Friday 31 March 2017

Maria's returnship story - "Wild card" to Product Specialist at Man GLG

If you're interested in returnships, read Maria's story of returning to work at Man GLG through our partnership Man Group Returner Programme.

Before I took my career break, I had a varied and active job in fixed income on the sell-side where I travelled extensively, worked long hours and was excited by what I did. However, when I had my third child in 2012, I realised that I needed a change of pace. I left my company and dedicated my time to my family for three and a half years. During this break, I raised my children and loved every minute of it – I gave birth to my fourth child and prepared my three older ones for school.
I always planned to return to work and when I finally made the decision to come back, I knew that I needed something different from my past career. It was very clear to me that I wanted to continue working in financial services, and apply my existing skills and knowledge to a new area – the buy-side. I looked for roles in Sales or as a Product Specialist, which I felt would suit my experience and expertise. I approached head-hunters in the first instance, but was told that although I had an interesting profile and relevant experience, I was a “wildcard” with a non-traditional background (due to my career break) that they could not easily place. I then spoke to a friend of mine, who left the sell-side to open a headhunting business, and she pointed me to Women Returners, where I found the Product Specialist role at Man GLG. I knew the company, due to my previous job, and was immediately excited by the opportunity!
I considered myself very lucky when joining Man GLG. I started on a three-month programme, which was then extended, and then I was made a permanent employee. The team that I joined was also new at that time, so despite being thrown into an unfamiliar environment, I felt like I jumped on a boat that was being built. I was able to work with my team to define my hours and ensure flexibility on both sides (home and work). Senior management were also very understanding of this – they ensured that I was fully equipped with the training, materials and support to embrace my new role. For me, it was very important that when I returned to work, I would be happy and motivated – finding a work/life balance has definitely helped achieve this.
Alongside, Women Returners’ coaching programme was also very helpful when I first started my role. It reminded me about the importance of maintaining a focus and not stretching myself too thin between my personal and professional worlds, and to set up realistic short and medium term goals, and celebrate the daily achievements along the way.
I feel very happy about returning to work and joining Man GLG. It offers me everything that I wanted in terms of a full-time role, including working with an inspiring and engaged team, and having a balance with home life – so coming into work puts a smile on my face every morning. Admittedly, it is always a challenge to start something new, but I am fortunate to be in an open and inspiring professional environment that provides me with the support I need.
My one piece of advice to someone in a similar situation is to think about what you want and stick to it. Before you go on the journey to return to work, ensure that you have a good support system at home, and ideally at work as well, so that you have the peace of mind to be productive and successful in both environments.

Posted by Donna

Friday 24 March 2017

Return to Work Tips

please click this link to watch if viewing via email

We've put together a short video of practical and inspiring return to work tips from our Conference speakers:

  • Jane Garvey, Presenter of Woman's Hour
  • Tiffany Grimwade, Project Manager, Skanska
  • Samina Malik, Supply Manager, O2
  • Ingrid Waterfield, Director, KPMG
  • Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner, EY
  • Tina Sharp, Portfolio Analyst, MV Credit
  • Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair 30% Club

Posted by Donna

Friday 17 March 2017

Women Returners on Woman's Hour

We were delighted to have the opportunity to feature on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour for the second time on Monday this week. With all the post-Budget headlines on the self-employed and national insurance contributions a lot of people would have missed the positive announcement of a £5m fund to support return-to-work programmes. We’re really passionate at Women Returners about raising awareness for women about the options when they’re thinking about returning to work and providing support, advice and resources. We’re also extremely keen to be extolling the benefits and the business case to organisations for recruiting from this highly talented pool of women on career break. 

The returnships feature with Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour allowed us to raise awareness and promote the benefits, which was fantastic. On a personal level, being on national radio was a bit nerve-wracking - I re-read a couple of the Women Returners blogs on confidence over the weekend for courage! Having to get two young children ready for school in the morning before the interview though kept me grounded. My two boys were disappointed I wasn’t on a ‘cooler’ station like Radio 1. We were really pleased with the balance of the feature; a personal and inspiring case study from a returner at KPMG as well as having Israil from Skanska to give an employer’s point of view and Women Returners to chip in on the trickier points! If you have 10 minutes to spare do take the time to listen and feel free to share with friends and family who might be interested:

Getting back to work. BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 13 March 2017

We also had a short slot on the Money Box Budget Special on Saturday, featuring Julianne and Samina, one of our inspiring Conference panelists:
Returnships in the Budget – Feature.  BBC Radio 4 Money Box, 11 March 2017

Posted by Anna, Lead Coach - Women Returners

Friday 10 March 2017

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

On International Women's Day this week, Theresa May announced that £5m would be provided for the development of returnships in the UK: 

It is fantastic to get support for career break returners on the Government agenda. I hope that this can build on the work we have done since 2014 to develop the UK returnship market based on the strong business case. The fund should provide a means of accelerating growth to new sectors and regions, enabling progress towards our objective of making returner programmes a widespread part of regular annual recruitment.

Although we've been highlighting the benefits to business and individuals of returnships in the UK for over 3 years, I'm aware that many people on career break hearing the budget announcement may be wondering what a returnship is and where they can find one. So here's an update of a blog we first wrote back in Nov 2013*. 

What is a returnship?
A returnship is a higher-level internship designed specifically for professionals returning after an extended career break (usually defined as over 2 years, to target the group who find it hardest to resume their professional careers). The UK programmes are open to men as well as women, whatever the reason for the break, however it's no surprise that the vast majority of people with big CV gaps are returning mothers/carers.

A typical programme consists of a short-term fixed term contract for 3-6 months. You do professional-level, CV-worthy work, leveraging your skills and experience. Best practice programmes offer support through coaching, training, mentoring and networking. You'll be paid at a professional level (this isn't a minimum wage or unpaid internship), but usually not at full-market rate until after the programme to allow for the up-skilling period and the cost of the support. There is a strong possibility, but not a guarantee, of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Many programmes offer flexibility, sometimes including part-time work. Cohorts are small, often in the range of 5-15 participants, to ensure that suitable roles are available at the end of the programme. 

For the returner, it offers a supported pathway back to a mid to senior level role, rebuilding your professional confidence, refreshing your skills and gaining recent experience. You also get to test out whether the role/organisation is right for you, as well as whether it's the right time for you to return to work. You stand an excellent chance of getting a permanent role and, in any event, it's a great springboard to another role elsewhere. From the employer's side, the organisation can tap into a new talent pool of high-calibre professionals to fill their skills gaps and increase their diversity at managerial levels. The hiring manager also reduces the perceived risk of hiring someone without recent experience directly into a key role in their team.

Are they worth doing?
Great idea - does it work in practice? We've now supported many employers and cohorts of returners on returnship programmes and we can answer a firm 'yes, it works for both the returner and the organisation' - just read our returner programme case studies. It's not a box-ticking exercise for companies. We're not claiming it's been plain sailing for all participants, or for the programme managers come to that, however if you approach a returnship with the right mindset it's one of the best ways we've found to take the fast track back to a professional role. The majority of participants, typically 60-85%, are  offered ongoing positions and for those where the right role isn't available most have taken up great opportunities elsewhere (see Anna's story for an example).

There are downsides. You have to live with uncertainty during the programme about whether you'll get a permanent role at the end (if you feel ready and able to get straight into a permanent role, a returnship probably isn't for you). These are pilot programmes for most organisations, so you need to have a pioneer mindset and to play an active role in making the programme work for yourself and the business. 

Where can I find one? 
We keep a list of UK & other European returnship programmes on our website: see here. There were 23 programmes in the UK last year and some programmes are now on to their 2nd or 3rd year. Numbers are still small, but rising quickly, and the budget funding should provide a major boost. Although t
here is a focus on the South East and on financial services and construction, the market is evolving rapidly and we're co-developing programmes in a range of sectors and locations. As the concept becomes more well-known, keep your ears open locally as you may well find companies offering returnships we don't hear about (do keep us posted as we aim to collect on-going statistics on the returnship market).

What if there aren't any in my area/sector/country?
Don't sit back and wait for the market to develop and your perfect returnship to appear! If the concept appeals, try setting up your own informal paid 'returnship' in a company where you have contacts - you may prefer to talk of it as a project or temporary/trial position. Be a pioneer yourself! We'll talk more about pitching your own returnship in a future post.

*read the original version of this blog here if you want to see how far we've come 

Posted by Julianne

Friday 3 March 2017

Salary levels and self-worth on your return to work

Following on from our recent guest post: "5 steps to successfully negotiate your return-to-work role", Kate, our Lead Coach, shares her experience to help you to work out what salary to ask for and how to value yourself when you're negotiating your first role back at work.

  • How confident do you feel about knowing what you are worth?
  • How confidently could you articulate and communicate your value in monetary terms to a potential employer?
  • How confident are you at negotiating what you would like to be paid?

Salary negotiation is another phrase that along with mentions of “networking” and elevator pitch” can conjure up groans of despair and sheer dread! I often see clients visibly shudder when contemplating this subject.

The reaction above arguably applies to the majority of people who find this a particularly tricky area to negotiate. In the UK, it’s partly a cultural thing – we are too polite to talk about money! But if we don’t have these frank discussions with an employer it can lead to problems later on. Research suggests that whilst money alone is unlikely to be an intrinsic source of motivation for most people, if the money side is wrong and you feel underpaid and thus undervalued, then that is likely to become a source of de-motivation.

How does this work when you throw a career break into the mix too?

It can be particularly challenging for those returning to the workplace following a career break as you may be feeling out of touch with current salaries as well as convincing yourself that the break inevitably means that you must be penalised financially. As our guest blogger, Natalie Reynolds recently commented, “Many returners are more likely to gratefully accept any terms rather than to consider negotiating…” However selling yourself short is unlikely to be helpful in the long term and indeed could cause you problems later when it comes to moving into new roles. So what can you do to become more confident at negotiating your salary successfully first time back?

Get clear and confident on what salary you should be asking for

Collect up-to-date salary information upfront
  • Research the marketplace for the type of role you are seeking to gain a benchmark of the salary range that you can expect to be targeting. 
  • Be realistic - there is likely to a range dependent on variables such as the size of the business, the location, and how structured their internal salary grading structures might be. 
  • Consider how specialist your skill-sets are and how easy or not it is for employers to source these. 
This should also happen well before you get to the point of job offer - be informed throughout the whole process, ideally before you begin any form of job search.

Best ways to gain this information
  • Websites such as, and provide a plethora of advice and information on the market value for current roles as well as tips and information on approaching negotiation.
  • Professional membership bodies such as the ICAEW and CIPD may also have useful salary information relating to your specific professional field.
  • Ask recruitment consultants and contacts in the relevant industries. There are several recruitment firms listed on the Women Returners website who actively support the hiring of Returners; they will have a broad view of companies and what people in similar positions are paid.
Be clear on your value and believe it!

Salaries that are out of kilter with the role you are actually doing can lead to misunderstanding by future employers or recruitment consultants. Equally being clear on your financial worth is also a test that the employer understands the match of the role on offer with your skills and experience. Returners often believe that they need to take a role many levels below their skill-set and worth just to get back in the workforce, but our experience suggests that this will quickly be problematic as the role is unlikely to be a good fit (unless you have a clear rationale such as moving to a very different sector or getting a foot in the door in your ideal company). By the time you are at the point of negotiation have a good convincing story to prove your skills are up-to-date and to demonstrate the value you offer.

Be confident in the negotiation
  • Don't apologise for your career break when you enter into negotiations. Be confident that your skills remain your skills and they hold value to the employer.
  • Don’t answer immediately if you're offered a salary - deflect and say you would like to think about it. This gives you time to prepare your counter offer and state clearly and confidently what is behind the figure you have come up with.
  • Think about the broad picture – what is the total remuneration on offer not just base salary?
  • Explore the opportunities for trade-offs. If the company has a budget below where you would like to be, what can they offer in return? Flexible working perhaps, extended annual leave, or the opportunity to review salary within a 3-month probationary period rather than wait for an annual review.
  • Don’t be afraid to have a walk-away point. If you feel very unhappy with the salary, and don't have a clear rationale for taking the role or an agreed progression plan, ask yourself whether this role is a match with your skills and the type of organisation you want to work for.
  • Remember that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to successfully negotiate what you want will be a surefire confidence boost for your return to work!

Posted by Kate Mansfield, Lead Career Coach, Women Returners