Wednesday 28 March 2018

4 Ways that Social Media can Support your Return to Work

Using social media for return to work

Many of you use Facebook every day in your personal lives and you may have completed your LinkedIn profile, but did you know that there are many things you can do on social media to get ahead of the curve in your return to work?

Build your network:

  • On Facebook, you probably primarily interact with your family and close friends but you’re likely to be connected to many people beyond that circle, such as old school friends and former colleagues. You may assume that you don’t have any contacts in your field of interest, but you don’t know who your network is connected to, and who they have in their own extended circles. (Find out how to map your network)
  • Facebook groups can help you to build a support network of people in the same position as you, e.g. there are several working mother, freelancing women and women in tech groups. Whatever your circumstance or background, there’s almost certainly a group for you! Do some research in the Facebook search bar and you will also see suggestions of related groups. Don’t forget that you can easily leave groups so there’s no harm in joining a few to decide which ones are right for you.
  • Twitter and LinkedIn both provide a fantastic opportunity to find and connect with individuals and companies that you don’t know in real life. Once you have found them, get on their radar by engaging with their posts (replying to and sharing their content). Once you’ve established a relationship, if appropriate, try taking it a step further and sending them a private message to ask for information or advice to support your return to work.
  • Sharing relevant posts on your own LinkedIn and Twitter accounts is also a great way of establishing your own voice in the sector and attracting like-minded individuals to you, including prospective hiring managers and recruiters.
  • Did you know that LinkedIn has a huge number of groups? Most of them have a more professional objective than Facebook groups and again, you can search around to find those that are relevant to your industry. Women Returners have our own LinkedIn group where we list the latest opportunities for returners.
  • LinkedIn is also the perfect way to get back in touch with former colleagues if you’re not already connected on Facebook. 

Research prospective employers:
  • Most companies will have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Track those accounts to glean information for use in your job applications and interviews to stand out from the crowd and show that you’ve done your homework.
  • This will also give you a glimpse into company life, helping you to decide which organisations offer the best cultural fit for you and which ones may be more open to applications from returners and/or accommodate flexible working/job share requests, etc.
  • Some companies post new job openings on their social channels and/or have separate accounts for careers.
  • You can add all of the companies you’re interested in to a Twitter list, which you can have a quick scroll through every day for updates. Find out how to use a Twitter list.

Stay up-to-date:
  • This is where the Twitter list feature really comes into its own. Add accounts that are talking about your industry and regularly scroll through the list on the Twitter app on your phone whenever you have a spare five minutes. You can make the list private if you prefer to, although in my experience, nobody minds being added to a list called ‘thought leaders’ or ‘industry experts’ and this may even be a conversation starter!
  • Find and follow relevant individuals and companies on LinkedIn, which has a timeline feature where thought leaders regularly post interesting articles relating to their industries. 
  • LinkedIn and Facebook groups can be a fantastic source of discussions around current issues in your sector. Use them to find out the current state of play and join in the conversation when you’re ready! This will be great practice for interviews.
  • Look through job advertisements on LinkedIn to make a list of the most sought-after skills in your sector, and take steps to refresh your knowledge as necessary.

Be proactive in your search:
  • You’ve built your networks, brought yourself up to speed with your industry and filled in any skills gaps. Now it’s time to tell people what you are looking for and ask for help! Write a Facebook status and a LinkedIn update to announce that you are looking to return to work. Be specific about what you’re looking for.
  • Set up job alerts on LinkedIn and mark your profile as being open to contact from recruiters.
  • As a final note, don’t forget that recruiters also use social media to find information about applicants. If you’re applying for jobs, it’s a good idea to complete your profiles, including your career and education history, on both LinkedIn and Facebook, and use a professional photo on all platforms. On Facebook, check you’re happy that any content could be seen by potential employers if they Google you. Check what your LinkedIn profile looks like when viewed by both connections and non-connections, and make sure that you’re projecting a professional image.

Posted by Elaine

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Katherine’s story: Forging a new career after a 15-year break

Returning to work after a 15-year career break
Credit: Ray Wells, The Sunday Times
"My advice would be: just go for whatever you want to do. However unlikely or impossible it might seem, you never know what may happen." Katherine, 15-year career break

I’d love to tell you I had a glittering career before my three boys came along. But I can’t, because I was an actor. Given that only 3 out of every hundred actors are in paid acting work at any time, this meant I did lots of promotion work to pay the bills, along with some actual acting.

Anyway, it became very clear when I started having babies that this was not a ‘career’ which was easy to combine with children. I simply didn’t earn enough to cover the childcare, and acting hours and auditions are not regular and so are difficult to plan for.

In any case, I wanted to look after my boys myself. Actors are after all people who are paid to play for a living, so I was in my element on the floor engineering elaborate train networks or chasing them around the house pretending to be a monster. As they got bigger, I became heavily involved with their schools, and am currently a governor at both primary and secondary level.

But increasingly I yearned for the career I’d never had. I’d studied English Literature at university and had been torn between acting and journalism: both hideously competitive professions. At 48, and having been home for 15 years, I thought I had no realistic chance of becoming a journalist.

And then I saw a tweet from The Spectator magazine. They were looking for (paid) interns and didn’t want CVs; just to see what you could actually do. I knew this was my chance because they wouldn’t know my age, or that I’d been at home for years. I wrote about politics and economics and sent it off with a covering letter saying I was ‘different’ and ‘older’.

Getting the internship has transformed my life. The Spectator published an article I wrote about being an older intern and it became their 12th most read piece of last year. The Sunday Times did a feature on me, I led the Evening Standard Diary (above George Clooney!) and was back and forth to the BBC, doing interviews for Radio 4’s The World Tonight, 5Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, World Service Weekend and then BBC Breakfast with Dan and Louise. The whole experience was wonderful, scary and surreal.

I hadn’t realised that starting again was that unusual and certainly hadn’t expected the commotion I caused. But why ever not start over? Given we will soon be working into our seventies I could have a thirty-year career. I couldn’t care less that being an intern means you are ‘starting at the bottom’ (though I suspect that interning at The Spectator is more like starting at the bottom of the top!).

The Spectator have given me lots of help and support, and I absolutely loved working there. I didn’t feel odd being older, and everyone was lovely to me. I’ve been back there since to help with the Christmas rush, and they’ve now published five articles I’ve written. I also did an internship in News at The Sunday Times. Again, everyone I met was positive, encouraging and helpful. I had four by-lines in two weeks.

So now I am making my way as a freelance journalist, often writing at home, and getting experience working at different organisations. For now, this suits me – my family are still adjusting to my working and my eldest son is about to take his GCSEs. But after that I want to work full-time as a journalist, going into an office and being out and about meeting people.

I’ve joined a fantastic organisation called Women in Journalism and have been accepted onto their mentoring scheme. Other women in the industry are an invaluable support network, and I’ve already met several fabulous and inspiring female journalists.

If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be published in The Spectator and The Sunday Times, and that Kate Adie would introduce me on Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent, I would not have believed them. I can barely believe it now. So, my advice would be: just go for whatever you want to do. However unlikely or impossible it might seem, you never know what may happen.

Read Katherine's article about being an older intern in The Spectator here.

If you would like support with your own return-to-work journey, you can sign up to our free network here.

Thursday 8 March 2018

Returner Programme Guidance - Benefits for Employers & Returners

Now is the perfect time to return to work after a career break!

8th April is International Women’s Day, with a theme this year of #PressforProgress. At Women Returners, we continue to #PressforProgress in supporting women back into suitable roles in the workplace after an extended career break. Alongside the free support we give to returners through our Network, our main way of achieving our objectives is through our efforts to make 'returnships' and other returner programmes a normal part of annual recruitment across sectors and across the UK.

Rise of Returner Programmes 

Since we first started promoting the returnship concept in the UK in 2014, the number of returner programmes has increased year on year, to over 40 in 2017, helping hundreds of women to pick up their careers. Recognising and supporting the concept, the UK government on IWD last year committed £5M to support returnships and now have a team working on returner initiatives in the Government Equalities Office (GEO). The Scottish Government has also got behind returnships, providing funding for our current cross-company programme in Scotland.

Returner Programmes: Best Practice Guidelines for Employers

The "Returner Programmes: Best Practice Guidelines for Employers" was launched this week by GEO. We're proud to have co-written this guidance with our friends at Timewise, as we're keen to ensure that returner programmes work well for both organisation and returners. Employers can now get free practical advice and information on how to engage and support this fantastic talent pool. 

We had the opportunity to highlight the benefits to employers of returner programmes and the Guidance in this week's GEO blog: Why Creating Returner Programmes Makes Business Sense

Benefits for Returners

If you're returning to work, here's why the Guidelines are great news for you too:

1. New knowledge 
You can gain a clear understanding of what a returner programme entails, and what companies are aiming towards, so you can be more informed and proactive during the application process and once you are accepted on to a programme. You can also find a clear business case for hiring returners and could use this information to reach out to companies who do not yet offer programmes.

2. More opportunities
The guidelines offer a toolkit for companies, providing practical advice for every stage of designing and running a returnship or supported hiring programme, together with the business case to obtain senior buy-in. With this free help so readily available, it’s now easier than ever for companies of all sizes to set up returner programmes.

·      3. Fairer hiring processes & pay
The report also sets out to create more understanding around the needs of returners, your varying reasons for taking time out, and the support you may require in returning to the workplace. We hope this will lead to improvements in recruitment and induction processes and make it easier for you to integrate into your new role. There is also a clear recommendation for returners to be paid at a competitive level which recognises your skills and experience and the nature of the work you are doing.

·      4. Promotion of talent
By encouraging employers to make hiring great talent their key message, rather than promoting returner programmes as part of a corporate social responsibility agenda, the guidance paves the way for you to be truly valued and respected in your new role.

Upcoming Guidance for Returners

More good news to come ... We are currently writing a follow-on guide for returners, to give you a step-by-step roadmap back to work. Once again we're partnering with GEO and Timewise on this toolkit, to be published later this year.

With all of this progress, we truly believe that there has never been a better time for women on a career break to return to the workplace! So what are you waiting for? Join our free Returners Professional Network to stay informed of the latest opportunities, events and resources for returners.

Posted by Julianne and Elaine

Friday 2 March 2018

Sarah-Jane's story: Returning to financial services after a 15-year break

Returning to work after 15-year career break

"My advice for anyone trying to get back to work is, first and foremost, believe it is possible!Sarah-Jane, 15-year career break

Before my career break, I was a portfolio manager, a Director of Fixed Income at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, for 17 years. In addition to managing global fixed income portfolios, I was responsible for front office IT development (electronic reporting, trade order management and compliance monitoring) and new product development, which included launching a High Yield CBO. I took a voluntary redundancy package in 2002. During my career break, I focussed on my family as well as training as a homoeopath, establishing a small practice. I also worked for a small printing firm, concentrating on contract management and corporate governance. So I was definitely not putting my feet up!

Changing family circumstances in 2017 provided the impetus for me to re-establish my career in asset management. This was a tough thing to do, so I contacted my old boss to ask for advice and guidance and he suggested investigating women returner programmes. Finding the Women Returners website was the turning point. It provided me with information about current programmes as well as being a valuable resource and support. I didn’t have a clear idea about the role I was looking for, because I didn’t know how to value my previous experience in the context of such a long absence from the workplace. Fortunately, potential employers did. The real revelation came when I was interviewed for a role as a Fixed Income Portfolio Manager on the Fidelity New Horizons returnship programme - my previous work experience was still very relevant!

When I approached Fidelity International, I was initially interviewed for a role in Fixed Income before being asked to interview with Multi Asset. Multi Asset offered me an extraordinary opportunity: to become a Portfolio Manager in a dynamic, growing part of the business and learn new skills in an exciting area of asset management. They offered me a position that would stretch and challenge me - an opportunity that would have been exciting 15 years ago - and one that I grasped with both hands. There was a real job opportunity behind the 20-week contract and a chance to carve out a new career. I'm pleased to say that I now have a permanent role with Fidelity.

It is difficult to exaggerate the magnitude of returning to the workplace after such an extended period away. There were moments when it was completely overwhelming. However, the Multi Asset team was very welcoming. Whilst I was very much in at the deep end from the start, there was plenty of help and people willing to answer my questions. I only had to ask and support was there. This remains - I still ask questions and I still receive fulsome answers.

Fidelity has given me the time I needed to find my feet. As well as receiving help from my colleagues within Multi Asset, there has been good support more generally. I needed to sit the IMC exams and was given the resources and time necessary to do this. Other returners have helped by sharing their experiences, but probably the greatest support was the individual coaching received from Women Returners. This was superb. Anna, my coach, ensured that I managed my work/life balance and reassured me that the gamut of emotions I was experiencing was normal and to be expected. She had the enviable ability of being able to listen to my thoughts, order them and come up with a strategy. Whatever topic I chose to cover, I received measured advice and would leave each session with a list of steps to follow. Anna ensured that I could concentrate on my strengths and what I brought to the role. It is all too easy to focus on what you perceive as your weaknesses.

I am so glad that I made the giant leap back into the workplace. It has been challenging but stimulating and enjoyable. There is a renewed spring in my step and I am determined to make the most of every opportunity presented to me. My advice for anyone trying to get back to work is, 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.

If you would like support with your own return-to-work journey, you can sign up to our free network here.