Posted by Julianne
Why networking is important for a back-to-work job search
We talk regularly about the importance of networking as one of the key routes to get back to work after a long career break. The value of networking has really been brought home to me by two recent experiences.
First of all, two highly experienced and qualified women who have successfully returned to work, one in investment banking and the other to a senior corporate role, told me how unhelpful headhunters were when they approached them. This included headhunters with whom they previously had relationships during their pre-break careers. The banker (who is now happily employed at Credit Suisse following a placement on the Real Returns programme) was told that her career break of 11 years was too long for the headhunter to place her. She was advised that the only way to find a role would be through her own network.
Separately in a meeting I attended to learn more about a new and growing professional women’s network, my contact told me about two roles that she was trying to fill, in a discreet way, that might be suitable for a returner. These two roles are examples of the true ‘hidden job market’ that really does exist: often managers want to make a hire quickly, quietly, inexpensively and without lots of administration. They rely on their networks to do this as they view their own contacts as reliable and credible sources of talented candidates.
Five ways to build your networks
To access the hidden job market and circumvent unhelpful headhunters you need to get networking. Networking doesn’t simply consist of walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself. More broadly, networking provides you with opportunities to connect with people who have similar interests, talents and concerns that you have. Through your engagement with them you will have opportunities to learn about potential roles and to talk about your own search. Ways to start making these contacts include joining any of the following:
- Membership organisations that match your professional interests. Networks exist for people with interests ranging from hedge funds to horticulture, oil engineering to oriental languages. These organisations commonly have informative newsletters, speaker events and training opportunities
- Relevant LinkedIn groups where you can initiate or contribute to discussions. In this way, you’ll learn more about the issues that are current, raise your profile in the group and gain openings to contact people directly
- Alumni groups. All universities and business schools and many employers and secondary schools have these in place, as they recognise the value of a long-term relationship with you. Many of these groups actively encourage members to talk to each other for employment advice
- Professional associations. If you have a professional qualification, your accrediting body will also have a useful network as well as offering other career support
- Informal networks. Aside from these formal routes, you can make valuable connections through broadening or taking a more active role in social or community activities – a community group, a volunteer organisation, a school parent body, a religious community. We rarely know who our local networks are connected to and the ‘hidden jobs’ they might know about.
As you build these connections, remember to talk to them about your background and what you are looking for, so that they will be able to help you. For your networking to be effective you have to be clear and convincing about the role you are seeking. See our previous post on Telling your Story if you are unsure how to do this.
For more advice on networking, see our previous posts
Do I really have to network?
Top tips for enjoyable networking
LinkedIn – an essential tool for your return to work
Posted by Katerina
number of women who enter the legal sector and the percentage of women who rise
to the top of the profession. It is clear to me that there is one large,
contributing factor, which is becoming less and less of an ‘elephant in the
room’, and one which increasingly the sector needs to tackle. Women in
particular, and parents more generally, who wish to combine a legal career with
other commitments, most notably having a family, have been leaving the
profession in the face of a constant struggle to balance work with life. The
attrition rates speak for themselves – women have left, and continue to leave,
the profession in droves. We know why they are leaving and so the key question
is how can we, as an industry, stem this flow?
entrepreneurial move. Whilst there, I witnessed a trend of outsourcing to offshore
destinations which left me puzzled and frustrated given the amount of legal
talent which lay dormant right here in the UK. This gave me a business idea,
and thus Obelisk Support was born. I could see that we can offer a route back
into the profession for exceptionally talented lawyers by allowing them to work
flexibly. By tapping into this wasted talent pool, Obelisk Support could
compete with offshore destinations on quality, flexibility, price and
efficiency in its work with large multinational corporations and City law
something of an uphill battle in trying to convince clients that women could
work flexibly, often remotely, without compromising on the quality of their
delivery. But, the stories of our lawyers (80% of whom are female, many of them
returning from a career break) who have succeeded in working flexibly around
their family and other commitments is testament to the shifting attitudes of
the legal industry (and, admittedly, four years of hard work from the Obelisk Support
returning positive feedback on our lawyers’ work, some of whom never thought
they would earn again by doing legal work, fills me with great pride. And so it
is that I measure our success by the success of our lawyers. Our success is best portrayed by the
individual stories of the lawyers we have placed.
known as the legal business with a heart. Jane qualified at a top law firm,
where she practiced for 13 years, before taking a 10 year career break whilst
she started a family. After such a long break, re-entering the profession can
be daunting. However, through Obelisk, Jane is now working for a large bank.
She works remotely from home, for an average of 22.5 hours a week, all fitting
around her other commitments.
family commitments, working mostly from home and for around 5 hours a day. In Annie’s
own words, working with Obelisk has benefited her enormously ‘both personally and professionally’.
We secured her a full-time placement supporting a large telecommunications
company in Ireland, where she was able to work completely remotely from home.
legal solutions, and this is demonstrated by the unique way in which we
approach each client and consultant, taking into account the needs of both
parties and tailoring an efficient solution. My vision when I started Obelisk
Support was to enable women like Jane, Annie and Karina to do the work they
love, without having to make impossible compromises. That they have been able
to do so, whilst simultaneously delivering exemplary service to large
multinationals and law firms, should demonstrate to the legal profession that
flexibility can, and does, work.
What I’d love to tell all mothers wrestling with your work-home choices, either post maternity or career break, is this: There is no universal RIGHT answer. This is a time in your life when you need to acknowledge all the internal & external pressures you are experiencing, and then decide what is the best choice for you and your family, dependent on your desires and your personal circumstances (which can also change over time).
If you have no real choice and need the income, then avoid the ‘pro-full-time mum’ press, focus on managing your work-home balance, read our articles on how to ditch the guilt and stop labelling yourself as selfish.
There is no single and perfect solution. But you’ll know you’ve made the best choice for you when most of the time you feel (fairly) satisfied with your life and rarely feel frustrated and stuck in a place where you don’t want to be. And if you don’t feel satisfied, that’s when you need to make a change, not when other people say you should.
Posted by Julianne