Wednesday, 3 October 2018

How to Stay Motivated in your Return to Work Job Search

Stay motivated in job search


"When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn." Harriet Beecher Stowe

Searching for a job after an extended career break can leave you feeling overwhelmed and demotivated. We often find returners have no idea where to focus their job search. They find themselves applying randomly for jobs which becomes demotivating as nothing seems to fit or work out. Alternatively, you can get stuck in “either/or thinking” where you fix on only two options and then become demoralised and give up when neither work out.

We all know that effective job search requires effort, energy and sustained motivation. But how to maintain motivation in the face of setbacks, disappointments and the sheer length of time needed to pursue options, is the difficult part!

At Women Returners, we recognise that a clear focus for getting back into the job market and also strategies to maintain motivation are needed.

We work with returners to help them identify a good rationale for exploring particular career options based on what they want and need in any job role. We also help you to formulate action steps which are behavioural, specific and motivating. We understand the psychological blocks that can reduce your motivation to carry out actions after the coaching has ended, even though you were committed at the time.

Here are our top tips for maintaining motivation: 


  1. Imagine yourself 3 months in the future when your enthusiasm for action is dwindling. What would you like to tell your 3-months-from-now ‘self’ to keep up motivation? Alternatively write a motivational letter to yourself and ask someone to post it to you in 3 months' time.
  2. Remind yourself of your autonomy in choosing which action steps to follow; no one is telling you what you have to do. That notion can be empowering in itself.
  3. Revisit the end goal and remind yourself of its importance, especially if the action steps feel removed from what you are aiming to achieve. Consider linking the goal to your sense of identity, self worth and values.
  4. Identify role models who have achieved their goals through their own hard work and effort. Use the same techniques that they used.
  5. Remember when you succeeded in achieving your goals in the past. If you did it before you can do it again!
  6. Make it easy to achieve action steps by physically removing all distractions and having all the materials you need to hand and elebrate. Reward yourself with treats for periods of concentrated activity and actions accomplished.
  7. Find a group or a buddy going through the same experience and motivate each other. If you're in the Women Returners network, our LinkedIn group can help you to find the returners in your area. It's also a good idea to identify your return-to-work supporters.
  8. Break down steps into manageable chunks and make them specific and achievable. And find a way of physically marking off action steps when achieved. One technique is to physically throw away action post-it notes to symbolise completion. 
  9. Visualise the steps you will take to achieve your goal. 
  10. Finally just ‘get stuck in’ and commit to action and momentum will build!  As Goethe said, ‘whatever you can do or dream you can, boldness has genius, power.'
For more advice on Motivation see this previous post. Make sure you have signed up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.

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.

Make sure you have signed up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.



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