work will be a stroll in the park. But do believe in yourself – it is possible and there’s lots of help out there. You’re still the same capable person you were before your break – just a little out of practice.

First of all, check out the advice hub on our website - this will help you throughout your return to work journey. And for inspiration, and to show it’s possible, here are some real-life examples of women who have returned to work after a break of 10 or more years. Enjoy reading their stories – they have some great advice and tips!

 

M - Software Developer (14 year break)

M, who worked as an IT contractor, had a 14-year career break on and off. During her time away from the world of IT she did some teaching of basic IT skills and ran a business with mixed results. She decided to return to work as a software developer using recruitment companies. She is now a full-time PeopleSoft software developer.

Here are M’s top tips:
 
  • The best advice I have is to just go for it 
  • Be determined if you have made up your mind that you definitely want to go back to work 
  • Even after I received the standard rejection emails from the recruitment agents, I still phoned them to ‘check whether they had received my email’ and tried to show some personality, drive and ambition in a two minute phone call! It worked and the agent who sent me for the job interview had initially rejected my CV

Sarah-Jane – Portfolio Manager (15 year break)

Sarah Jane worked in asset management for 17 years before taking voluntary redundancy in 2002. During her 15 year career break she trained as a homeopath and worked for a small printing company. A change in family circumstances in 2017 prompted her to re-establish her career in asset management. She returned via the Fidelity New Horizons Programme.

Here are Sarah-Jane’s top tips:

  • First and foremost, believe it is possible! 
  • Be organised, do your research, brush up on skills that will be needed once you are working 
  • Contact old colleagues and ask for advice – they will be happy to give it 
  • Receiving rejections is hard, but learn from each interview and treat each setback as a chance to consolidate and assess your next move 
  • It may take time to find the right role in the right company but it will have been worth the effort when you do

Jill – In-house Lawyer (12 year break including career change)

Jill worked for 8 years as an in-house lawyer. After a 7 year career break following the birth of her third child she re-trained as a family mediator. Although she enjoyed her new career, she didn’t like working from home and realised how suited she was to being an in-house lawyer and how much she enjoyed it. She began with a returner course for solicitors and after plenty of setbacks and dead ends, six months later she was offered her first interim in-house role.

Here are Jill's top tips:

  • Be determined in pursuing what you want and don’t be afraid of trying new areas, even if it is not exactly what you think you are looking for 
  • No experience is wasted and you will learn a lot along the way 
  • A very practical point: take the earliest interview date possible. In one case the company stopped interviewing after they saw me 
  • Returners are often more positive, motivated and enthusiastic than other people, which is great for any business

Sara – Software Developer (13 year break)

Sara graduated with a BSc in Computing and pursued a career as a software developer. She became a full-time mum when her first child was born. Sara returned to work 13 years later via the Capgemini Returners Programme.

Sara says: “Software development has changed immeasurably, but the problem-solving mindset remains the same and it is this ability to problem solve that makes a software engineer. I’ve learnt that I can go back to work, and my family won’t fall apart. My children can survive.”

Sara’s advice is: “Go for it! You know more than you think you do and the maturity and diversity that you bring to a team is immeasurable in adding to its success.”



Nina
– Mobile Technology Specialist (11 year break)

Nina worked for a variety of multi-national mobile technology firms before her 11 year career break during which she retrained as a secondary school maths teacher. She returned to the mobile phone industry via Vodafone’s six-month Return to Technology programme.

Here are Nina’s top tips for technology returnships:
 
  • When selling yourself, focus on your skills, not your knowledge 
  • There are loads of technology jobs out there, someone is looking for your skills set. Don’t worry about having been out of the industry for some years, they are looking at what you can do for them 
  • Don’t wait for the perfect job that matches your long-term ambition. Get your foot through the door and you can look around once inside
  • Get yourself a LinkedIn account and get back in touch with old colleagues. Someone is most likely looking for help on some project or other so you can get some recent experience under your belt

You can check out all our return-to-work success stories here.

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