Thursday 14 July 2016

Summer return to work planning

With the school year finishing, and everyone disappearing off on holiday, you'll probably be thinking more about the long summer ahead than how you can get yourself back to work. However, our advice is not to wait until September to get started. There are a variety of simple ways in which you you can lay strong foundations now - while taking a much-needed break - so you'll be able to use your time more productively when the holidays end*:

Create a network map
Even if you aren't ready to start networking, it is never too early to start creating your network map. Divide your map into three distinct categories on which you list everyone you can think of from different phases of your life: people from your past (your school and university classmates as well as former employers, colleagues and employees); your present (fellow parents and people you meet through voluntary work, hobbies or neighbourhood); and future (networks and groups you have yet to join). This is the kind of activity you can do all summer long, adding names as you think of them. Even if you start by thinking that you don't have a network, you'll be surprised how your map grows.

Get clearer about what will fulfill you and what you might do next

Whether you have too many choices or too few, a useful way to think about what to do next is to think back to a work role, or part of a role, that you found fulfilling and reflect on what made it so (see this post for a process to uncover more about what gives you fulfillment). As these factors are related to your strengths and values, they will continue to be of great importance to you in the future. By working out what's important to you, you'll gain motivation to search for your next role. And you can identify clues about what you want to do next: you might want to get right back to your old field, there might be elements of a previous role that you can craft into a new one or you may get an idea for a business or it might highlight a desire to retrain in a new area.

Practise your story 

If you are going away somewhere and meeting new people that you are unlikely to see again, this provides a low risk way to practice telling your story. You can test out and refine an answer to the dreaded question of ‘what do you do?’, including your past work experience and what you want to do in the future as well as what you're doing right now. 

Prepare your family
If you're a parent, the summer is a great time to make changes to the family routines and responsibilities away from the hectic schedule of the school year. If you're hoping to go back to work, you'll need to prepare your family for the changes that will be required of them.  For younger children, this might be a new kind of after school care or route to school. For older children, you might want them to start taking responsibility for organising their sports kit, making their own packed lunches or doing laundry. You'll know best what adjustments you will need your family to make, to support your return to work, and the more preparation they have the easier it will be.  Read our posts on combating guilt feelings if these get in the way of making the changes that will help you. 

Have a great summer. We're taking a summer blogging break and will be back in a month's time.

* Ideas adapted from an earlier post by Katerina

Friday 8 July 2016

How to reduce your risk to an employer

What can I do if my sector doesn't offer returnships?
Returnships sound great but there aren't any in my city/country. What can I do instead?
It's so competitive to get on a returnship programme. Are there any alternatives?

We're proud to have spearheaded the development of returnships in the UK and to know that so many women have already found their way back to corporate roles through this route. As yet this pathway is only available to relatively small numbers in certain sectors & geographies, however the learnings can be applied for all of you wanting to resume your previous careers.

A core part of the business case for returnships is that organisations can increase their gender/age diversity while managing the perceived risk of bringing in someone who has taken a career break. We're well aware of the unconscious bias against people without recent experience. It's this risk factor which is often the reason why you don't get through the initial CV screen for a job you'd previously have walked into, or why you make it through the early interview rounds but get pipped at the post once again by someone with current experience. 

Returnships reduce the risk for the hiring manager by building in a trial period where the organisation gets to know you and what you can do, so it's easier for them to decide if and where you'll fit in the business. And the process is working: in the vast majority of UK returner programmes, 50-90% of participants have been taken on into ongoing roles (& don't forget that some of the returners who don't stay on have made the decision not to, as it's not the right time or fit for them). 

So how can you get a foot in the door if a returnship isn't open to you? Think risk-reduction...

Two ways to reduce your risk to employers

1. Temporary roles
Use fixed-term contracts, maternity covers and projects as a stepping stone into an organisation you'd like to work for. You may find these through your ex-employer or ex-colleagues, through network contacts or possibly through agencies and job boards. Companies find these positions much harder to fill, as high-calibre employed people are reluctant to move for a temp role. Once you're in, as with a returnship, you need to make sure that you network effectively within the organisation as well as doing a great job in your role. Then at the end of the contract, if you're not offered a permanent position in your team, you're more likely to find something elsewhere in the business. And even if there aren't any opportunities to stay on, you'll been seen as a lower risk option for a future employer as you can show recent experience on your CV. 

2. Trial period
If you're applying directly for a permanent role and are sensing that the hiring manager is seeing your CV gap as an insurmountable barrier, suggest a trial period, either doing the role initially on a contract basis or taking on a specific project. Once you have the chance to show your skills and you're a known quantity, the risk factor rapidly diminishes and you're in a strong position to be taken on as a permanent employee.

Further Reading
The 'CV gap' barrier: Evidence it exists & how to get over it
Victoria's story of starting back on a maternity cover.

Posted by Julianne