Wednesday 21 December 2016

Season's Greetings From Women Returners

Thank you for following our Back to Your Future blog. We hope that we have been a source of advice, support and inspiration to you during 2016.

If you're a returning professional, we now have other ways of connecting with you. If you haven't already done so, do join our Women Returners Professional Network and follow us on Facebook (@WRPNetwork)
for up-to-date news and information. 

We're taking a festive break from blogging for a few weeks and will be back in 2017!

Best wishes, Julianne & the Women Returners team

Friday 16 December 2016

Return To Work after a Career Break: An 8 Step Guide

We know it can be daunting to re-enter the job market after taking a career break. So here's a step-by-step return to work roadmap to get you back on the right track, summarising our top tips with lots of links to previous blog posts.

1. Be Clear About Your Career Goals
Start with clarifying your motivations to go back to work. Do you want to be a good role model for your children; do you want the status of a high-powered job; do you want or need to earn your own money? What does success mean to you? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to consider what you really want to do, so think about what makes work enjoyable and fulfilling for you. What did you most enjoy about past jobs? How can you set your career compass? Then, if you are looking for flexibility to fit with your family life, think of all the different forms this could take rather than thinking part-time work is the only option: be flexible about flexibility.

2. Boost Your Confidence
Professional self-confidence usually gets a knock during a long career break. It helps to remind yourself of your strengths and achievements, before and during your break. Recognise and tackle your fears and doubts about returning to work. Remember that confidence comes from doing not thinking, so look for practical opportunities to regain your professional self, such as project work, or strategic volunteering if you've had a long break. You can find more tips on tacking self-doubt here and here. Don't write yourself off!

3. Refresh Your Skills and Knowledge
Get yourself back up-to-speed on your old industry (or learn about a new one) by completing professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences/seminars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting ex-colleagues to 'talk shop'. Stop worrying about your IT skills - take a course before you get back to work. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses), such as Courserawhich offer degree-level courses from top universities in a wide variety of subjects.

4. Be Strategic in your Job Search
Treat your job search as you would a job, making time each day and working methodically. Don't fall into the trap of endlessly trawling online jobs boards looking for the right job and firing off scattergun CVs. If you're looking for flexible work, target specialist agencies and job boards. Do look at the growing number of opportunities aimed at returning professionals (collated on our website) and think creatively about how you can reduce your risk to an employer. Prioritise building and using your networks, as this remains the most likely avenue for finding a role ... 

5. Grow and Use Your Network
Networking isn't about approaching people and asking for a job. Networking is about making contact with people and is a part of life - you do it at the school gates and in your local communities all the time. Take time to prepare a convincing and credible professional introduction first (see here for how to do so) and then read our tips for enjoyable networking. Meeting an ex-colleague for coffee or asking a friend of a friend for a quick chat is a good start. For other ways to build you back-to-work networks see hereIf you haven't heard of informational interviews, find out how valuable they can be in this post

6. Hone Your CV
It's likely that your CV needs updating, in terms of format and content. The point of a CV is to show others what you are capable of. So highlight the headlines of your life, focusing on what you achieved in your roles not on your responsibilities. For a more detailed guide to post career break CV’s see here.

7. Optimise Your LinkedIn 
You may have avoided LinkedIn or it may be gathering dust at the back of your bookmarks. Now’s the time to give it the focus it deserves.
  • Include a professional-style profile picture.
  • Use the first paragraph of the summary section wisely. This is the place to include a strong summary of who you are, what you have done and what you want to do now.
  • Don’t hide or ignore your career break. In your profile you can say 'following a parental career break, I am looking to ..'. In your work experience put 'parental career break' with dates. Include any skilled volunteer work, small business and consulting work within this career break section or as a separate role if they're significant.
  • To learn more about creating a great Linked In profile see here.
8. Prepare for Interviews
Read books and articles, research the organisation and most importantly, practise, practise, practise. Prepare answers to the typical questions and rehearse them with anyone willing to listen.  Don’t undersell yourself, this is not the time to be modest; take credit for your achievements and let your prospective employer see the best of you. To find out the six essential steps for successful interviewing read here.

If this article has given you the inspiration you need to get yourself back out there, you can find a fuller list of our most popular return-to-work advice articles here.

Posted by Donna & Julianne

Friday 9 December 2016

The Informational Interview – and how to approach it

When I suggest interviewing someone for information, my Women Returners’ coaching clients often say:
  • I don’t want to waste people’s time
  • I’ll come across as nervous and unconfident
  • I’m not sure what I have to offer
Remember that the best way to find out about a job or a company is by talking to people with this knowledge. And here’s a statistic: One out of every 10 informational interviews results in a job offer. Considering that the purpose of informational interviewing is not to ask for a job, what a fantastic side effect! How does that happen? Well, in two key ways: you might tap into the hidden job market (i.e. ‘get in there’ before the job has even been advertised) or they might be impressed by you and decide to create a role for you.

Informational interviewing is not new; Richard Bolles coined it in his book, ‘What Colour is your Parachute?’ in the '70s. But perhaps it is easier than ever now to hide behind sophisticated technology, scanning job alerts, looking at job sites and skimming online adverts rather than researching through getting out and talking to people.

What is Informational Interviewing?

  • It is a way of having a focused conversation with someone in your network in a job, sector or organisation that interests you 
  • It is an opportunity to gather information about a particular industry sector or role, to get the ‘inside story’ from someone who is working in the area and to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm to find out more
  • It isn't asking for a job
  • It is an opportunity to build your network by asking for names of others they could recommend you to talk to.

How can you overcome your barriers to Informational Interviewing?

I'd like to tackle each of the fears mentioned above.

I don’t want to waste people’s time

I'd encourage you to:
  • Do thorough research on the person, the role and the industry.
  • Prepare good questions to ask based on what you want to find out about. 
  • Say your interviewee comes recommended: People love to be flattered if it is genuine!
  • Don’t ask for a job as they’ll have to say 'no'
  • Ask for their help in giving suggestions, feedback and ideas 
  • Manage the time; say ‘I only want to take up 20 minutes of your time’; keep to this timing; thank them and finish.
Remember, people love helping others if it is within their competency to do so and doesn’t take up too much time. Allan Luks investigated what happens to people when they help others. He described the experience as a ‘Helpers High’. Helping actually reduces stress levels and releases endorphins, the brain’s painkillers.

I’ll come across as nervous and unconfident

I'll remind you:
  • Thomas Gilovich has found in numerous studies that people overestimate the extent to which they think other people can sense how they are feeling. We appear less nervous than we feel. He calls this the ‘Transparency illusion’.     
  • He also shows that we imagine others are far more confident than we are. He calls this the ’Confidence Con’.
  • So, remember you look more confident than you feel. This is an opportunity to boost your self-esteem by dressing smartly for the meeting, maintaining your professionalism and getting back into the work environment.

I’m not sure what I have to offer

I'll reassure you:
  • Try and make the meeting mutual and think about what you can offer them. Perhaps you have some industry insights from former meetings or can recommend a good article or a useful contact
  • Ask about them, what they enjoy and like less about their work; how they got into it and what they would recommend. Then listen deeply. People love to talk about themselves if really listened to.
  • Do thank them. John Lees suggests that a hand-written note is still appreciated and it is a great way of showing gratitude and making yourself memorable.
Next time you are feeling wary of interviewing for information remember the benefits; you might just uncover a role too!

This post was written by one of the Women Returners coaching team, Gilly Freedman. It is an edit of a post which first appeared on Career Counselling Services.

Friday 2 December 2016

How to Find a Part-time or Flexible Job

Is part-time working in a professional job your Holy Grail? Our friends at Timewise, champions of flexible working, can help. They launched the Hire Me My Way campaign this year to encourage employers to open up more of their jobs to flexibility at the point of hire. They have created an invaluable in-depth guide to finding flexible jobs, including ideas on when and how to ask for flexibility when it isn't mentioned in the job advert: Download it here.

Here are a few of their tips we've picked out, with some of our own thoughts too.

1) Think beyond part-time 

Get creative - there are many variations on flexible working. Decide what option/s could give you a good balance of pay, job satisfaction and seniority as well as fitting with your family life or other commitments. In addition to the list below, some companies are now open to you taking unpaid leave in the summer holidays, as this is also a quiet time for the business.

2) Start searching for jobs that interest you

Do look at the growing number of job boards and recruiters specialising in part-time/flexible work (see here for a list)
Don't just look at jobs advertised as flexible. Timewise research found that only 8% of professional jobs are advertised as flexible; however 91% of UK-based hiring managers say they are open to discussing flexible working within the recruitment process for the right candidate. Start by finding roles that play to your strengths and experience and put your focus on building and using your networks to find opportunities. Research whether the company you're interested in already has staff working flexibly - if not, they're unlikely to hire on this basis. 

3) Lead with what you can offer

The application or early interview stage is not the time to bring up flexibility even if it is stated in the job advert. Concentrate on demonstrating your skills and relevant experience, as that's what the employer is interested in.  

4) Raise flexibility later on

The big question: At what point do you ask about flexibility if it's not included in the job advert? Try not to ask during the interview, but after you've been given the offer, or maybe in the final round of a stage-based process. If flexibility has been mentioned in the job advert, it's fine to raise beforehand.

5) Negotiate flexibility realistically
Some jobs aren't suited to flexibility but the majority will have some element of adaptability. Prepare a business case as to how you can make flexible arrangements work. Flexibility is a two way process and it is worth considering what are your sticking points and where you can compromise. The employer needs to feel comfortable with the arrangement too. 
  • If you're looking for home-working, identify tasks that can be done away from the office and consider any cost savings for the business of remote working
  • If you want to work fewer hours/days and the job was advertised as full-time, make sure it's realistic to do part-time or you'll end up doing a full-time role for less pay. If your past experience was at a more senior level, you might be able to make a case that you can do the role in fewer hours.
If you're applying directly for a permanent role and are sensing that the hiring manager is seeing your request for flexibility as an insurmountable barrier, suggest a trial period. Once you can prove that the arrangement works, it will be easier to make it permanent.

Posted by Donna