Friday, 17 February 2017

Anna's Story - Head of Strategic Partnerships at Aberdeen Asset Management via Lloyds Returners Programme.


After a five year career break from banking, I had the privilege of being accepted on the Lloyds Returners Programme in 2015. “Returnships” was something I had not previously heard of. I had been trying to get back on the career ladder for a while but found it extremely challenging. I realised quickly that the chances of finding employment using the ‘conventional’ routes – speaking to recruiters and applying for jobs – were inversely proportional to the numbers of years I had spent out of the industry. I felt those in current roles looking to switch jobs were favoured over those looking to re-enter the jobs markets.
The number of people I met who were in a similar position to me and who have since contacted me for advice on the Rungway advice and mentoring App, have made me understand the value of such returnship programmes. They are an excellent way to access an untapped and unreachable market: highly skilled and highly motivated individuals who are under the radar of traditional headhunters, but who once given a chance, are able to shine and bring huge value to the table, because only they know how hard it is to make it!
I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given at Lloyds. I was given a chance, a great role and they helped me believe in myself and in my abilities again. I was able to demonstrate that no matter how long I had been out, with the right attitude and support, I could pick up from where I left. Thanks to this experience, I was able to develop further in my career and pursue my long term goal, which was to work in asset management. If someone had told me back in early 2015 that today I would be working for Aberdeen Asset Management, in a team of highly skilled and award winning investment managers, I wouldn’t have believed it!
During the interview process at Aberdeen I felt like I was being treated as a professional looking to move up in my career. I was being interviewed based on my skillset and experiences. My career gap was mentioned only once. The returnship experience certainly helped me believe in myself and this has transpired in my ability to move up the career ladder shortly after being on the programme.
Working at Aberdeen is a very natural next step.  The Fixed Income team have been extremely supportive of me working part-time and around my young family.  I feel like they are interested in what I have to offer to the team rather than the number of hours I spend on the desk. That is a decisive factor for me.
I am extremely proud to work for Aberdeen Asset Management – a company which values flexible working and is now offering the opportunity to more women like me, to return to work.

For details of the Aberdeen Returners programme see here

Friday, 10 February 2017

The 5 steps to successfully negotiate your return-to-work role

We know that many women returners are more likely to gratefully accept any terms rather than to consider negotiating when offered a job after a career break. However, it's important to make the role work for you for it to be sustainable. That's why we're happy to welcome this week's guest blogger, Natalie Reynolds, a negotiation expert, to help you to sharpen up your negotiation skills.



We negotiate every day, in many different ways and with many different people. It is a fundamental requirement in reaching agreement, resolving dispute and succeeding in business. We might find ourselves negotiating our salary, a contract or a deadline … or in the case of those returning to work, negotiating a job which fits our new circumstances, maybe with a whole new way of working.

Negotiation can be intimidating at the best of times, never mind when it’s going to impact on our family and lifestyle. With this in mind, the following DEALS approach is designed to highlight the key steps to take when you're planning for and negotiating your job offer with your potential new employer.

Discover: Before you get anywhere near the negotiation table you need to discover as much as you can about the role and the organisation. Do your research, know the facts, understand the market and look at what has been agreed with current employees in terms of pay and ways of working. If you want flexible working, check who is working in this way currently and on what basis (part-time/job-share/remote working) - this will give you a sense of what's feasible. It is essential that we are creative with this process as we often just think about the obvious issues … but perhaps the key to unlocking this deal sits in an area you just hadn’t considered:  could you ask for extra leave in the summer holidays, or annualised hours for example? Find out who will be involved in the negotiation process - are you talking to the decision maker? As you're likely to be out of touch with salaries, are there ex-colagues you can talk to for current data or industry baselines you can look at (see website such as Glassdoor.co.uk for salary data)? Crucially, make sure you're clear on what you are bringing to the business and any unique skills that you can offer.

Establish: Next up is to establish some boundaries and priorities. Establish what your key priorities are … as well as what theirs might be. To create a win/win outcome you need to understand what success looks like for them also. Reciprocity means if they feel they have won, they are more likely to help you win too. You also need to establish the areas where you can't compromise and your breakpoint or walkaway point. This is the worst case outcome for you. Once you’ve established it – stick to it! In the heat of a negotiation we often agree to things we wouldn’t if we were more calm or confident.

Ask: This is about making sure you make your proposals in the most effective way. Package all the issues in your proposal (eg. base pay, bonus, benefits, working hours, holidays) rather than going issue by issue. When you make a proposal always make sure you open ‘ambitiously but credibly’. Ask for slightly more than you need to give yourself wriggle room to explore what they might be willing to give you, but don't go for a completely unrealistic opening offer. If you can, try and make the first move in the negotiation. Anchoring is a phenomenon from the world of psychology that means we are often overly influenced by the first number put on the table and you are then likely to finish closer to that figure. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to go first though; just remember to not reinforce their proposal by going on and on about it. Instead recognise the best way to beat their opening proposal is to make one of your own. Simply, the more you talk about what you want and why, the more likely you are to get it. It’s also essential that you plan several moves in advance … and again, be creative! Think of lots of different angles to try and reach an agreement and don’t be afraid to make lots of suggestions. If you're asking for flexible hours/location make sure you present the business case of how it can work for the team rather than just for you.

Lead: This refers to taking the lead in the negotiation. Be confident. Take a deep breath and speak calmly and professionally. Don’t allow your emotions to control you. A simple tip to help with this is to remember that even the most confident of people will often feel awkward and nervous when negotiating; they are probably just doing a better job of hiding it!

Seal: And last but not least is to seal the deal in the right way. Get it in writing as soon as you can. One of the most dangerous phases in a negotiation is the ‘post-deal, pre-paperwork’ phase. This is the period after the deal has been agreed with a handshake or verbal agreement, but the ink is not yet on the contract or formal agreement. This is the phase where if your counterparty has any doubts about the deal they have just done, they will come back and try to alter terms they are unhappy with, or walk away from the agreement in that form altogether.  To try and limit the risk of this, be gracious rather than over the top if you get a great outcome and make your counterparty feel satisfied with their result. Agreements are stronger if each side feels like they are winning.


Natalie Reynolds is an negotiation expert at Advantage Spring. She has also written the popular  book ‘We Have a Deal: How to negotiate with intelligence, flexibility and power’ which is published by Icon Books. To find out more about advantageSPRING’s negotiation programmes visit www.advantagespring.com

See also: https://leanin.org/education/negotiation/

Friday, 3 February 2017

What to Wear to Interviews


It can be difficult to decide what to wear to an interview at the best of times, let alone when you’ve been away from the work place for a while.  The following tips are designed to make it an easier experience and to help you make the best impression.

Dress as though you already work there

When you meet the interviewer(s), you want them to see you immediately as someone who would fit in. What do you know about the brand? How formal/traditional is it? Is it a creative organisation, a charity, a start-up? What type of outfit would best reflect this?
                                                                                             
If possible, go and look for yourself beforehand by loitering inconspicuously near the entrance to see what people are wearing as they come and go. Do you notice any kind of ‘uniform’ or a more diverse range of outfits? Is it an organisation that calls for conformity or encourages individuality? Some places have sub-cultures where, for example, the sales people might wear suits, and the creatives, casual clothes. Find out what you can about the department you’d be working in.

If the dress code looks to be very informal, eg jeans, err on the side of ‘smart casual’ such as a tailored pair of trousers with a top/jacket in a flattering shape and colour or a more creative dress.


Massimo Dutti - see here

I remember going for an interview at Channel 4 straight from my job at KPMG when I hadn’t had time to change. I felt incredibly conspicuous in my suit as I waited anxiously in Reception. I made a joke of this when I met the interviewer as I wanted to show that I understood that a culture change would be involved. Thankfully they looked beyond the corporate suit and I got the job!

Choose something that reflects you

Find some common ground between what sort of outfit would reflect the brand and what feels representative of you. For example, if you are interviewing with a traditional city firm, and yet your natural style is more contemporary, choose a tailored dress or suit with a more cutting edge style and team it with a statement necklace or a coloured bag. While you want to fit in, you want to retain a sense of who you are and be remembered for this.


Finery - see here and Zara - see here


If you usually live in jeans and jumpers, find a smarter outfit that still feels comfortable. There are lots of work clothes that fit this brief, eg tailored trousers in soft fabrics look great with a crisp shirt/soft silky top, gently structured jacket and brogues or loafers (flat or heeled).

M & S - see here - Jigsaw - see here - Warehouse - see here

Now is perhaps not the time to experiment with a whole new look that doesn’t feel like you.

Look contemporary

I might be guilty of overusing the ‘contemporary’ word, but I think it’s particularly important in the context of returning to work after a break.  Some ‘classic’ work clothes that we’ve kept may stand the test of time but, more often, some details (eg width of collar, shoulder padding) will make them look dated. If you like shopping, you’ll no doubt know what the current styles are; if not, have a browse online or ask a stylish friend for help.

While I would always opt for style over fashion, looking contemporary will influence how interviewers perceive you. Even though age discrimination is unlawful, we know it sometimes happens and we are often competing with younger candidates. Arguably, it shouldn’t matter, but wearing anything that looks dated or frumpy might affect how you’re viewed. That said, I would never advocate the ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ trap that we can fall into. My teenage daughters keep me firmly in check on that front! If you want to be taken seriously, avoid anything too frilly, flowery or girly.

Business dress has moved on with many alternatives to the suit, even in some of the more traditional companies/professions, eg. a tailored dress or trousers/skirt and a tailored top/sleeveless jacket.


John Lewis - see here - Massimo Dutti - see here - H&M - see here - Massimo Dutti - see here

A good coat option is a trench coat which looks great with formal and informal wear: 
   
Massimo Tutti - see here


Don’t overdo the accessories

One statement piece, eg necklace, ring, oversized watch can look great but stick to one, maybe two, unless you’re looking to work in fashion/the creative industries where a more dramatic style might be embraced!

Choose colours that flatter

Make the most of colours that suit you so that you stand out from the sea of black that often dominates the work place. Your best colours will be those that match your natural characteristics on the following 3 scales: Deep or Light, Warm or Cool, Bright or Muted. So, if your natural colouring is Light, Cool and Muted (not much contrast between eyes, lips, hair, skin tone) consider greys and blues without much contrast between them, as opposed to black. Black tends only to suit those who have Deep, Cool and Bright characteristics. For the rest of us, it can drain us and cast unflattering shadows on our faces. Incorporating some of your best colours into your outfit, as close to your face as possible, will help you to stand out as well as look good.

Cool colours are considered to be more business-like (ie colours with more blue in than yellow) so, if you suit warmer colours, try to find warmer versions of, for example, navy and grey. Steer clear of browns.

Scarves can look fantastic and are a good way of introducing colour, but approach this look with caution. I went through a phase of wearing scarves to the office and was asked routinely by one of my male colleagues when the plane would be landing!

If you’re unsure about your best colours, consider having these identified as it will save a lot of time and money when shopping. You can edit a shop floor in minutes!


Biba@ ouse of Fraser - see here - Ted Baker - see here - Jigsaw - see here


Choose shapes that flatter

If you’re not confident about this, here are just a few of the many guidelines that might help:
  • The curvier we are, the drapier the fabric we should wear. Trying to force curves into structured garments made from stiff fabrics is a challenge. You will look and feel uncomfortable. Choose clothes that are more fluid, but still smart.  
Winser @ John Lewis - see here and The Fold - see here
  • Choose trousers/skirts/dresses that skim the hips, thighs and bottom without clinging.

Hobbs - see here

  • If your shoulders are narrower than your hips, try balancing this by adding more structure to the shoulders or wearing a wider neckline or collar.
  • If you want to create the illusion of looking taller, vertical stripes (eg pinstripes, trouser creases, edge-to-edge jackets) will help. Same-colour trousers/tights/shoes will lengthen the leg. Anything that creates a horizontal line, eg a belt, strong contrast in colours, pockets, wide lapels, etc, will have a widening and shortening effect.
  • Dress to suit your frame: smaller frames need lighter-weight fabrics, smaller patterns and accessories, while larger frames can take heavier fabrics, bolder patterns and larger accessories. If you’re petite, getting clothes tailored can make all the difference.

Be comfortable

Give your outfit a test run by wearing it at home for a while to check that it’s comfortable, both when standing and sitting. Make sure that buttons on shirts/blouses don’t gape, skirts don’t ride up when you sit down. Check hems are in place, no loose buttons or marks/creases, etc. Choose shoes that are comfortable to walk in (or have some flats in your bag to change into). If you wear heels, the good news is that there are many styles currently in the shops that have block heels and will help keep you grounded.


John Lewis - see here


Hair, make-up and nails

Again, probably not the time to experiment with radical changes but a good haircut and some light make-up will help you look and feel confident. I hesitate to say this, as it seems obvious, but ensure your nails are clean and tidy. I’ve seen a few interviewees over the years turn up with dirty nails or chipped nail polish and these are invariably remarked upon after the event by the hiring manager. Rightly or wrongly, people will make assumptions about what this says about you.

Plan your outfit well in advance

Choose your outfit well in advance, including shoes, coat, bag, jewellery, nail polish if you’re going to wear it, the right coloured tights, etc, so you can then give your full attention to the most important aspect: mental preparation and avoid a last minute panic.

Where to Shop

If you need to buy something new, and don’t know where to start, consider somewhere like John Lewis or House of Fraser where there’s a good range of styles and prices.  Browse online before you shop, so you can be more focused when you get there. Other brands worth looking at include Zara, Massimo Dutti, Cos, Benetton, H&M, Whistles, Jigsaw, Hobbs, Finery, Pinstripe & Pearls, Reiss, M&S and Jaeger. For bigger budgets, or for inspiration, have a look at Boss, Adolfo Dominguez and The Fold (although not so much for petite frames.)

I always chuckle to myself when people describe clothes as an investment (who are we kidding?), but ‘cost per wear’ is a more truthful and useful gauge, so try to choose ‘building block’ garments that you think you’ll get plenty of wear out of to justify the cost.

If your budget is tight, have a look in places like TK Maxx and there are some great charity shops, especially if you go to the ones in smarter areas where you can pick up some good quality bargains. There’s also a fantastic charity called Smart Works which helps women to choose free outfits to help them get back to work.


Above all, spending some time choosing the right outfit will enable you to project yourself as confidently as possible. Making a favourable impression at the outset will give you an advantage. 


Natalie Hunter is a Women Returners Coach and trained Colour/Style Consultant and offers these services separately, or together, for clients. Please contact coach@womenreturners.com if you’d like to find out more.