Friday 29 January 2016

Returning to architecture after a career break

It can seem daunting to contemplate a return to architecture after a prolonged period away. My focus in this post is on where to acquire the knowledge and skills you should think about on returning, and where to find help and CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

We find that people coming back after extended absences often need help in two areas:  building their self-belief and confidence, and updating their technical, statutory and regulatory knowledge.

As Head of CPD at the RIBA, I have a strong belief that CPD and lifelong learning will not only keep you up to date, they can change your life and offer personal and professional benefits.  And thus, using CPD tactically to prepare for your return can make the landing smoother.

The skills specific to the practice of architecture you might need to brush up on are around new legislation (for example the new CDM Regulations), regulatory updates, planning law and planning changes, new forms of contracts, procurement, changes to the building regulations and new ways of working (digital design and construction, including Building Information Modelling)

Keep in the know by reading trade magazines, especially the free online versions: AJ, Building, Building Design, Construction News and Blueprint. A couple of hours a month reading RIBA Journal can keep you up to date on a wide range of issues. Websites I consider essential are Dezeen and Arch Daily. Don’t miss essential information on the RIBA and NBS websites: sign up for weekly bulletins, or bookmark the websites. Take part in the discussion on the RIBA’s Facebook, Twitter and Linked In pages.

There is a great deal you can do online, like doing a MOOC. What in heck is a MOOC? It’s a Massive Open Online Course – always free, generally offered by a university, and with thousands of courses available. I myself did a MOOC on music theory through the Edinburgh College of Art. I was one of 70,000 people around the world enrolled. The best MOOCs – like the one I did – have live chat and collaboration integrated. Start here with Coursera

However, MOOCs aside, I really recommend that whenever possible, you get together with other people for information sharing, learning, support, help and just enjoyable socialising.

For something more formal, the RIBA’s core CPD seminar (core seminar programme) offers seminars in 13 cities throughout 2016 (two venues in London, at the RIBA in Portland Place and at the Herman Miller showroom in Aldwych). The ten seminars relate to the ten core required CPD topics, with a current, topical take on what you need to know. Our free CPD Roadshows are relevant and valuable learning and free to attend.

The November GuerrillaTactics small practice conference and Speed Mentoring event are essential, and includes a day of CPD.

And finally, your regional RIBA office, and RIBA branches are essential points of contact, events, CPD, networking and more.

A few other industry groups for networking, events and mentoring: Chicks with Bricks  is a proactive network connecting young women in the construction industry to their female peers and role models. 

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) encourages  individuals to pursue, establish and sustain successful careers in the construction industry. They organise regular events across the regions focusing on networking, education, site visits, skills and mentoring. 

And don't forget your local Chamber of Commerce for networking, training and more.

The RIBA team is here to help and advice. I can be personally contacted at or on 020 7307 3697. I can hopefully either help you myself, or refer you to one of my expert colleagues here in London or at one of our 11 regional offices.

Written by Joni Tyler, Head of CPD, RIBA

Friday 22 January 2016

Be flexible about flexibility

This week I contributed to a Guardian online live webchat Q&A on improving your work-life balance. It struck me that the vast majority of the questions people posted were on job flexibility: how to find it, how to ask for it and how to make it work once you have it. 

A flexible interesting job can seem like the Holy Grail if you're a working mother, enabling you to find time for both work and family with the stability of an employed role and without running yourself into the ground. Unsurprisingly, questions about how to work flexibly feature regularly in the conversations I have with women returning after a career break. 

I've found that many women get off on the wrong track. They translate a desire for flexible work into a rigid quest for a part-time job, 3 or 4 days per week. Yet if you just look at online part-time job ads, you're likely to get disillusioned very quickly. Of the 10,000+ 'family-friendly' jobs advertised on Mumsnet today there are only 37 in the part-time category, 12 of which have a >£30k salary. Timewise are doing their best to change this, but the numbers of higher-level part-time roles on their job board are still limited. 

This doesn't mean that flexibility doesn't exist at a more senior level, even in large corporates. In my conversations with organisations, I hear an increasing openness to flexible working and a recognition that many (if not most) of their more senior employees do work flexibility in some shape or form. But flexible rarely translates into 3 days part-time. In most cases, it's more about full-time hours, but with flexibility about where & when you do them.

Don't rule this out - considering flexible full-time jobs as an option will greatly increase the range of positions available to you, and many women have found the work-life balance they want in these type of roles.

Types of Flexibility

Here are some of the most common options; think whether any (alone or in combination) could create an attractive working pattern for you:

Typically this means that you choose when you start and end work. This can fit well with parents of school-age children wanting to make the school pick-up. One returning banker negotiated an 8.30-3.30 schedule for a senior wealth management role, where part-time work was seen as out of the question.

Working from home (remote working)
Increasing numbers of professional roles don't involve being in the office all the time, reducing commute time & meaning mothers no longer have to miss important school events. Kate, a lawyer and mum of four featured in our success stories, found a role with a public regulator which was mainly home-based. Even within large corporates, you may now be able to work from home on a regular basis (e.g. every Wednesday), or to find a company culture where the team works from home on an ad-hoc basis whenever this suits the individual and the business.

Compressed hours
You work your weekly hours by starting early and finishing late on 4 days to create one day off. This is more likely to suit you if you don't have young children, maybe if you want to continue to have time for voluntary work, hobbies or other activities.

Extended holiday leave
It's not only in the education sector where you can enjoy extended time off to manage the school holidays. In the web chat the HR Director from Deloitte said that they had introduced Time Out, where employees can request an unpaid block of 4 weeks leave each year. Taking unpaid leave can suit the business too if summer is a quieter period for them. If the lost salary is a problem, look for companies who allow you to accrue leave from overtime to use as 'time off in lieu' when you want it. 

Finding a flexible role

Finding a flexible job is more about learning about company culture and effective negotiation than combing the online job boards. Timewise research in 2015 reported that only 6.2% of UK roles over £20k salary are advertised as flexible. However they have also found that 91% of managers are willing to discuss flexible working possibilities during the recruitment process. See our previous post for advice on negotiating flexibility.

And if you still see part-time work as the ultimate goal, remember that once you're in a company it's much easier to develop all forms of flexible working schedule (helped by the new right to request flexible working legislation). Most of the senior professionals featured in Timewise's Power Part Time List didn't start in part-time roles but reduced their hours once they were established and could make the business case for doing so.

See also previous post: How do I find a high level flexible role?

Posted by Julianne

Thursday 14 January 2016

Life after a returnship. Q&A with Credit Suisse Real Returns 2014 participants

What happens to participants after a returnship programme? How do their careers develop and are they happy in the longer term to be back in the corporate world? We spoke to Adriana Ennab and Sinead O'Regan who were part of the first Credit Suisse Real Returns cohort (April to July 2014) to learn about their experiences since the programme. They also have some great advice for future participants. [If this inspires you to apply for the 2016 Real Returns programme, get on to it quickly as the deadline is this Sunday 17 January. See here for details]

Adriana, what is your current role and remit?
Currently I am a Director in the Public Affairs and Policy Department in London. The team advises senior management and select clients on policy and regulation affecting Credit Suisse’s strategy, its clients, Private Banking and Wealth Management and the Capital Markets. We maintain an active dialogue and advocacy effort with policymakers, trade associations, regulators, and international standard setting bodies. The team covers a broad range of topics including Prudential, Securities, Tax and Political Risk. Given my former background in Securities in my previous life, my initial remit was covering Shadow banking, Collateral and Margin requirements on OTC Derivatives.

What are your reflections on what you gained from the programme?
I have gained my independence again. I remember who I was before I took time off to raise a family. I am confident and feel fulfilled in a different way than the fulfilment I got from raising a family. I feel like I am in control of my life. I learn something new every day and I also teach something new. I am able to help others through mentoring. I also feel like I am able to be a great role model for my kids managing to work and raise a family.

How has your career developed since the programme?
When I began my new role at the end of the programme, I started with a blank page. I knew about the markets back in my day but had no idea about the world of Policy. I have been learning daily and building my knowledge. As mentioned earlier, my original remit was securities focused as that was where my previous experience was. I now cover areas such as Digital and am working on the bank’s Brexit committee as well other exciting projects.

What advice would you give to future returnship participants?
I would advise you to not box yourself in. Do not only think of the job you did previously but what your skill set is, what are your strengths and how can you transfer those. The team working on recruiting for the Real Returns programme did more than any head-hunter I had spoken to in the past. They did not try to place me in the same role I had before but looked at how I could transfer the skills that had made me successful previously into a new role. I would also recommend reading the papers daily and keeping up to speed with trends in the market and current affairs. If you have time, take classes that could help you get up to speed faster when you start. Excel, PowerPoint, coding-anything that you feel you are a bit behind the curve on. Not only will that help you once you get a job you will also feel like you can hit the ground running.

I would also suggest asking questions once you land at Credit Suisse. There is a very open door policy from management. If you do not know, ask. Learn as much as you can about your area, your division, and the bank. Meet as many people as you can. Find a sponsor. Attend all the workshops that you can, use all the fantastic resources at your disposal at the bank. Join the networks available. You have much at your disposal at Credit Suisse but it’s up to you to take advantage of it!

Sinead, what is your current role and remit?
I am currently working in the Compliance and Regulatory Affairs group. I am responsible for contributing to various team initiatives, such as the Risk and Control Self Assessments process, which leverages my previous professional skills

What are your reflections on what you gained from the programme?
Most importantly, the Program gave me an entry point back into the corporate work environment. It was always my intention to return to my professional career as soon as all my children were in full time education, but after a four-year absence and four children, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The Program was the perfect opportunity to test drive a return to work and I valued the excellent support, mentoring and training immensely, both from within my team and the Program. It gave me a chance to re-fresh knowledge and re-use technology, all in a safe environment. Over the course of the Program, I felt that I was brought back to the level of professionalism and understanding that was standard for me in my prior position. It was also a chance for me to try something new by working in a new industry which would not have been possible outside of the Program. My background is in Accounting and Tax and I qualified as an Irish Chartered Accountant and member of the Irish Institute of Taxation. Prior to my absence, the bulk of my career was spent with Andersen and subsequently Deloitte within their respective taxation practices in Dublin, Luxembourg and laterally London and my most recent role was with Deloitte London’s real estate taxation group specialising in tax structuring of international real estate funds. Although it is a complete change of industry, I have found that I have been able to leverage my previous professional experience and knowledge. At the end of the Program, I had built up valuable relationships both within and outside the team especially the network of my fellow 16 ‘Real Returners’ as we supported each other throughout the Program.

How has your career developed since the programme?
The program was a great start and I have remained in the same team, now as a permanent employee, becoming more integrated, building relationships both within and outside the team and taking on more responsibility as my confidence and knowledge has grown.  I have also been able to combine the role very well with family life through a great part-time arrangement. The biggest hurdle for me in making a return to work manageable was the school holidays, especially the long school summer holidays. So I agreed an arrangement giving me a 4 day week and extra holidays. This works very well and gives me one day a week on a Friday to organise the house and extra time to spend with the children during the holidays. I am looking forward to my future within the team as we grow and continue to tackle new and interesting work.  I am delighted with the direction my work has taken and could never have imagined that I could combine a great job and family life so well.

What advice would you give to future returnship participants?
Make full use of the program’s amazing training, networking and mentoring opportunities, as the Program passes by very quickly. Use the Real Return cohort and alumni as it is a great resource and ready-made network, this is invaluable in the initial settling-in period as there will be good days and bad days! And going forward, they are a great point of contact in the different sectors throughout the bank

Any other comments?
I can’t recommend the Program enough, it has given me a chance to come back to a corporate working world that I thought was behind me.

Posted by Julianne

Friday 8 January 2016

Will you stick to your New Year resolutions?

Every January it is hard to avoid the talk of 'new year - new you' wherever you look. For women on a career break, the new year is often a time to set goals and make plans for returning to your career or re-inventing yourself. All too frequently, however, your initial enthusiasm and drive can quickly wane, everyday life takes over and the project of returning to work becomes too hard to pursue.  

Why don't resolutions work?
There are four key reasons why new year resolutions fail. It is usually because they are one or more of the following: 
  1. too general and vague e.g. find a part-time job; do more networking
  2. too big and daunting e.g. retrain for a new career in x; work out what to do next
  3. unrealistic e.g. land a new role by Easter
  4. not sufficiently action-oriented, with little idea of the steps required for achievement
All of these factors can lead to a rapid drop in motivation, as discussed by Julianne in her post on maintaining New Year motivation at the start of 2015.

A new approach
I was reminded of how often resolutions fail by a friend challenging me about how I would achieve my stated resolution 'to create more space for myself'. When she asked how I would achieve this, I had no answer. Her question forced me to acknowledge that my resolution was too general and vague and that I hadn't taken the step of converting my idea into action. I saw failure looming!

Her suggestion was to try a new approach to make the resolution stick: do something specific, simple and quick and do it daily for a month. By doing something new, even for only five minutes each time, on a daily basis, I will be able to make tangible progress on establishing a new habit. This approach is backed up by psychological research into how new habits get established. Linking the new behaviour to a specific cue, such as 'on waking' or 'before dinner' can also reinforce the habit formation.

Your 5 Minutes a Day return to work plan
How could you use this 'specific, quick and daily' approach to support your goal of returning to work? Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Research useful updating or skills-development courses
  • Read a relevant news/journal article or book chapter
  • Connect with old and new contacts on LinkedIn
  • Read &/or contribute to a professional post on a LinkedIn Group
  • Email a contact to set up an informal chat
  • Work on a single section of your CV or LinkedIn profile
Of course you are likely to frequently spend more than five minutes a day, if returning to work is an important priority for you. However, by following the principle of doing a small thing every day, you will get into the habit of creating time to work on your return, so avoiding the common trap that everyday life gets in the way. This means that you cannot fail to make progress and will find it much easier to stick with and achieve your resolution by year end.

For further reading
How to form a habit - BPS Digest

Posted by Katerina