Friday, 24 March 2017

Return to Work Tips

please click this link to watch if viewing via email

We've put together a short video of practical and inspiring return to work tips from our Conference speakers:

  • Jane Garvey, Presenter of Woman's Hour
  • Tiffany Grimwade, Project Manager, Skanska
  • Samina Malik, Supply Manager, O2
  • Ingrid Waterfield, Director, KPMG
  • Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner, EY
  • Tina Sharp, Portfolio Analyst, MV Credit
  • Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair 30% Club

Posted by Donna

Friday, 17 March 2017

Women Returners on Woman's Hour

We were delighted to have the opportunity to feature on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour for the second time on Monday this week. With all the post-Budget headlines on the self-employed and national insurance contributions a lot of people would have missed the positive announcement of a £5m fund to support return-to-work programmes. We’re really passionate at Women Returners about raising awareness for women about the options when they’re thinking about returning to work and providing support, advice and resources. We’re also extremely keen to be extolling the benefits and the business case to organisations for recruiting from this highly talented pool of women on career break. 

The returnships feature with Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour allowed us to raise awareness and promote the benefits, which was fantastic. On a personal level, being on national radio was a bit nerve-wracking - I re-read a couple of the Women Returners blogs on confidence over the weekend for courage! Having to get two young children ready for school in the morning before the interview though kept me grounded. My two boys were disappointed I wasn’t on a ‘cooler’ station like Radio 1. We were really pleased with the balance of the feature; a personal and inspiring case study from a returner at KPMG as well as having Israil from Skanska to give an employer’s point of view and Women Returners to chip in on the trickier points! If you have 10 minutes to spare do take the time to listen and feel free to share with friends and family who might be interested:

Getting back to work. BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 13 March 2017

We also had a short slot on the Money Box Budget Special on Saturday, featuring Julianne and Samina, one of our inspiring Conference panelists:
Returnships in the Budget – Feature.  BBC Radio 4 Money Box, 11 March 2017

Posted by Anna

Friday, 10 March 2017

Returnships: what are they & where can you find them?

On International Women's Day this week, Theresa May announced that £5m would be provided for the development of returnships in the UK: 

It is fantastic to get support for career break returners on the Government agenda. I hope that this can build on the work we have done since 2014 to develop the UK returnship market based on the strong business case. The fund should provide a means of accelerating growth to new sectors and regions, enabling progress towards our objective of making returner programmes a widespread part of regular annual recruitment.

Although we've been highlighting the benefits to business and individuals of returnships in the UK for over 3 years, I'm aware that many people on career break hearing the budget announcement may be wondering what a returnship is and where they can find one. So here's an update of a blog we first wrote back in Nov 2013*. 

What is a returnship?
A returnship is a higher-level internship designed specifically for professionals returning after an extended career break (usually defined as over 2 years, to target the group who find it hardest to resume their professional careers). The UK programmes are open to men as well as women, whatever the reason for the break, however it's no surprise that the vast majority of people with big CV gaps are returning mothers/carers.

A typical programme consists of a short-term fixed term contract for 3-6 months. You do professional-level, CV-worthy work, leveraging your skills and experience. Best practice programmes offer support through coaching, training, mentoring and networking. You'll be paid at a professional level (this isn't a minimum wage or unpaid internship), but usually not at full-market rate until after the programme to allow for the up-skilling period and the cost of the support. There is a strong possibility, but not a guarantee, of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Many programmes offer flexibility, sometimes including part-time work. Cohorts are small, often in the range of 5-15 participants, to ensure that suitable roles are available at the end of the programme. 

For the returner, it offers a supported pathway back to a mid to senior level role, rebuilding your professional confidence, refreshing your skills and gaining recent experience. You also get to test out whether the role/organisation is right for you, as well as whether it's the right time for you to return to work. You stand an excellent chance of getting a permanent role and, in any event, it's a great springboard to another role elsewhere. From the employer's side, the organisation can tap into a new talent pool of high-calibre professionals to fill their skills gaps and increase their diversity at managerial levels. The hiring manager also reduces the perceived risk of hiring someone without recent experience directly into a key role in their team.

Are they worth doing?
Great idea - does it work in practice? We've now supported many employers and cohorts of returners on returnship programmes and we can answer a firm 'yes, it works for both the returner and the organisation' - just read our returner programme case studies. It's not a box-ticking exercise for companies. We're not claiming it's been plain sailing for all participants, or for the programme managers come to that, however if you approach a returnship with the right mindset it's one of the best ways we've found to take the fast track back to a professional role. The majority of participants, typically 60-85%, are  offered ongoing positions and for those where the right role isn't available most have taken up great opportunities elsewhere (see Anna's story for an example).

There are downsides. You have to live with uncertainty during the programme about whether you'll get a permanent role at the end (if you feel ready and able to get straight into a permanent role, a returnship probably isn't for you). These are pilot programmes for most organisations, so you need to have a pioneer mindset and to play an active role in making the programme work for yourself and the business. 

Where can I find one? 
We keep a list of UK & other European returnship programmes on our website: see here. There were 23 programmes in the UK last year and some programmes are now on to their 2nd or 3rd year. Numbers are still small, but rising quickly, and the budget funding should provide a major boost. Although t
here is a focus on the South East and on financial services and construction, the market is evolving rapidly and we're co-developing programmes in a range of sectors and locations. As the concept becomes more well-known, keep your ears open locally as you may well find companies offering returnships we don't hear about (do keep us posted as we aim to collect on-going statistics on the returnship market).

What if there aren't any in my area/sector/country?
Don't sit back and wait for the market to develop and your perfect returnship to appear! If the concept appeals, try setting up your own informal paid 'returnship' in a company where you have contacts - you may prefer to talk of it as a project or temporary/trial position. Be a pioneer yourself! We'll talk more about pitching your own returnship in a future post.

*read the original version of this blog here if you want to see how far we've come 

Posted by Julianne

Friday, 3 March 2017

Salary levels and self-worth on your return to work

Following on from our recent guest post: "5 steps to successfully negotiate your return-to-work role", Kate, our Lead Coach, shares her experience to help you to work out what salary to ask for and how to value yourself when you're negotiating your first role back at work.

  • How confident do you feel about knowing what you are worth?
  • How confidently could you articulate and communicate your value in monetary terms to a potential employer?
  • How confident are you at negotiating what you would like to be paid?

Salary negotiation is another phrase that along with mentions of “networking” and elevator pitch” can conjure up groans of despair and sheer dread! I often see clients visibly shudder when contemplating this subject.

The reaction above arguably applies to the majority of people who find this a particularly tricky area to negotiate. In the UK, it’s partly a cultural thing – we are too polite to talk about money! But if we don’t have these frank discussions with an employer it can lead to problems later on. Research suggests that whilst money alone is unlikely to be an intrinsic source of motivation for most people, if the money side is wrong and you feel underpaid and thus undervalued, then that is likely to become a source of de-motivation.

How does this work when you throw a career break into the mix too?

It can be particularly challenging for those returning to the workplace following a career break as you may be feeling out of touch with current salaries as well as convincing yourself that the break inevitably means that you must be penalised financially. As our guest blogger, Natalie Reynolds recently commented, “Many returners are more likely to gratefully accept any terms rather than to consider negotiating…” However selling yourself short is unlikely to be helpful in the long term and indeed could cause you problems later when it comes to moving into new roles. So what can you do to become more confident at negotiating your salary successfully first time back?

Get clear and confident on what salary you should be asking for

Collect up-to-date salary information upfront
  • Research the marketplace for the type of role you are seeking to gain a benchmark of the salary range that you can expect to be targeting. 
  • Be realistic - there is likely to a range dependent on variables such as the size of the business, the location, and how structured their internal salary grading structures might be. 
  • Consider how specialist your skill-sets are and how easy or not it is for employers to source these. 
This should also happen well before you get to the point of job offer - be informed throughout the whole process, ideally before you begin any form of job search.

Best ways to gain this information
  • Websites such as, and provide a plethora of advice and information on the market value for current roles as well as tips and information on approaching negotiation.
  • Professional membership bodies such as the ICAEW and CIPD may also have useful salary information relating to your specific professional field.
  • Ask recruitment consultants and contacts in the relevant industries. There are several recruitment firms listed on the Women Returners website who actively support the hiring of Returners; they will have a broad view of companies and what people in similar positions are paid.
Be clear on your value and believe it!

Salaries that are out of kilter with the role you are actually doing can lead to misunderstanding by future employers or recruitment consultants. Equally being clear on your financial worth is also a test that the employer understands the match of the role on offer with your skills and experience. Returners often believe that they need to take a role many levels below their skill-set and worth just to get back in the workforce, but our experience suggests that this will quickly be problematic as the role is unlikely to be a good fit (unless you have a clear rationale such as moving to a very different sector or getting a foot in the door in your ideal company). By the time you are at the point of negotiation have a good convincing story to prove your skills are up-to-date and to demonstrate the value you offer.

Be confident in the negotiation
  • Don't apologise for your career break when you enter into negotiations. Be confident that your skills remain your skills and they hold value to the employer.
  • Don’t answer immediately if you're offered a salary - deflect and say you would like to think about it. This gives you time to prepare your counter offer and state clearly and confidently what is behind the figure you have come up with.
  • Think about the broad picture – what is the total remuneration on offer not just base salary?
  • Explore the opportunities for trade-offs. If the company has a budget below where you would like to be, what can they offer in return? Flexible working perhaps, extended annual leave, or the opportunity to review salary within a 3-month probationary period rather than wait for an annual review.
  • Don’t be afraid to have a walk-away point. If you feel very unhappy with the salary, and don't have a clear rationale for taking the role or an agreed progression plan, ask yourself whether this role is a match with your skills and the type of organisation you want to work for.
  • Remember that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to successfully negotiate what you want will be a surefire confidence boost for your return to work!

Posted by Kate Mansfield, Lead Career Coach, Women Returners

Thursday, 23 February 2017

8 Ways to use LinkedIn to get back to work

This week's guest blog is by Victoria McLean MD of City CV

If you are planning to return to work after a career break, you need to have all your job search documents ready. It’s not enough these days to simply tag jobs onto the front of your CV and hope for the best: the UK job market is more competitive than ever and if you have been away for any amount of time you really need to invest time and effort in making sure your CV meets current criteria and recruiter expectations.

Alongside a strong, standout CV, LinkedIn is a crucial element in your armoury and your LinkedIn profile has to reflect your excellent career to date. It needs to demonstrate your professional credibility, encourage people to contact and connect with you and, over time, attract the attention of potential hirers. It can also extend your network of influence – creating useful contacts and enhancing your online brand.

LinkedIn is the leading online professional directory of individuals and companies. Individuals use it for professional networking and to present to their world a ‘professional online profile’. It is also a major tool for job seeking.
To give a summary of why LinkedIn is so important for anyone returning to the job market, here are some important numbers:

       Over 400 million users worldwide in more than 200 countries;
       15 million users in the UK alone;
       3 million company pages;
       2 new users are joining LinkedIn every second ;
       40% of those check in daily;
       Most importantly, nearly 50% of engaged LinkedIn users have ‘hiring decision making’ authority.  

So how can you make your profile work for you?
  1. Returning to work after a break - Include your break as a line in your work experience section e.g. 'Parental career break + dates'. You can briefly explain in one or two sentences what you did over that period if it's relevant to your professional profile or you can leave it blank. If your break was intentional, state this. It works well to refer to it in your 2000 character summary section with something like “Following planned parental career break now seeking to return to an executive marketing post.” Nice and simple and to the point.
  2. Changing your careerThe important thing is to develop and then stick to a good strategy.  Your LinkedIn is not just a history of what you have been doing; it should be targeted to where you are going. Spend considerable time thinking about your target role and transferable skills. What were you doing previously that could be advantageous to the new direction you are seeking?
  3. Part-time roles or contractingIf you have had a lot of part-time or contracting roles detail them separately and make sure it is clear that they are contract roles. Unlike your CV where too many employers can make your CV look messy and inconsistant, LinkedIn lists them all clearly and you can be as concise as necessary.
  4.  Take time to get it right - Don’t rush into creating a new profile. You are preparing your business case and establishing your credibility and so your profile needs to be well planned. The key is to take your time. If you feel your LinkedIn needs an overhaul then you need to allow time to do this. You have to be ruthless with content and remain objective throughout. Your profile needs to be strategically thought out, key-word rich and proof read again and again before anything is uploaded live.
  5. Make your career experience countYour work experience section lists your entire career history in chronological order. Here is an opportunity to sell your key deliverables and make them attractive to a potential employer. It’s vital to refer to your key words – key word density is super-important.
  6.  Make connectionsLinkedIn is all about linking and connecting with people you know and/or have worked with but also people and companies you might like to work with. Grow your network by connecting with head-hunters & recruiters, hiring managers, other people in your target sector, and industry leaders. Similarly, join groups connecting to your industry, participate in discussions and find out about the best jobs first.  
  7. Shout about your skillsYou will have used many skills when you were in paid employment so it’s essential to add these to your profile. Think about how you can say the same thing in different ways: Resourcing, Recruitment, Talent Management. You can also add any skills you developed or discovered while on a career break – many skills we use in parenting are transferable. People with at least five skills on their profile have on average 17 times more views. You can have up to 50 skills so make the most of the opportunity.
  8. Include a professional photoDon’t be shy. A professional photo (which means no comedy hats, glasses or cocktails) means you are 14 times more likely to get found on LinkedIn – and 35 times more likely to be sent a message. A head and shoulders shot is perfect.

By Victoria McLean, Managing Director of City CV who provide professional CV and LinkedIn writing services.