Tuesday, 26 November 2013

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

We're glad to see that the debate on UK gender equality is filtering down from board-level to mid-career, recognising the broader issues facing women in the corporate world ... including the difficulties for women returners of getting back into a corporate role after many years out. Last week Newton Investment CEO Helena Morrissey called for employers to develop 'returnships' to give women routes back into work after a career break.

So what is a returnship?

A returnship is a professional internship designed specifically for people (usually women) returning after an extended career break. It's a short-term position drawing on existing skills and experience, and may be supplemented with relevant training courses. It gives a chance for the returner to build their confidence and gain recent CV experience, while practically testing out the role and whether they want to return to a demanding corporate job*. From the employer's side, they have access to the skills of an experienced professional and a low-risk way of assessing the returner as a potential longer-term employee. 

Are they worth doing?
It seems like a great idea - does it work in practice? Some programmes have successful track records. Goldman Sachs in the US (which trademarked the term 'returnship') has been running a programme since 2008, initially in New York and also in India in 2014. It's for professionals looking to restart their careers after 2+ years out (average 6 years). The paid 10 week programme offers work experience in a variety of departments, with real business issues to work on, together with an induction and a range of courses such as self-promotion, influence and industry trends. Goldman state that around 50% of participants have gone on to full-time roles.

Another long-lasting returnship programme is in India, where since 2008 the congolomerate Tata Group have been running their Second Career Internships They offer a residential induction and 500 hours of flexitime projects spread over 6 months to professional women who have taken 1-8 year break. Tata states that the majority of participants have subsequently returned to the workforce.


Some other schemes have been more short-lived. Carol Fishman Cohen, in her 2012 HBR article "The 40 Year Old Intern" suggested several criteria that need to be in place for such a programme to work effectively, including having a strong champion and keeping it small. I'd also suggest ensuring there is a sufficient degree of flexibility in permanent roles available after the returnship.

Where can I find one? Any in the UK?
They're mainly in the US and India. In the UK, so far as we are aware, there are currently no returnships in this format. However there are other related initiatives. The Daphne Jackson Trust has sponsored a 2 year part-time return-to-work fellowship for SET returners since 1986. And although not specifically targeted at returners, Red Magazine has run paid month-long 'grown-up' internships at a number of companies since 2010 (ref Older & Wiser*).

Of course you could always apply for a regular internship, particularly if you're considering a new career (eg.Cancer Research UK state their unpaid 12 week internships are also aimed at mid-career changers). And we know a number of women who have set up their own informal returnships - we'll talk more about creating your own returnship in a future post.

We're excited by the concept and would love to encourage its development in the UK. Are you aware of any UK returnships (formal or informal)? Or any organisations looking to develop one? Let us know here or on twitter @womenreturners.

Update March 2014: Returnships are coming to the UK! Credit Suisse have launched their Real Returns programme and we've seen that Morgan Stanley is planning to set up a Return to Work Programme in London this year. We'll let you know as & when we hear about any other UK initiatives.


* click on these links for related previous posts


Further Reading
"Returning professional internships" iRelaunch research summary including link to Carol Fishman Cohen's 2012 Harvard Business Review article "The 40 Year Old Intern" 
"Goldman Sachs returnership provides opportunity to re-adjust to the workforce. Glass Hammer, 2011

Posted by Julianne

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Are you your own worst enemy?

'I've failed in my career', 'I can't be like other people in the corporate world', 'No-one will employ me', 'I'm no good at networking', 'I'm never going to solve this' 

Do these statements sound familiar to you?  Are they a regular soundtrack that runs through your head?  If so, you are in good company.  Self-critical thoughts are familiar to everyone. They can have their uses: thinking critically about the world, yourself and others can be a driver of success and is a vital component of good judgement and decision-making.

However, if your critical thoughts are largely directed towards yourself and aren't regulated or balanced by other more positive kinds of thoughts, the result can be low self-belief and loss of confidence. The constant repetition of such thoughts can lead to the belief that they are actually true facts.  'I'm my own worst enemy' is how one of my clients described this pattern of thinking, with a mixture of pride and sheepishness.  While she was proud of her self-awareness she also recognised that she was simultaneously being unduly harsh on herself.  And she didn't believe that it was possible to prevent the thoughts from happening, even though she could see the benefits of doing so.

Reducing the self-critical thoughts

The first thing to realise about this pattern of thinking is that it is a habit which has probably formed over many years and, as with other habits, changing it will take time, effort and practice.  The first step is to catch yourself when you are having these thoughts.  If you can do this, then you give yourself the option of challenging your thought pattern using the following ideas.  These have helped many of my clients to move towards being more of a friend to themselves than an enemy:

  • give the critical voice a name (perhaps it reminds you of someone you know?) and acknowledge that it is present, without giving it more attention
  • treat the soundtrack like a radio station and either turn down the volume or switch station
  • spend some time listing all the things you are capable of and have achieved.  Re-read this list (particularly when the critical voice appears) and keep adding to it 
  • ask those around you, who love you, for some feedback.  Our partners, spouses and children are notoriously bad at giving us positive feedback and are great at complaining!  It is easy for them to assume that we know we are doing well, unless we expressly ask them
  • imagine that you are your own best friend and ask this friend what she admires about you
  • mindfulness and meditation are useful tools for learning how to let thoughts pass without becoming fixed on them or even believing they are true
If you have any other tips on how you have toned down your own critical voice, please share them with us.


Posted by Katerina




Monday, 4 November 2013

Routes back to work stories: Accounting to MA Publishing


What is it like to go back to higher education to retrain to another career after a nine year career break? Our guest blogger Suzanne Westbrook tells her story.
One semester in to my MA in Publishing at Kingston University and it’s a good time to take stock.  As one of only a handful of mature publishing students I am often asked about my motivation to return to studying. My friends’ reactions have been varied and colourful. Some think I am ‘crazy’ to be studying so hard with 3 young boys (Calum: 9, Iain: 7 and Harris: 4). Others consider me ‘brave’, and some ‘lucky’ to be able to change career direction at this stage in my life. And me?
Am I crazy?
It does feel a little mad for sure as days are often hectic and I feel stretched by the many demands of Uni and life with busy children. ‘Do you REALLY need dinner tonight? Mummy is just finishing up a little research here’. I have still to find a perfect life/work balance. I know I should be working as hard as I can when the boys are at school but I sometimes find this hard as I’m ‘not in the mood’ after a rushed school run. So, if I’m not up for assignment writing I do some research; if I’m not in the mood for research I do some course reading. You get the gist! And there’s always laundry…
boys
Iain (7), Calum (9) and Harris (4): little bookworms already!
I try to plan for down-time to get the numerous jobs done to clear my head for concentrated study. When I am working well, I am annoyed to be interrupted by the school pick-up. I then get cross with myself as I mull over unresolved issues in my head when I should be chatting about the minutiae of the school day with the boys, which I love to do (so funny, so revealing). Therefore I am studying part-time over two years and trying to keep realistic in my expectations although I really want to do well on the course.
It has been a whirlwind of a first semester with assignments coming thick and fast. Whilst often hard to do at the time (it is an MA after all), I can look back with a real sense of achievement when I consider how much I’ve learnt already, with a blog, a case study on literary agents and a higher education market analysis under my belt. We also had the unique opportunity to present our product proposals to real-life Editor-at-Large, Liz Gooster of Kogan Page – nerve-wracking but amazing! The emphasis on practical application is immensely beneficial. I also enjoy the publishing Masterclasses presented by industry specialists where we get to hear how it really is, and we can talk further with them often over a drink or two. After all, it’s important to network!
And I really enjoy studying alongside the ‘younger’ publishing students, who have welcomed us ‘older’ students, without question, into the fold. It is so interesting to hear of how they have come to publishing, and to hear their stories of home and their hopes for the future. I try to picture myself at their age and admire how focused and confident many of them are. They have taught me how to tweet and to use Facebook groups (love the Facebook groups) and I try not to mother them in return!
Am I brave?
Well, I suppose that turning my back on my previous career in accounting and finance and my degree in languages is a little brave. And of course, the road into publishing is less obvious for students with the ‘life experience’ that I have (I can never hear that too many times…). But, in today’s publishing industry where it’s all about the margins, I’ll put that accounting (and life) experience to good use. And who knows, maybe I’ll get to use my languages too.
And why publishing? Well, I have long been interested in the industry, love books and languages and am reminded every day how important literacy and books are. My boys have all turned out to be little bookworms, which is beyond wonderful. Calum enjoys being cross-examined on his reading tastes for my Uni assignments and loves to hassle me over my ‘homework’. Iain has promised I can edit his manuscript for his first comic book, but I foresee considerable slippage with the publication schedule! As for Harris, where do I start? He has embraced reading with gusto, bounds out of his class every day to tell me what he has learnt and regales us with his alphabet songs. One song for each letter – quite a repertoire!
Am I lucky?
Absolutely! I am extremely lucky to be studying a subject I find endlessly fascinating and to be supported so wholeheartedly by my wonderful husband Mark. In my career break of nine years I have had time to sit back and think clearly about my future. Returning to the workforce was always a given although I do not regret, in any way, taking time off to be with the boys. It has been a delight and privilege to be there to see them grow, but it is now time to ‘get back to me’.
And lucky too to be studying alongside my new friend Helen, also a mature publishing student and mother. We are able to remind each other of our considerable achievements so far – wearing matching shoes to lectures, turning up on time and so on. Oh and we’re doing ok at Uni too. Although, Iain is concerned that ‘I could do better’ with my marks!
suzanneSo yes, I am crazy, brave and lucky and very very busy… but happy too!
Suzanne Westbrook has a degree in Languages and worked in finance for many years as a Chartered Accountant. She is now studying on the MA Publishing at Kingston University.
Republished with Suzanne's permission from her original blog for http://kingstonpublishing.wordpress.com
We'd love to hear your return to work/study stories - do get in touch if you'd like to contribute a guest blog