Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Adopting the right mindset for your return to work

How to get into the right mindset for a return to work

For many people, September brings with it that old ‘back to school’ feeling – a sense of fresh starts, renewed energy and optimism. And, of course, September is a great time to kickstart your return to work journey as companies tend to start hiring again after the summertime lull. So how do you capitalise on this 'new start' feeling to help you achieve a successful return to work? One of the most important things is to adopt the correct mindset. 

If you’ve been out of the workplace for a number of years, it can be hard to approach your journey with unremitting optimism and indeed this can be damaging to your progress and self-esteem. Being too optimistic, without adding a dose of realism, can lead to unrealistic expectations. For example, underestimating the effort needed or a feeling that if you just keep using the same job search methods, even if they're not working, everything will ‘come right’ in the end. 


On the other hand, we often find that the returner who claims she is being 'realistic' actually has a pessimistic perspective and that she too quickly dismisses the possibility of finding a rewarding job. The ‘pessimistic realist' tends to believe the worst, quickly becomes disillusioned when she hits a few setbacks and decides that returning to work is hopeless and not worth the effort. 



A more effective mindset

Far better to adopt a mindset of ‘realistic optimism’ - as 
psychologist Sandra Schneider advocates. Schneider tells us that optimism and realism are not in conflict - we need both. Realistic optimists are cautiously hopeful that things will work out the way they want and will do everything they can to ensure a good outcome. The realistic optimist finds out the facts and acknowledges the challenges and constraints she faces. Her optimism comes into play in her interpretation of ambiguous events. She recognises that many situations have a range of possible interpretations and chooses a helpful rather than an unhelpful one. She gives people the benefit of the doubt, is aware of the positives in her current situation and actively looks for future opportunities. 


Here's an example in practice. You send a ‘getting back in touch’ email to a former work colleague and don’t receive a response after a week. It’s all too easy to conclude that she just isn’t interested in talking to you, but consider other interpretations. Perhaps she’s on holiday, swamped with work and hasn’t had time to reply, or the email has landed in her junk mailbox. Now decide how to respond: contact her through a mutual friend, resend the email in a week, contact her via LinkedIn or even pick up the phone and call her. If she still doesn't respond, choose a realistically optimistic interpretation (e.g. she's too busy) and focus on making other connections.


Tips to develop your mindset

Here are 5 of our tips to help you adopt a more ‘realistic optimism’ mindset for your return to work:

  1. Combine a positive attitude with a clear evaluation of the challenges ahead. Don’t expect your journey to be a smooth one - you are likely to have setbacks - but trust that you have the ability to get yourself back on track
  2. Avoid dwelling on the negatives or jumping to overly negative conclusions. Recognise this ‘negativity bias’ is a result of how our brains are built (read more on this here)
  3. Don’t wait for the right time – it may never come. Simply taking action will move you forward
  4. Focus on what you can control rather than worrying about what you can't 
  5. If you think that lack of confidence is making you pessimistic, check out our advice on how to re-establish your confidence  
There is evidence that 'realistic optimism' can boost your resilience and motivation, improve your day-to-day satisfaction with life and lead to better outcomes. And be reassured that it's not about your genes - we can all learn to be realistic optimists!


If you are interested in Sandra Schneider's research see:
Schneider, S.L. (2001). In search of realistic optimism: meaning, knowledge and warm fuzziness. American Psychologist, 56(3), 250-263.


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You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Routes back to work after a career break

How can I go back to work after a career break

Once you’ve made the decision to return to work, the next big question to ask yourself is HOW? There are many different routes back into the workplace. Here are some ideas to help you with your job search:

Employed Roles

Returner programmes – this is a generic term for initiatives targeted specifically at returning professionals, eg, returnships, supported hiring programmes, returner events, return-to-work fellowships and returner training programmes. You can read more about what these terms mean and find listings of both open and past programmes on our website. And don’t forget to sign up to our free network to hear about the latest launches.


Applying for advertised roles – if you apply for online jobs, be aware that you may be competing with thousands of others for attention, so be selective and keep realistic expectations. Most organisations now use their own website as a recruitment vehicle, so identify those you are most interested in and see if you can sign up for alerts when new roles are posted. Some employers are now welcoming returner applications for a variety of open roles (for example, see O2 Career ReturnersM&G Career Returners and Willmott Dixon Welcome Back). You can also search for roles which are advertised on LinkedIn, making sure your profile is up-to-date. Another more focused channel is specialised job boards and recruitment agencies such as those listed here: recruitment agencies specialising in flexible/family-friendly roles

Interim roles - joining an organisation in a distinct role for a defined period of time can be a great way to use your skills and experience without making a long-term commitment to returning to work. Short-term roles also usually receive fewer applications than permanent jobs. Opportunities arise as cover for maternity and long-term sickness and also when organisations are in transition and need someone on a temporary basis. There are established interim management agencies (such as 
Russam GMS and Alium Partners), however returners with longer career breaks usually find these kinds of roles through networking. 

Apprenticeships – there is usually no upper age limit for apprenticeships and the advantages for employers – who are able to bring in new expertise and experience by hiring older apprentices – is clear. You can find information on higher and degree level apprenticeships on this Government website.

Self-employed options

Freelancing – this can give you flexibility and may be an ideal solution for those of you with significant family commitments. However, lack of security can be an issue and many freelancers find they have peaks and troughs in their work. For practical advice, see our blog on how to set yourself up as a freelancer and the freelancer resources page on our website.


Associate work - if you have a specific skill or expertise that you want to offer, associate work can provide advantages over freelancing: as an associate, the company you contract with is normally responsible for winning new work. However, companies which use associates rarely guarantee the amount of work, so consider having different associate relationships.

Project-based work - although organisations rarely advertise this kind of work, offering to work on a project can be a great introduction to an organisation. It may open doors to a full-time role or you could discover that you enjoy working in this way and develop your own consultancy.

Starting your own business - sometimes this can develop from freelancing or project work, or you may have an idea or a hobby that you want to develop into a product or service. In previous blogs, we gave some tips for starting a home business and advice for starting your own service business. You’ll also find links to many useful resources for starting your own business on our website.

Other routes


Strategic Volunteering – Volunteering can be a great way to refresh your skills and networks. a LinkedIn survey found that 41% of the professionals surveyed said that when evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. Do think strategically if you decide to look for a volunteering role, looking for opportunities to develop new skills or brush up on the ones you already have. You could also use a volunteering role as a way to explore a new area that you may be interested in working in.

Retraining/further study/updating your skills – if you decide that study is the best route for you, you’ll find links to useful websites here. There are also many vocational retraining options, such as those listed here.

There are many examples of different routes back to work in the Success Story Library on our website. Remember that the route back can be a windy one and that it's likely to take more time than you think. If you’ve already returned to work, we’d love to hear your story too - please email info@womenreturners.com.


Note: updated from a 2104 post


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

I've been on a career break for over 10 years – is it possible for me to return to work?

Returning to work after a long career break

So, you’ve had a long career break and now want to return to meaningful work that builds on your skills and experience. It’s only human to feel daunted by this and we won’t pretend your route back to work will be a stroll in the park. But do believe in yourself – it is possible and there’s lots of help out there. You’re still the same capable person you were before your break – just a little out of practice.

First of all, check out the advice hub on our website - this will help you throughout your return to work journey. And for inspiration, and to show it’s possible, here are some real-life examples of women who have returned to work after a break of 10 or more years. Enjoy reading their stories – they have some great advice and tips!

 

M - Software Developer (14 year break)

M, who worked as an IT contractor, had a 14-year career break on and off. During her time away from the world of IT she did some teaching of basic IT skills and ran a business with mixed results. She decided to return to work as a software developer using recruitment companies. She is now a full-time PeopleSoft software developer.

Here are M’s top tips:
 
  • The best advice I have is to just go for it 
  • Be determined if you have made up your mind that you definitely want to go back to work 
  • Even after I received the standard rejection emails from the recruitment agents, I still phoned them to ‘check whether they had received my email’ and tried to show some personality, drive and ambition in a two minute phone call! It worked and the agent who sent me for the job interview had initially rejected my CV

Sarah-Jane – Portfolio Manager (15 year break)

Sarah Jane worked in asset management for 17 years before taking voluntary redundancy in 2002. During her 15 year career break she trained as a homeopath and worked for a small printing company. A change in family circumstances in 2017 prompted her to re-establish her career in asset management. She returned via the Fidelity New Horizons Programme.

Here are Sarah-Jane’s top tips:

  • First and foremost, believe it is possible! 
  • Be organised, do your research, brush up on skills that will be needed once you are working 
  • Contact old colleagues and ask for advice – they will be happy to give it 
  • Receiving rejections is hard, but learn from each interview and treat each setback as a chance to consolidate and assess your next move 
  • It may take time to find the right role in the right company but it will have been worth the effort when you do

Jill – In-house Lawyer (12 year break including career change)

Jill worked for 8 years as an in-house lawyer. After a 7 year career break following the birth of her third child she re-trained as a family mediator. Although she enjoyed her new career, she didn’t like working from home and realised how suited she was to being an in-house lawyer and how much she enjoyed it. She began with a returner course for solicitors and after plenty of setbacks and dead ends, six months later she was offered her first interim in-house role.

Here are Jill's top tips:

  • Be determined in pursuing what you want and don’t be afraid of trying new areas, even if it is not exactly what you think you are looking for 
  • No experience is wasted and you will learn a lot along the way 
  • A very practical point: take the earliest interview date possible. In one case the company stopped interviewing after they saw me 
  • Returners are often more positive, motivated and enthusiastic than other people, which is great for any business

Sara – Software Developer (13 year break)

Sara graduated with a BSc in Computing and pursued a career as a software developer. She became a full-time mum when her first child was born. Sara returned to work 13 years later via the Capgemini Returners Programme.

Sara says: “Software development has changed immeasurably, but the problem-solving mindset remains the same and it is this ability to problem solve that makes a software engineer. I’ve learnt that I can go back to work, and my family won’t fall apart. My children can survive.”

Sara’s advice is: “Go for it! You know more than you think you do and the maturity and diversity that you bring to a team is immeasurable in adding to its success.”



Nina
– Mobile Technology Specialist (11 year break)

Nina worked for a variety of multi-national mobile technology firms before her 11 year career break during which she retrained as a secondary school maths teacher. She returned to the mobile phone industry via Vodafone’s six-month Return to Technology programme.

Here are Nina’s top tips for technology returnships:
 
  • When selling yourself, focus on your skills, not your knowledge 
  • There are loads of technology jobs out there, someone is looking for your skills set. Don’t worry about having been out of the industry for some years, they are looking at what you can do for them 
  • Don’t wait for the perfect job that matches your long-term ambition. Get your foot through the door and you can look around once inside
  • Get yourself a LinkedIn account and get back in touch with old colleagues. Someone is most likely looking for help on some project or other so you can get some recent experience under your belt

You can check out all our return-to-work success stories here.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Updating your digital toolkit for your return to work



How can I update my digital skills to return to work?

Are you worried that your digital skills may be out of date? Our guest blogger, Nikki Cochrane of Digital Mums, gives advice on updating your digital toolkit if you've had an extended career break.

Returning to work - whatever your situation - is a daunting process. Couple that with the dreaded imposter syndrome us women seem to feel more than our male counterparts and it’s a surprise any of us pluck up the courage to dust off our LinkedIn profile and put ourselves out there.

But as the well-used saying goes, knowledge is power, and in today’s ever-advancing world of digital, it’s confidence-building too. With government predictions showing that 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency within 20 years but a quarter (23%) of adults still lacking basic digital skills, it’s time to take control of your career and bring your digital toolkit right up-to-date so you can dazzle prospective employers with your digital know-how and feel empowered in the 21st century workplace.

Here are Digital Mums' top 5 digital tools for surviving in today’s Brave New World: 

Slack 
"Do you remember when we used to send emails?"  Those are the words you’ll most likely be hearing in a few years' time. Email is dying in many workplaces and in its place are new communication tools like Slack, which operate like WhatsApp on steroids with the ability to set up public and private chat groups all under the same roof, share documents and link to your Trello board...
  
Trello
Post-its meets wallchart meets calendar. Finally there’s a collaborative tool that allows you to organise your weekly and daily tasks, tag in work colleagues, link to documents, colour code by priority (goodbye, highlighter pens), add notes and checklists to yours and other people’s boards and change priorities with a quick click and a swipe. It’s so effective at getting even the most disorganised organised that you’ll be using it to sort out your life admin in no time. 

TouchCast 
Forget standard video updates and past-it PowerPoints, TouchCast puts the fun into presenting. Best described in their own words: "TouchCast looks like TV and feels like the web". There’s a newsroom style backdrop for company updates or you can turn instant pro by using a green screen to transport you to any backdrop in the world. To aid engagement and bring to life presentations, you can share documents, web pages, and other media from within the video to get people interacting - the best way to learn. 

LinkedIn 
OK, so it’s not the newest of digital tools, but used correctly and it is your key to finding the job of your dreams. As well as making sure you’re picture perfect (your profile is 14x more likely to get views with a photo than without one), LinkedIn is all about attracting the right people and growing your network to achieve your career goals. As well as following companies you’d like to work for and engaging with people who can help you get there, share articles on your chosen subjects and spark conversations by adding your own spin on what you’re sharing to attract like-minded people. 

Google Suite 
Head in the cloud? That’s exactly where it should be in today’s working environment. Google’s free suite of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook equivalents are saved in the ‘cloud’ meaning you never need to worry about forgetting to press ‘save’ again.  It automatically saves as you go and let’s you share documents with other people to work on at the same time. You can even chat in the document while you’re working. Google Meet meanwhile, makes remote working less remote through group video calling where you can share screens to get as close as possible to an ‘IRL’ meet-up. 


Nikki Cochrane is co-founder of digital training academy, Digital Mums.

If you want to learn more about these tools and more, Digital Mums has launched a new 12 week course, the Digital Retox, which aims to empower women with digital confidence in the workplace. As well as updating your digital toolkit, you’ll learn how to develop your own personal online brand so you feel current, relevant and empowered to return to work. For more information and an Early Bird discount, click here.