Rachel’s story: Returning to medicine after 12 years

“The post was well supported but returning was very scary. I was convinced I had a giant beacon on my head which said: “I am old and weird.” But it got better, and I started to really enjoy the feeling of confidence I got from returning and doing something as me, not as mum.”

I started medical school in 1987. I went to St Andrew’s University for the pre-clinical course and did a BMedSci (Hons), then successfully applied to Trinity College, Cambridge, for my clinical years, graduating in 1994. I did my house jobs in Addenbrookes and Huntingdon, then did a medical SHO post, before becoming an SHO in histopathology in Nottingham in 1995, progressing to lecturer/honorary registrar.

In 1998 I took a sabbatical to do a postgraduate diploma in law, as I was contemplating a career as a coroner. During this year, I became pregnant and had my first baby in 1999. Although I did finish the law degree, I then decided I wanted to stay at home and I had another child in 2002. Although I continued paying my GMC fee, and stayed registered, I really stopped thinking of myself as a doctor.

In 2011 my husband decided he wanted to set up his own company, which also meant he was at home on some days, which he never had been before. So, after 12 years at home, I felt the time was right for me to return to work. I had already contemplated being a classroom assistant after helping in school whilst not working (not for me) and re-training in nutrition (expensive course). Then one day, it occurred to me I was still a registered doctor…

So, I picked up the phone, and asked the Royal College of Pathologists if I could come back? The answer was yes – but they didn’t know how.

After many rounds of phone calls to various people in histopathology (all encouraging) it became clear that to retrain, I needed “foundation competences”, which I’d never even heard of. This required returning to a junior acute medical post. However, I couldn’t apply to the formal foundation programme as I had too much experience. So, as this issue appeared insoluble, I applied for a part-time locum post in histopathology, and, much to my surprise, got it.

I commuted to London, from Derbyshire, for a year. The post was well supported but returning was very scary. I was convinced I had a giant beacon on my head which said: “I am old and weird.” But it got better, and I started to really enjoy the feeling of confidence I got from returning and doing something as me, not as mum. But I still couldn’t apply to the histopathology training programme, although I explored every way to overcome the foundation competences issue.

Finally, seeing no other way, I applied for a locum post on a foundation programme rotation, as a 50% job share. I revised clinical knowledge hard and made sure I was up to date on acute scenarios by completing Intermediate and Advanced Life Support. I was well supported in my initial placement, but it was a very hard year. However, I did feel competence and confidence return, with, to be honest, improved empathy and kindness from the life experience I had gained on my years out.

I then successfully reapplied to the histopathology training programme. I stayed working part-time and am now a specialty registrar in paediatric and perinatal pathology.

The things I found most helpful when I was returning to work were:
– lots of revision, so that I felt I knew something
– updating my skills to make me safe
– my hairdresser, so I felt I didn’t look quite so mumsy
– being myself and confident about why I had taken time out

I would have liked, but didn’t get:
– a peer group for support
– a good IT induction and reskilling
– a more formal, structured revision course
– easier access to information

Dr Rachel Rummery, B Med.Sci(Hons), MB, ChB (Cantab), DipRCPath, PGDL.
Health Education England National Fellow, Supported Return to Training
Specialist Registrar, Paediatric and Perinatal Pathology

Rachel will be joining us at
our Women Returners ‘Back to Your Future’ Conference in London on 13
May. She will be part of a panel of returners who will share their story
to
help and inspire others. Find out more about
our Conference and book your ticket now at the Early Bird price of £90.

Kick-start your return to work at our Women Returners Conference 2019

“The energy, inspiration and practical tips that I received from both speakers and peers at the conference has given me confidence, direction and a kick-start to get back to work!” Previous Conference Attendee

If you’d like to accelerate your return to work after an extended break from a professional career, and you’re within travelling distance of London, we have an event tailored for you!

Our 2019 Women Returners ‘Back to your Future’ Conference (London, 13 May) is fast approaching and the programme is packed with return-to-work advice, support and inspiration.

You can look forward to a highly motivational day:

  • Get practical help with focusing your next step career choices and a road map to clarify your aims, develop decision criteria and move to action
  • Find out how to boost your professional self confidence
  • Improve your self marketing by crafting your career story and sharpening up your CV
  • Be inspired by our panel of women who’ve successfully returned to work through a variety of routes
  • Meet and chat to our Returner Employer Sponsors, including Bloomberg, Credit Suisse, FDM Group, Fidelity International, J.P. Morgan and O2
  • Hear from our Keynote Speaker, Jane Garvey from BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
  • Learn from our employer panel about why they run returner programmes and what you can do as a candidate to stand out.

You’ll also have the opportunity to take part in personalised or small group support including a laser coaching session with one of our coaching team and a LinkedIn workshop. These are offered on a first come basis – so take advantage of our Early Bird ticket price of £90 and book now

It’s going to be a fantastic day – to get a clearer idea of what to expect, see the highlights from our last sell-out conference in the video below:

Find out more about the Conference including how to book tickets here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

!!TEST!! Women Returners launches innovative cross-company returnship

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Five reasons why starting up a business is easier than you think

Are you considering starting your own business? Our guest blogger, Helena Stone, explains why it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Whether your bank account, sense of achievement – or both – need a top-up, you may find yourself ready to hop back on the work wagon. But possibly circumstances have changed and a 9-5 isn’t right for your lifestyle anymore.

This is when many women begin considering alternatives to returning to employment, such as starting up on their own.

The catalyst for me to go it alone was the loss of my brother. It made me re-evaluate my priorities. I realised that though I loved the excitement and challenge of my work, I wanted more family time, flexibility and a greater ability to grow.

I know it can feel like a big step and we can waste a lot of time talking ourselves out of taking the plunge.

So, here are five reasons why going it alone isn’t as difficult as you might believe:

1. Your experience as an employee counts. A lot!

Don’t think of yourself as starting from zero.

I spent twenty years in HR and change management. I specialised in these fields when I started my business but I drew on my experiences of delivering a service, people development and public speaking to expand my offering as a change management consultant, confidence expert and speaker.

That’s not to say your business idea has to be related to your previous career – far from it. Maybe you’ve got a burning passion that you’ve always wanted to turn into a job. Now’s the time!

Whatever your work history, so much that you’ve learnt as an employee is transferable – relationship building, leadership, crisis management. Draw on your bank of knowledge.

And don’t disregard the skills you’ve picked up during your career break.

Raising children, for example, tests your talents for logistics, listening, time management and multi-tasking…not to mention patience…

2. Perfection isn’t necessary …and actually, it’s not realistic.

As the slogan goes, “just do it”. If you put off setting up your business until everything is just right, you’ll never start.

What worked for me (and still does!) is taking daily action. Focusing on progress, not instant wins.

I’m a big believer in finding your ‘zone of genius’. It’s taken trial and error for me to uncover what really works but it’s meant my business and I have evolved and grown stronger.

Sounds like a corny reality show line but it really is all about the journey.

3. You can just be you

Some of us feel at home in a traditional office role and thrive in a world of structure, suits and management. For others, it’s a little restrictive. And some like a bit of both.

Whichever camp you fall into, creating your own business gives you the freedom to just be yourself. Want to set your own fabulous, funky dress code? Knock yourself out. Bit of a mad cat lady at heart? Perfect. Throw all that into the mix.

People buy from people they like. Combine professionalism with being authentically you and you’ll naturally make human connections – a crucial part of your sales pitch.

4. You can start up on a shoestring
 
Investing in your business is important but you certainly don’t need big bucks from the off.

In fact, in most cases, all you need is a laptop and phone.

Plus, there are numerous free on and offline support groups of like-minded people, willing to trade skills and help each other out. And really milk social media for all its worth! It’s not only a great free publicity tool but I find it brilliant for researching clients and testing the best ways to engage with them.

If you do have budget to begin with, a mentor or coach is an investment that will pay dividends. They’ll offer invaluable guidance, give the benefit of their experience and help provide focus and clarity.

5. You’ve got it in you…you just might not realise

Starting a business is scary especially if you’ve also had a lengthy period away from employment.

It takes resilience. But this is something you can work on.

Rather than being knocked back when something goes wrong, reframe how you view the situation. Focus on the positives – what have you learnt? What could you do differently next time?

Take a breather and clear your head. But don’t dwell on it or allow it to defeat you.

Bouncebackability builds resilience (plus it’s a great word). After all, think of all the famous entrepreneurs you know of – I’ll bet you can’t name one who didn’t overcome numerous hurdles to get where they are today.

 

Helena Stone is a change management consultant with a background in senior HR roles spanning 20 years. She works with organisations to increase productivity, efficiency and value in their business. 

She also delivers workshops on confidence and empowering women in the workplace. www.helenastoneconsultancy.com


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

 

How to write your New Year return-to-work action plan

Is Returning to Work one of your 2019 Resolutions? 

How do you make sure you don’t let this fall by the wayside like New Year resolutions tend to do? Shift your thinking to make Returning to Work a goal, with a clear, specific and motivating personal action plan. Here are some of our suggestions on actions to include.
Action Steps to Get Back to Work

1. Clarify what you want from work 

Start by considering what your motivations are for returning to work. Do you need, or want, to earn your own money? Are you looking for the status a professional job brings? Do you want to be a role model for your children? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to think about what you really want to do, so consider what kind of working life and job you would find most fulfilling and enjoyable. Think about what you most enjoyed about past roles and whether or not you need flexibility. You may prefer a corporate employed role, to work as a freelancer or to set up your own business.
Identifying your strengths can help you decide which career direction to take. And read our tips if you feel you have too many return-to-work options or too few. Don’t over-analyse at this stage – the ‘what shall I do with my life?’ career questions can rarely be solved just by brain-power. Move to action using a Test and Learn approach.

2. Fill the gaps in your work experience/skillset

Once you’re clearer on the broad direction you want to take, it’s time to identify any gaps in your experience and any new skills you will need. Get up to date with your old industry, or learn about a new one, by taking professional courses through industry associations, attending conferences, seminars or webinars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting up with ex-colleagues. Find courses locally through Floodlight and look at the free online MOOCs (Massive Online Courses). If you’re worried about your IT skills being out of date, take a course before you get back to work. Strategic volunteering can build your skills and experience and may even provide a route back to work.

3. Craft your return-to-work story

Talking about your career break and how it fits into your professional story can be tricky. Use our ‘Career Break Sandwich’ method so that you don’t fall into the trap of focusing solely on your career break (and neglecting your professional background) in response to the classic questions “what do you do?” or “tell me about your background?”.

4. Rebuild your work confidence

A loss of professional confidence can be a key factor in preventing you from making a successful return to work. Don’t let this hamper you – read our blogs on Re-establishing Your Confidence and addressing the Confidence Gap.

5. Re-write your CV and develop your LinkedIn profile

If you’ve been out of the workplace for any length of time it’s likely to be many years since you last wrote your CV. We have lots of CV information in the Advice Hub section of our website including How to Write Your Post-Break CV and the use of Action Words. A strong LinkedIn profile is also important – read our blog on how to make the most of your profile.

6. Select potential routes back to work

There are many routes back to work such as returnshipsnetworking and creative crafting of a role. Consider which ones would work best for you.
7. Prepare for interviews
Facing your first interview for many years can be daunting, and we have lots of advice on our website to help you prepare. Six Essential Steps for Successful Interviewing is a good place to start. We have advice on how to prepare for competency-based interviews, informational interviews and telephone interviews. You can also read how to respond if an interviewer tells you you’re overqualified for the role and what to wear to interviews.
8. Maintain your motivation

Our motivation to achieve our goals inevitably fades after a while. Learn from psychology research about how to stay motivated longer-term.

9. Come along to our Women Returners 2019 Conference!
If you’d like a return to work boost, join us in London on 19 May. It’s a highly motivational day packed with return-to-work advice, support and inspiration and the opportunity to meet informally with employer sponsors and other like-minded women. The day will be relevant to you no matter where you are on your return-to-work journey. Find out more about our Conference here and book your place at the Super Early Bird price of £80 (available until 27 January).
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You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Make your CV stand out: Use Action Verbs

If you’ve taken a long career break it could be many
years, and possibly even decades, since you last wrote a CV. Don’t just redo an old version, as CVs are now written in a very different way (see How to Write Your Post-Break CV).

One of the major changes is the shift from talking about your past responsibilities to highlighting your achievements. Gone are the days
when simply describing your previous roles was enough to secure an interview. Now you need to explain what you achieved in previous jobs which made you stand out.

We suggest you aim for 3-5 bullet points for each of your previous roles (and for your career break if you have done any work/volunteering/studying or developed skills in other ways such as relocation).

Beginning your bullet point with an action verb is a great way to start off.



What are action verbs?

These are some examples:

 

achieved     completed     conducted     implemented    improved     negotiated
produced     secured        created         established       launched     developed
organised    revitalised     evaluated      restructured     simplified    drove

Why are action verbs important in your CV?

  • Action verbs describe your past achievements in a compelling way that highlights your strengths and suitability for the role you’re applying for.
  • Action verbs keep bullet points short – particularly important if you have lots of past experience and are trying to keep your CV to the recommended maximum two sides of A4. For example, ‘Delivered XYZ project on time and within budget’, reads better than ‘I was responsible for delivering XYZ project on time and within budget.’
  • Action verbs have more impact. They are specific, strong and powerful. If a recruiter has lots of CVs to sift through, action verbs make your achievements stand out. They also help if employers use applicant tracking software programmed to look for specific words to describe the experience needed for a role.
  • Action verbs help you to be specific in describing what the results of your actions were and how you achieved them.
  • Action verbs can highlight your relevant skills/competencies (see below)

Which action verbs should you use? 

  • Scan the job advert and job description, similar job ads in the same industry, and the company’s website to see which verbs they use. Describing your past experiences using these words will give you the best chance of making your CV fit the bill.
  • Look at this action verb list which groups action words by skills group. Think about which skills you want to demonstrate – again, matching this back to the skills/competencies asked for on the job advert
  • Don’t use the same action verb more than twice. Use an online thesaurus or the action verb list to avoid repetition and keep the recruiter’s interest.

Do read our other blogs How to Write Your Post-Break CV and Return to Work CV Tips for other advice on writing your back-to-work CV.

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Rachel’s story: Returning to work with Mastercard

“Women Returners was the only website I found which offered an opportunity to re-engage with respected corporates on a dedicated, supported programme.” Rachel, 10-year career break

Prior to my career break I worked for a global IT company. I had joined from University and stayed with the company through different market sectors from Local Government to Telecommunications across client facing Business Development and Account Management roles to then leading the market sector.

I had my family whilst still working for my first company and I was lucky enough to benefit from a great HR department and to be able to flex my time down to four days per week after each child, moving back up to full time shortly afterwards.

I wanted the best of both worlds – to be a hands on parent and to have a career, but this became increasingly challenging as my husband travelled and worked long hours. In the end something had to give and we agreed that something was my career.

I knew if I stayed at home I would need something to keep me engaged so I joined the school Parents Teachers Association and quickly became Chair. I found this sense of giving back to the community so rewarding that by the time I finished my term I was already looking for something else which would work around the children and a busy home life.

My husband had been a Non-Executive Director on the Board of an NHS Trust and knew this would be perfect for me, so he connected me and it grew quickly from there. I became a Governor for a Mental Health Trust, and then a Non-Executive Director for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust (BHT). I still sit on the Board at BHT where I chair the Commercial Development Committee. I am also a Director of Buckinghamshire Healthcare Projects Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trust which I set up to drive commercial income for the Trust.

I then joined Citizens Advice as a Trustee and was then headhunted for other Non-Exec roles across other sectors. At this point, my husband suggested I go back to work full time.

Easier said than done.

I was at a loss to know how to re-engage. I had a few false starts – I knew returnship was a theme and found a few different websites, most wanting money and delivering very little value, before I was told about Women Returners. Women Returners was the only website I found which offered an opportunity to re-engage with respected corporates on a dedicated, supported programme. After 10 years it was very obvious that although I had built a portfolio Non-Exec career, I needed support to transition back into a full time role at a level comparable to my skills and experience.

Mastercard stood out for exactly this reason. The seniority of the role offered and the fit with my skills was unique. Most of the other roles on offer were looking for specific professional qualifications in either Project Management, Accountancy or Programming rather than General Management and Account Management experience.

The application process was a wholly supportive and positive experience. It wasn’t drawn out or onerous. After the initial online application I was contacted for a telephone interview with HR, then I had follow up interviews in person with my prospective Manager before I was contacted again by HR with the offer to join.

I was absolutely delighted.

Mastercard recruits for potential, weights emotional intelligence and is open minded enough to consider that not only could the skills I had developed in my career transport into Payments, but also that I had the opportunity to add value and innovation by bringing a different perspective.

I joined Mastercard in January 2018 and am delighted to say I am still here. I’m having the most amazing time. It feels like I’ve always been here – a part of the Mastercard family.

Would you like to Relaunch your Career at Mastercard? Find out more here

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How to develop a growth mindset

Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the world’s leading authorities on motivation. Throughout her career she’s focused on why some people succeed and others fail.

In her TedTalk (above) – Developing a Growth Mindset – Dweck explains that those who have a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and abilities are static and that they don’t have the capacity to change. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset know that these qualities can be continually developed and improved through hard work and persistence. 

In adults returning to work, a fixed mindset can manifest itself in thoughts like “I’m too old to move into a new area”, “I’m hopeless with new technology” or “I’m no good at networking”. Remaining open to growth and self improvement will greatly improve your chances of success in finding a satisfying and fulfilling role.

How to adopt a fixed mindset

1. Believe in the power of ‘not yet’. In her TedTalk, Dweck gives the example of a school in Chicago which replaced a ‘fail’ grade with ‘not yet’ and saw a huge improvement in student performance. If your job application is rejected, a ‘not yet’ attitude can stop you from giving up and encourage you to explore different option and strategies to achieve your goal.
2. Don’t see obstacles that stand between where you are now and where you want to be as immovable barriers, but rather as challenges or hurdles to overcome – opportunities to develop new skills and acquire more experience.
3. Seek out feedback with an open mind. We know it’s difficult, but try not to see negative feedback as a judgement of your competence but rather as an opportunity to learn and grow. Listen to what family, friends and former colleagues tell you, and make sure you ask for specific feedback if your job application is rejected after interview. What you learn can help you make changes to bring you closer to success next time around.
4. Take action. Adopting a growth mindset means believing in the power of neuroplasticity, that the brain can continue to make new connections in adulthood or strengthen connections that you haven’t used for a while. You can help to realise your own potential through learning new skills or practising ones that are a bit rusty.
5. Move out of your comfort zone. Conquering something that scares you is a useful way to teach yourself that you can grow and move forward. Celebrate your successes and seek out yet more opportunities to challenge yourself! 

Carol Dweck is the author of Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential

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How to look more confident than you really are

Self-confidence – if only we could create and bottle it we would make our fortune! The reality is that many women who have taken a career break suffer from a lack of professional confidence. And it’s really not surprising – it’s natural for confidence to fade when we take a long break from an activity that formed a large part of our identity.

The good news is that your professional confidence quickly comes back after a successful return to work. However if you’re struggling with your self-confidence at the moment, take heart from the fact that neuroscience and psychology show that our actions can change our thought patterns to build self-belief. So ‘faking it until you make it’ can often lead to a real increase in confidence.

Top tips for appearing more confident than you really are

Appearance

Body language

  • Walk into the room positively, make eye contact and smile to help build rapport and convey confidence.
  • Avoid fidgeting with pens or rings – gently closing your hands can help with this.
  • If you’re standing, stand up straight with your feet apart. If you’re sitting, adopt a wider posture with your feet on the floor.
  • Avoid crossing your arms as this can make you seem defensive.
Speech
  • Speak more slowly and deliberately.
  • In interviews, don’t be afraid to take your time when answering a question.
  • In a networking situation, instead of being preoccupied by what you want to get across, concentrate on listening to what the person you’re talking to is saying and show interest in them. For more tips read Are you missing the point of networking at an event?

And if your confidence needs a quick boost – here’s what to do:


The Power Pose

  • For a quick boost of confidence before a stressful event try Amy Cuddy’s two-minute ‘Power Pose’. In her 2012 TED Talk, Cuddy asserted that adopting a dynamic physical stance can make can make us feel more confident. And we can personally attest that the Power Pose works!
For more help and advice on increasing your professional confidence, we’ve a range of articles on the Advice Hub on our website.

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