Over the past few years, we’ve been delighted to hear so many inspiring stories from women who have successfully returned to work. Here are three of their top tips.
Keep up your professional skills & knowledge
We all know that a career break is not a break from life and is typically taken for either reasons of caring, illness or re-training – none of which leave a lot of spare time. However, many returners felt that their efforts to keep up their skills and knowledge paid off when it came to returning to work. Fiona returned to occupational psychology after a 6 year break and advocates maintaining your professional knowledge, “I also always kept up with my profession in that I receive journals and took an interest in developments in my field.” Adrianna, who returned to Investment Banking after a 9 year break agrees, “Read as much as you can – from every available source – on topics related or potentially related to your business and the market as a whole”.
Rachel took a 9 year career break and during that time recognised some study areas she could pursue to help keep her skills recent and relevant, “As I didn’t have any recent professional qualifications I starting working my way through a project management course.”
Many returners also found they honed skills while undertaking ‘strategic volunteering’ – unpaid work that develops your skills and knowledge. Carmen, who took a 7 year break before returning as a Macro-Economist believes this approach helped her, “I became a governor at a local primary school, which I feel helped me to hone my negotiation skills and deal with difficult situations.”
Networking is vital – you never know where a lead will come from
When you’ve been on a career break the typical routes of finding work through online job boards and recruitment agencies often prove more disheartening than helpful. We hear so many stories of role opportunities that come up instead from networking conversations and contacts. Julia, who is now a Finance Director after taking a 2.5 year break would concur, “A more effective strategy was telling all my friends and mums at school gates what I was looking for – most opportunities I received came from these contacts.” Rachel, who returned to a role in Investment Management after an 8 year career break set about talking to everyone she could think of about what she was looking for. “Although there were times when I wondered if the endless meetings I was going to were a waste of time, I persevered and was ultimately successful in landing my ideal role. I had also applied for numerous jobs online and via headhunters but got nowhere – networking really was the only useful route – the effort will pay off”.
Directly approach the firms that you are interested in
In addition to networking, many successful returners made the decision to bypass recruitment agencies and directly approach firms that they’d like to work for. Amy, who returned to Law after a 2 year break, took this direct approach, “I phoned a few recruitment agents about part-time legal work. They uniformly told me that the law firms would not be interested and refused to put forward my CV for any roles. I short-circuited the agencies by applying direct to a firm. Bypass the agencies and speak straight to the firms you are interested in.”
Grazyna returned to work as an architect and advises that “a direct approach is generally welcome as firms often have flexible needs for skilled staff who are hard to find by the standard recruitment routes.” Fiona found the same was true, especially of smaller firms. “I picked up the phone to call a local solicitor who I knew slightly. That was the best step I took! I asked for work experience and was surprised that he agreed to me coming in a few mornings a week. I ended up being there 5½ years, thanks to making that one phone call.”
Hopefully these top tips have inspired you, and if you have any suggestions of your own we’d love to hear them.
Posted by Anna Johnson, Lead Career Coach, Women Returners