Wednesday, 10 April 2019

How to prepare for networking at a conference



How to network at a conference



The Women Returners team are looking forward to meeting many of you at our Women Returners Conference in London next month. The day will be packed with return-to-work advice, support and inspiration, with plenty of opportunity to network with like-minded women and meet our 10 Employer Sponsors.

We know many returners find the idea of networking quite daunting, so here are some tips to help you make the most of our Conference or other similar events.
 
Set yourself a goal: This may be to speak to three people you haven't met during the breaks between sessions, or there may be a particular employer sponsor you'd like to speak to. Achieving your goal will be a boost to your confidence. Just make sure your goal is achievable so that you don't feel too much pressure. And don't forget to pat yourself on the back when you've achieved it!

Plan your introduction: Although one of the workshops will cover in detail how to craft your personal story, it's a good idea to have a brief introduction prepared. This needs three elements: your name, a brief description of your background, and your reason for being at the conference. You don’t need to talk about the reason for your break, or its length at this stage. If you are new to networking, it might help you to practise saying your introduction out loud or with a friend, to get used to talking about yourself in this way.

Prepare topics: Whether you're focused on meeting an employer, or still working out your future direction, it's a really good idea to do some advance preparation. This includes researching individual speakers and employers online and through your existing networks, and developing questions you can ask to specific individuals and generally to other conference attendees. If you find it uncomfortable to talk about yourself, ask questions when you meet someone initially - it's an easier way to start a conversation. Advance preparation means you can arrive at the conference confident that you’ll have something to say to the new people you meet. 

Use LinkedIn to connect with other people: LinkedIn is a great way to find and connect with other attendees at a conference. You can do this manually, simply by looking up the people you meet. Or you can use a tech way if you have a smartphone: 

  1. Enable Bluetooth on your phone. 
  2. Click on the two people icon at the bottom of the screen in the LinkedIn app and then 'find nearby' in the middle at the top of the screen
  3. You will then be able to invite anyone at the event who also has this screen open to connect. 
If you're coming along to our Conference in London on 13 May, and are on Twitter, do use the hashtag #WRConf and tag @womenreturners to join in the conversation on the day. We hope to see you there and know you'll have a great time - remember everyone at the Conference is a returner so you can relax - you've found your tribe!

If you don't have your ticket for the Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference yet find out more and book here. And you can find information on our Conference's Employer Sponsors here.



For more tips on how to network successfully, see these blogs in our Advice Hub:




Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Boost your confidence for a successful return to work



How to build your confidence to return to work


Ask one of our career coaches what they believe to be the number one personal barrier to a successful return to work after a career break and the chances are they will say “lack of professional confidence”.

Women on a career break may be very self-assured when it comes to their home and social life, but the thought of returning to the workplace can bring on a crisis of professional confidence. One of the ways this lack of confidence is often expressed is in negative thoughts around the prospect of returning to work – “I’m too old”, “things have moved on in my industry”, “I'm not the same person as the one who did that managerial job” etc, etc. 


When we consider that much of our identity is tied up in our work, it’s not surprising that when we’ve been away from the workplace for any length of time, we can find our self-belief gets eroded. If you're feeling under-confident, don't let this hold you back - take steps to give yourself a boost and you'll be setting yourself up for success.


Top Tips for Boosting Your Confidence


  • Remind yourself of your achievements – Think about all you have achieved, year by year, both before and during your career break. It doesn't matter how long ago it was, or whether it was a big or a small achievement, so long as it feels satisfying to you. To help, look out old copies of your CV to remind yourself what you achieved in past roles. Bringing your successes back to the front of your mind can give your confidence a real boost.
  • Identify your key strengths and skills – Rather than focus on what you lack, focus on what you can personally bring to an employer. It can be a hard exercise to list your own strengths, so get feedback from your friends and family, and think about what skills you demonstrated in the achievements you listed. Don't minimise what you've done during your career break - for examples, caring and volunteer work create valuable new skills. Read our blog on setting your career compass for other advice. 
  • Adopt the right mindset – Your attitude has a powerful impact on your likelihood of success. We find that returners who work on their patience, persistence and positivity are more likely to make a successful return than those who give in to frustration and negativity. We discuss how to adopt a mindset of ‘realistic optimism’ in this blog and a growth mindset, in this blog.
  • Brush up your knowledge and skills - Don't let feeling that your IT skills or industry knowledge are out of date sap your confidence. Upskill yourself. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses) to help bring yourself back up to speed. Use industry events and professional associations to find out what's been happening in your field and meet ex-colleagues to get an informal update.
  • Update your image – If you look professional, you’re more likely to feel like a professional again. If you can afford it, it's worth investing in a new outfit (and maybe a new haircut) for networking and interviews. Read our step-by-step advice on updating your wardrobe for your return. Establishing a regular exercise routine can also make you feel and look better, as well as boosting your energy levels.
  • Volunteer – If you've had a very long break, strategic volunteering can be a good way to ease you back into your 'professional self' and to refresh your skills and experience at the same time.
  • Body Language - Focusing on looking more confident through the way you walk and talk can actually make you feel more confident. Read more here.

Get more advice on re-connecting with your 'professional self' in this blog. And don’t forget to take a look at the Success Story Library on our website - reading the wealth of stories of a wide range of women who have successfully returned to work after multi-year breaks can help you to believe that you can do it too!



Join us for our Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference in London on 13 May. Find out more about our Conference and book your ticket now at the Early Bird price of £90 - but hurry - this offer ends at midnight 31 March.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

How best to use LinkedIn

How to use LinkedIn when you want to return to work


Recently we spoke to Victoria McLean - CEO and founder of City CV – to find out the best way to optimise your Linkedin profile. But once you have followed Victoria’s excellent advice, what happens next? Do you know how to use LinkedIn to its full advantage?

We asked Victoria for some tips:

Connect with people – spend time making connections and growing your network. The more first-degree connections you make the more second and third-degree connections you will then have, which will increase your chances of coming up in searches. And, of course, building your network will encourage more people to connect with you directly.

Join LinkedIn groups – every region and industry sector have their own groups and they are a great way to increase your visibility and connect with people who may be able to help you achieve your goal. You’ll be able to raise your profile by posting and commenting in groups, and LinkedIn allows you to message other group members free of charge. So, if you see someone in a group you belong to who is already working in a job/area that appeals to you - or even someone who has hiring responsibilities - you can contact them for advice.

Join LinkedIn career groups – these groups are often set up by recruiters so that they can make potential candidates aware of roles they are recruiting for without having to use LinkedIn’s paid-for service. Use LinkedIn’s search engine to find these groups and join them so that you’ll be the first to hear about new opportunities – once you have optimised your LinkedIn profile, of course!

Use LinkedIn Jobs – you can search for vacancies by job title and location, state where you are in your job search and select what kind of role you are looking for – eg, full-time, part-time, contract etc. You can also set up alerts and save jobs that appeal to you. If you are interested in working for specific companies, you can also choose to receive alerts when they post new job vacancies. Your activity in LinkedIn Jobs is not made public.

Ask for recommendations and endorsements – recommendations are similar to testimonials or references and can be from former colleagues, bosses or clients – you just need to send someone you have worked with a friendly request to provide you with a recommendation. And when you have listed your key skills, you can ask first degree contacts to endorse these skills on your profile. Both testimonials and endorsements are a great way of validating your profile and showcasing your experience. If you’re nervous about asking for support in this way, why not offer to endorse the skills of others and provide them with testimonials if you can? More often than not they will offer to do the same for you.

Sharing content and posting blogs – sharing useful content or even posting blogs you have written yourself are great ways to increase your visibility and credibility. You could even set up your own LinkedIn group if you spot a gap and feel it would be useful for your job search/future career.

City CV will be running a LinkedIn Key Essentials workshop at our Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference in London on 13 May. And a professional photographer will be taking LinkedIn headshots. These options are subject to availability, so if you are interested in either do book your Conference ticket now.








Wednesday, 27 February 2019

How to optimise your LinkedIn profile

Make the most of your LinkedIn profile

Everyone knows how important it is to be on LinkedIn – it’s the top social media site for career and professional networking. And while most people do have a LinkedIn profile, it’s surprising how few know how to optimise their profile so they can maximise their chances of finding a role.

We spoke to Victoria McLean – CEO and founder of City CV – to find out what you need to do, as a returner, to make sure your LinkedIn profile becomes your hardworking ally on your return-to-work journey.

First of all, let’s understand why LinkedIn is so important when you’re looking to return to work after a career break or indeed for any subsequent job search. Well, here the stats are clear - and mind-blowing. Ninety-seven percent of recruiters/headhunters use LinkedIn as their primary way to source candidates; 85% of recruiters make their shortlist decisions based on LinkedIn alone and nearly 50% of engaged users of LinkedIn have hiring decision making authority.

“LinkedIn is your online marketing document. It’s your business case that needs to clearly demonstrate why you meet your future employer's needs and why they should hire you,” says Victoria. “Your profile is all about strategically aligning you to your target role,” she adds. It’s used in every part of the recruitment process.”

Victoria recommends starting with a blank Word document so that you can strategically plan out, format and spell check your information before you put anything online.

Here are the steps she recommends you take:

1. Carry out a detailed keyword research. This is where you need to start. Create a list of key words and phrases (key skills, expertise, job titles etc) that a recruiter or a computer algorithm is likely to use to find candidates like you. The more keywords you have the better. It doesn’t matter if you’re saying the same thing in lots of different ways - make sure you cover all your bases. Once you have a comprehensive list, use it in every part of your profile so that you can be easily found. And remember - keyword breadth and density is important.

2. Create a killer profile. The first things a recruiter will see are your photo, name, headline and location so it’s super-important to get these right. Make sure you use a corporate-type photo – professionally shot, if possible. When it comes to your headline, LinkedIn’s default is to use your last job title, but you can change this and create a brief, powerful picture of who you are and what you have to offer. You have 120 characters so try to use all of them wisely. Make sure you include your industry (or target industry) in your headline to increase your chances of appearing in recruiters’ searches. For your location, it’s important to say where you want to work, not where you live. Recruiters screen by location and if you leave this out, or have the wrong location, you could miss out on a lot of opportunities.

3. Craft your summary. This is the most important and valuable part of your profile and it should set out your business case. Find a tone, style and level of detail that suits you, make sure it is keyword rich and use all the 2,000 characters available to you. It’s completely up to you whether you use the first or third person when writing your summary, although Victoria says she prefers to use the first person. It’s really important to get the first two or three lines spot on so that recruiters are motivated to click on ‘see more’. One way of making sure you have used all your keywords is to have a list of your specialities within your summary.

4. Talk about your experience. Make sure you use job titles that are searchable (eg Marketing Manager not Brand Warrior). And double check that your job titles and dates match those in your CV. Use the first person and bullet points or short paragraphs – enough to entice a recruiter to contact you – but don’t copy and paste from your CV. Focus on the most important information and go back far enough so that former colleagues can find you.

5. Fill in your education details. It’s important to add your university (and maybe school) details as you’re likely to receive 17x the messages you would get if you left this section blank.

6. Detail your skills and expertise. You can add up to 50 skills and areas of expertise. This section is an ideal opportunity to use your keywords to say the same thing in different ways (to maximise the chances of your profile coming up in searches). LinkedIn will guide you and suggest similar phrases. Input the skills needed for your target role, putting the most relevant ones first. See if you can get endorsed by your contacts for these keys skills as endorsed skills will appear at the top of the list.




City CV will be running a LinkedIn Key Essentials workshop at our Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference in London on 13 May. And a professional photographer will be taking LinkedIn headshots. These options are subject to availability, so if you are interested in either do book your Conference ticket now.