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

Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities. You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

Sara’s story: My Journey as a Woman Returner with Capgemini

“My advice to anyone thinking of returning 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.” Sara, 13-year career break

A lot can happen in a year. A year ago, my day revolved around school runs, play dates and generally organising three kids, a husband and a dog. Today I have another dimension in my life…work (in a paid form)! I work with talented people who plan, implement and architect technical solutions and I’m part of that team.

I had been a full-time stay at home Mum since my eldest was born, 13 years ago. Life was chaotic, busy but fulfilling and I certainly have never regretted staying at home. As the kids have grown older and my youngest started school, I began to have more time on my hands and began to think about returning to work. Given that all the stuff I do as a full-time Mum still needed to be done and a husband who has a hectic work schedule himself, my primary need was for a role where I could have flexibility to work around my family commitments. I knew I had value to give but not sure of where or how to apply it.

What to do? BK (Before Kids) I graduated with a BSc in Computing and pursued a career as a software developer (primarily Java for those that are techie minded). My career history was all very techie. Within tech, I’d not really seen any evidence of flexible working or heard of anyone returning after a career break. Technology changes and development had moved at such a rapid pace I knew I was totally out of date skill wise. This was reinforced when I searched the job sites. There were lots of jobs needing software developers (me BK) but all needing framework or methodologies x and y (this is where I fell short), technology had evolved into cookbooks and camels!

Then along comes the Capgemini women returners programme, focusing on recruiting women with tech backgrounds back into the workplace after a career break. I heard about the scheme via Women Returners; there was no harm in applying. First step was creating a CV. I think it’s a hard task at the best of times but when there is a large gap to fill and career milestones are ten plus years ago it felt a huge task in putting something together. My only reference to development since leaving work was in teaching coding to 10-11-year olds. I had become a STEM ambassador enabling me to set up code clubs in schools as a volunteer and help teach coding to children. In terms of relevant experience, that was as far as it went.

Capgemini – The Interview

It came as a bit of a shock when Capgemini asked me for an interview. Self-doubt had set in and my years out of the workplace had left me questioning my ability to do the job that I used to confidently do. From my first contact with HR, I got the loveliest response. Whether I ended up at Capgemini or not, I was impressed with them being able to recognize that taking time out to raise a family has a value and gives a whole new set of skills and experiences that are transferable to the workplace.

The interviews were tougher than I expected. It felt like something out of The Apprentice, hopping from one interviewer to another. Questions were asked from a standard corporate list; ‘A challenge that hasn’t worked out for you in your last role?’. With advice to not be afraid to use experience from my career break, I duly explained how my recently acquired bathroom tiling skills had gone array. Of course, many of the questions were about my last role and I really enjoyed these ones. I realised that I hadn’t forgotten everything I knew, and I had done some quite impressive things in my career.

I left the interview thinking that Capgemini was an amazing company with what they were doing. I’d gone in thinking that the whole process would be good experience and whether I was offered a position or not I’d be happy to have had the experience. I underestimated how much I enjoyed getting back out into work environment, being part of a team and problem solving talking about technology. As I awaited feedback I realised I’d be disappointed to not go any further. I must have done enough as I was then asked to come back a week later for a coding test, eekk!!

I was given a heads up on what I was going to do: sit with a fellow coder and solve a simple problem. However, I hadn’t written any code for 10 years plus, another ‘eekk’ moment! I spent days before the interview writing/testing and learning. As it was, the reviewer who sat with me during the test was lovely. I definitely didn’t blow her away with my coding skills, but I think I did enough to show the thought process was there if a little rusty.

Within a couple of days, I had heard from Capgemini that they would like to offer me something…yippee! There were a few bumps along the way from being accepted for the returner programme to finally being made an offer. The returner programme was a new initiative and as I was one of the first. It took a few months to get me up and running under the programme, but I finally started on October 2017.

First Day

Induction day or ‘Be Inspired’ as I now know it, is learning the Capgemini principles and… being inspired. There were 40 new joiners on my induction, all at various levels and different divisions. I was the only returner (although interestingly there were a couple of people returning to Capgemini, a good sign!). During introductions, I was careful not to let slip just how long my career break was (I was worried that it could be perceived negatively) and focused on asking questions of others. Fighting my initial instinct to ask about their children, I tried to focus on the technology.

Day 2

Met with my line manager who was very supportive and positive. The plan is to get Java 8 certified. Perfectly reasonable, however it feels like a huge mountain to climb given that Fizz Buzz (reference for coders) is the most code I’ve written in 10 years! On my route home I order Oracle Java Programmers guide…can’t be that hard can it?

One Week in…

Had my first coaching session as part of the returners programme run by Women Returners. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Prior to the coaching I had completed a skills/strength finder. Always been a sceptic of these but was surprised by how closely I thought some of the skills aligned. Reassuringly they did reinforce what I consider my strengths: analytical problem solving and a conflict resolver… I might be in the right job!

One thing I hadn’t given much thought on was my introduction to people. My coach recommended I give some consideration to how I introduce myself and importantly that I shouldn’t start with “I’m returning after a career break”. More “I have x years’ experience, took an extended career break and now I’m at Capgemini as …”. Also, for me to consider is my personal brand…and I’m working on that!

Work Environment

OK, so the technical stuff I expect to be hard with the challenges of catching up. Ironically what is feeling just as challenging is the office place itself. Slack/Confluence/Skype/Pinging, technology in the workplace had been much more widely embraced. If I need to know anything: communicate on Slack and check Confluence!

Hot-desking. My last role I had a desk with a phone and a PC. I sat at the same desk every day. Not so today, I have had to learn the hot-desking system! With the drive to work from home it can feel quite isolating with so many co-workers remote working or on client site. It can feel hard to integrate into a team.

Acronyms: everything is an acronym. After some searching, I now understand that I am part of the OSCE team within AD&I under CBS and hope will be placed in the AIE (I’ll let you try and guess what all that is)!

Three weeks on…

I’m ploughing my way through learning Java again with the aim of getting OCA Java 8 certification in the next couple of months. It’s a tricky little exam, designed to make you fail. I’m based mainly from home as most of my day is studying.

Woman In Tech Conference

I was lucky enough to be put forward for the woman in tech conference #WeAreTechWomen. I wasn’t really sure quite what to expect with this. There are not enough woman in technology so I’m interested in how we can encourage young girls and women and show them that there is a rewarding career in tech to be had. Lots of inspirational guest speakers shared their stories. A common thread seemed to be that they have all at some stage felt they have had to work harder or shout louder to be seen/heard. In a Q&A session a lady in the audience explained how she was unable to get back into tech after having a career break, she was struggling to find companies that were interested in her. It made me feel proud to be part of Capgemini that they were supporting woman returning after a career break.

First three months

I’m often asked by those around me ‘How’s work going?’. I really don’t feel as though I have started working properly. Much of my time I have been working at home studying for my OCA exam, which I finally passed after an intensive couple of months.

Six Months On

In the six months since I’ve started, I’ve spent time in the AIE (Applied Innovation Exchange) working on proof of concepts, been on numerous training courses and am now shadowing an integration architect on a client project. Every day I’m learning new technologies and ways of working. I’m growing in confidence and my technical knowledge has grown immeasurably. Tackling my knowledge gap will be ongoing; it’s hard to catch-up and keep up with everything. I hope that I am showing more of what I can do, rather than what I can’t. As for the future, I hope to continue my journey at Capgemini.

In Summary

What I’ve learnt.

Most importantly for me, I’ve learnt that I can go back to work, and my family won’t fall apart. My children can survive. The much talked about work-life balance can exist (though it takes a bit of effort). Flexibility is there in the workplace, I work a four-day week. I can still make the important dates – school performances, teacher meetings – and I can get home early enough to be there. Yes, the house is a little messier than it used to be and that’s OK.

From a job perspective, I’ve learnt that I can still do tech. It has been a big challenge to go back to learning. 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’m excited by technology and feel very fortunate that Capgemini have envisioned a place for women returners. The outlook is really promising. With continued emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and with returnships evolving and adapting, the future for woman returning to work looks really promising.

My advice to anyone thinking of returning 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.

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

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

Tackling Fears about Returning to Work after a Career Break

We are witnessing a very real change in the employment landscape for women returning to work after a career break. Employers are coming up with innovative ideas to attract and retain women, and showing willingness to implement the changes needed to entice returners. All in all, there’s never been a better time to return to work, so what’s stopping more women from taking advantage of these opportunities?

Elaine Russell, who heads up Women Returners in Ireland, and Karin Lanigan, Manager of Career Development and Recruitment Services for Chartered Accountants Ireland, talked to The Irish Times Women in Business Podcast about the common fears and challenges faced by women who are considering a return to the workplace. Below we have pulled out some of the key points and you can also listen to the full podcast episode here.

I’ve been out of the workplace for too long
You mustn’t let the length of time you’ve been out of work stop you from going back. We have worked with returners who have been out for 15 years or more and have successfully returned to professional-level work through returner programmes or through their networks. Remember that the length of your break doesn’t change your strengths, which are an integral part of who you are, and doesn’t wipe out the career experience you had beforehand.

Also, you don’t need to talk about the length of your career break when introducing yourself to prospective employers. Do reference it – don’t apologise or defend it – however, focus predominantly on your previous experience and what you want to do going forward.

I’m too old
Diversity is a hot topic right now, with many companies actively looking at ways of attracting older people. We’re seeing more and more women in their 50’s returning to the workplace, where they’re appreciated for their maturity, experience, perspective and stability.

I can’t get to grips with new technology
Technology moves quickly and some returners fear they’ll never catch up. However, it’s worth remembering that this rapidity of change means that everyone has to work hard to keep abreast of developments, even those people who have never had a career break. If you take some time to get yourself up to speed, you may actually be in a stronger position than others who haven’t had that time. It’s also worth bearing in mind that technology in the workplace is not so different to the technology we use at home these days, and so you might well find that you’re not as out of the loop as you may think!

I’ve lost my confidence
We know that women typically have less confidence when valuing their professional worth. Combine this with an extended career break, and professional confidence can truly plummet. It’s important to work on building your self-confidence so that you’re ready to go back into work with a positive mindset. Reconnect with your professional self and remember the value of your past qualifications and experience, and also of the skills you have gained outside of the workplace.

I can’t compete with applicants who haven’t take time out
Companies are actively looking for people like you, i.e. people who have taken time out and are coming back to the workplace with renewed energy. Remember that your time off is an asset in itself, and that during that time you gained a breadth of perspective and many new skills which you can feel proud of.

I’m scared of networking
While we often think of ‘networking’ as a process of selling ourselves, which can be a scary prospect, it’s more about meeting and chatting to people, which is what we do all the time. Networking can be enjoyable! You’re not asking for a job – you’re letting people know  about your previous work experience and what you’d like to do now, to see if you can get advice and information. Remember that most people want to help and are generous with their time.

I don’t have recent experience
Experience doesn’t have to be recent to give you credibility. Think back on the successes from your career: make a list and remind yourself of your achievements, perhaps even contacting former colleagues who can jog your memory. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, it still counts.

If you want even more inspiration, take a look at the returner success stories on our website, and read about how those women and men overcame their own personal challenges to successfully return to work after an extended break.

Read more on Tackling Return-to-Work Fears and Doubts here.

Posted by Elaine

Is a returnship right for me?

As I’m sure you know, I’m fairly evangelical about the potential benefits to businesses and individuals of returnships – we have so many great case stories* of women getting back into great jobs this way. However I also recognise that they’re not perfect (we’ve been working through many of the teething issues with organisations over the last 3 years) and that they’re not for everyone. So this post is to help those of you wondering …

Is a returnship right for me?

Answer these 6 questions to find out:

Q1: Have you had a career break from your professional career for over 2 years?


YES: Go to Q2

NO: For most programmes there’s a minimum of a 2 year break (sometimes 18 months). If you’re looking for another job after redundancy, statutory maternity leave or a shorter sabbatical, focus on direct hire roles instead as you shouldn’t need the support package provided through a returnship. If you’re finding it hard to get a permanent role, even with a short break, also consider stepping stone roles such as interim, maternity covers, temp and contract work.

Q2: Are you looking for a complete career change?

NO: If you’d like to use your existing/transferable skills and experience, in the same or a different sector, go to Q3.

YES: A returnship can work for career shifters (into a new sector or using transferable skills) but isn’t aimed at complete career changers. Look instead at study routes, strategic volunteering (or ‘work experience’) in your chosen sector, and at retraining programmes such as those listed here.

Q3: Are you confident that you can get directly into a permanent role via standard recruitment routes?

NO: Go to Q4

YES: If you like the idea of a trial period in a new sector, or a chance to test out whether it’s the right time to return, go to Q4. If you would value the support offered on a returnship, look at Supported Hiring returner programmes (into permanent roles) and corporate returner events, or consider funding your own returner coaching. If you don’t see any challenges with getting a permanent role, you don’t need a returnship!

Q4: Can you be flexible on flexibility of hours/location?


YES: Go to Q5

NO: If you have strict requirements for how work will work for you (e.g. 2 days a week, completely home-based, short commute), do push yourself a bit to consider where/how you can compromise. If you’re completely inflexible you will find it hard to commit to and benefit from even a part-time returnship**; you need to have the opportunity to prove yourself, be visible and upskill and it will be harder to find a suitable-level role at the end. You may want to consider freelancing or other options until you’re at the point where you can commit more time to work.


Q5: Can you be flexible on salary for the returnship period?


YES: Go to Q6

NO: Returnship salaries shouldn’t be minimum wage. They are typically at an experienced hire level, but may be significantly lower than you were used to. Remember that this is a fixed term (3-6 month) programme rather than a permanent role; make sure to discuss the likely level of salary for roles at the end of the programme to assess whether the cost-benefit of this supported bridge back makes sense for you.


Q6: Are you proactive, positive and able to cope with uncertainty?

NO: Returnships come with their own challenges. In these pilot years participants play a key role in making the programme work and you need to be proactive to make the most of the opportunity. Even though the majority of participants convert into ongoing roles, you will also have to manage a degree of uncertainty during the returnship period. If this feels too stressful and/or you don’t recognise the inherent value of refreshing your networks, knowledge and experience, whatever happens at the end of the programme, then a returnship may not be the best option for you. Focus instead on returner programmes which bring you directly into permanent roles.

YES: A returnship sounds like a great fit for you! Look at the open opportunities on our website here.

Notes
* See our returnship success stories here
** Some returnships are full-time, others are open to part-time or other flexible working

Posted by Julianne

Maria’s returnship story – “Wild card” to Product Specialist at Man GLG

If you’re interested in returnships, read Maria’s story of returning to work at Man GLG through our partnership Man Group Returner Programme.

Before I took my career break, I had a varied and active job in fixed income on the sell-side where I travelled extensively, worked long hours and was excited by what I did. However, when I had my third child in 2012, I realised that I needed a change of pace. I left my company and dedicated my time to my family for three and a half years. During this break, I raised my children and loved every minute of it – I gave birth to my fourth child and prepared my three older ones for school.
I always planned to return to work and when I finally made the decision to come back, I knew that I needed something different from my past career. It was very clear to me that I wanted to continue working in financial services, and apply my existing skills and knowledge to a new area – the buy-side. I looked for roles in Sales or as a Product Specialist, which I felt would suit my experience and expertise. I approached head-hunters in the first instance, but was told that although I had an interesting profile and relevant experience, I was a “wildcard” with a non-traditional background (due to my career break) that they could not easily place. I then spoke to a friend of mine, who left the sell-side to open a headhunting business, and she pointed me to Women Returners, where I found the Product Specialist role at Man GLG. I knew the company, due to my previous job, and was immediately excited by the opportunity!
I considered myself very lucky when joining Man GLG. I started on a three-month programme, which was then extended, and then I was made a permanent employee. The team that I joined was also new at that time, so despite being thrown into an unfamiliar environment, I felt like I jumped on a boat that was being built. I was able to work with my team to define my hours and ensure flexibility on both sides (home and work). Senior management were also very understanding of this – they ensured that I was fully equipped with the training, materials and support to embrace my new role. For me, it was very important that when I returned to work, I would be happy and motivated – finding a work/life balance has definitely helped achieve this.
Alongside, Women Returners’ coaching programme was also very helpful when I first started my role. It reminded me about the importance of maintaining a focus and not stretching myself too thin between my personal and professional worlds, and to set up realistic short and medium term goals, and celebrate the daily achievements along the way.
I feel very happy about returning to work and joining Man GLG. It offers me everything that I wanted in terms of a full-time role, including working with an inspiring and engaged team, and having a balance with home life – so coming into work puts a smile on my face every morning. Admittedly, it is always a challenge to start something new, but I am fortunate to be in an open and inspiring professional environment that provides me with the support I need.
My one piece of advice to someone in a similar situation is to think about what you want and stick to it. Before you go on the journey to return to work, ensure that you have a good support system at home, and ideally at work as well, so that you have the peace of mind to be productive and successful in both environments.
Posted by Donna

Returnships: what are they & where can you find them?

On International Women’s Day this week, Theresa May announced that £5m would be provided for the development of returnships in the UK:

It is fantastic to get support for career break returners on the Government agenda. I hope that this can build on the work we have done since 2014 to develop the UK returnship market based on the strong business case. The fund should provide a means of accelerating growth to new sectors and regions, enabling progress towards our objective of making returner programmes a widespread part of regular annual recruitment.

Although we’ve been highlighting the benefits to business and individuals of returnships in the UK for over 3 years, I’m aware that many people on career break hearing the budget announcement may be wondering what a returnship is and where they can find one. So here’s an update of a blog we first wrote back in Nov 2013*.
What is a returnship?
A returnship is a higher-level internship designed specifically for professionals returning after an extended career break (usually defined as over 2 years, to target the group who find it hardest to resume their professional careers). The UK programmes are open to men as well as women, whatever the reason for the break, however it’s no surprise that the vast majority of people with big CV gaps are returning mothers/carers.
A typical programme consists of a short-term fixed term contract for 3-6 months. You do professional-level, CV-worthy work, leveraging your skills and experience. Best practice programmes offer support through coaching, training, mentoring and networking. You’ll be paid at a professional level (this isn’t a minimum wage or unpaid internship), but usually not at full-market rate until after the programme to allow for the up-skilling period and the cost of the support. There is a strong possibility, but not a guarantee, of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Many programmes offer flexibility, sometimes including part-time work. Cohorts are small, often in the range of 5-15 participants, to ensure that suitable roles are available at the end of the programme.
For the returner, it offers a supported pathway back to a mid to senior level role, rebuilding your professional confidence, refreshing your skills and gaining recent experience. You also get to test out whether the role/organisation is right for you, as well as whether it’s the right time for you to return to work. You stand an excellent chance of getting a permanent role and, in any event, it’s a great springboard to another role elsewhere. From the employer’s side, the organisation can tap into a new talent pool of high-calibre professionals to fill their skills gaps and increase their diversity at managerial levels. The hiring manager also reduces the perceived risk of hiring someone without recent experience directly into a key role in their team.

Are they worth doing?
Great idea – does it work in practice? We’ve now supported many employers and cohorts of returners on returnship programmes and we can answer a firm ‘yes, it works for both the returner and the organisation’ – just read our returner programme case studies. It’s not a box-ticking exercise for companies. We’re not claiming it’s been plain sailing for all participants, or for the programme managers come to that, however if you approach a returnship with the right mindset it’s one of the best ways we’ve found to take the fast track back to a professional role. The majority of participants, typically 60-85%, are  offered ongoing positions and for those where the right role isn’t available most have taken up great opportunities elsewhere (see Anna’s story for an example).

There are downsides. You have to live with uncertainty during the programme about whether you’ll get a permanent role at the end (if you feel ready and able to get straight into a permanent role, a returnship probably isn’t for you). These are pilot programmes for most organisations, so you need to have a pioneer mindset and to play an active role in making the programme work for yourself and the business.

Where can I find one? 
We keep a list of UK & other European returnship programmes on our website: see here. There were 23 programmes in the UK last year and some programmes are now on to their 2nd or 3rd year. Numbers are still small, but rising quickly, and the budget funding should provide a major boost. Although there is a focus on the South East and on financial services and construction, the market is evolving rapidly and we’re co-developing programmes in a range of sectors and locations. As the concept becomes more well-known, keep your ears open locally as you may well find companies offering returnships we don’t hear about (do keep us posted as we aim to collect on-going statistics on the returnship market).
What if there aren’t any in my area/sector/country?
Don’t sit back and wait for the market to develop and your perfect returnship to appear! If the concept appeals, try setting up your own informal paid ‘returnship’ in a company where you have contacts – you may prefer to talk of it as a project or temporary/trial position. Be a pioneer yourself! We’ll talk more about pitching your own returnship in a future post.

*read the original version of this blog here if you want to see how far we’ve come

Posted by Julianne

Anna’s Story – Head of Strategic Partnerships at Aberdeen Asset Management via Lloyds Returners Programme.

After a five year career break from banking, I had the privilege of being accepted on the Lloyds Returners Programme in 2015. “Returnships” was something I had not previously heard of. I had been trying to get back on the career ladder for a while but found it extremely challenging. I realised quickly that the chances of finding employment using the ‘conventional’ routes – speaking to recruiters and applying for jobs – were inversely proportional to the numbers of years I had spent out of the industry. I felt those in current roles looking to switch jobs were favoured over those looking to re-enter the jobs markets.
The number of people I met who were in a similar position to me and who have since contacted me for advice on the Rungway advice and mentoring App, have made me understand the value of such returnship programmes. They are an excellent way to access an untapped and unreachable market: highly skilled and highly motivated individuals who are under the radar of traditional headhunters, but who once given a chance, are able to shine and bring huge value to the table, because only they know how hard it is to make it!
I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given at Lloyds. I was given a chance, a great role and they helped me believe in myself and in my abilities again. I was able to demonstrate that no matter how long I had been out, with the right attitude and support, I could pick up from where I left. Thanks to this experience, I was able to develop further in my career and pursue my long term goal, which was to work in asset management. If someone had told me back in early 2015 that today I would be working for Aberdeen Asset Management, in a team of highly skilled and award winning investment managers, I wouldn’t have believed it!
During the interview process at Aberdeen I felt like I was being treated as a professional looking to move up in my career. I was being interviewed based on my skillset and experiences. My career gap was mentioned only once. The returnship experience certainly helped me believe in myself and this has transpired in my ability to move up the career ladder shortly after being on the programme.
Working at Aberdeen is a very natural next step.  The Fixed Income team have been extremely supportive of me working part-time and around my young family.  I feel like they are interested in what I have to offer to the team rather than the number of hours I spend on the desk. That is a decisive factor for me.
I am extremely proud to work for Aberdeen Asset Management – a company which values flexible working and is now offering the opportunity to more women like me, to return to work.
For details of the Aberdeen Returners programme see here

Posted by Donna

Find your road to success

Following our Women Returners UK Conference on Monday, we’re delighted to feature a guest blog this week by one of our wonderful returner panelists, Samina Malik

The road to success is always under construction (Lily Tomlin)

If someone had told me 6 months ago that I would
be a panelist at the first Women Returners
Conference
 being interviewed by Jane Garvey (of Radio 4 Women’s
Hour fame) with two other incredibly talented and inspiring panelists, in front
of an audience of nearly 200 women, talking about my successful journey back to
work at O2 … I would probably
think they were mad!

My experience in looking for suitable roles to
get back into work had been that I had a CV gap and I couldn’t return to
corporate world. My degree, my previous extensive corporate experience for 11
years, my voluntary work … it all counted for nothing.
The fact that during my “time out” to raise my
family I had continued to develop whilst doing one of the most difficult jobs
around … as a leader, innovator, problem-solver, negotiator, teacher,
project manager, care-giver, nurse, psychologist, financial manager, supreme
organiser 
… basically as a mother … didn’t count.
I was told the best I could do now was to become a part time
teacher/tutor or executive assistant
.
But I wasn’t going to let that stop me as I knew
that there was more to me. The constant googling paid off … I read about Women Returners a leading
organisation in the returnship space, offering help to people like me. In one
of their newsletters I saw the O2 Career Returners programme being
advertised. This was it, I thought. My skillset
was relevant, the commute was manageable, a work/life balance was on
offer … I was going to go for it.
Fast forward the last 6 months or so and on
Monday I attended the sold-out Women Returners Conference as a panelist, to
talk about my “successful return to work” journey in a room full of hugely
talented and qualified women … an untapped pool (more like a sea) of potential
… looking to make their own journeys back to work.
Thank you Julianne Miles and
all the talented team at Women Returners, for your work in this area is amazing,
actually life changing. I was honoured to be invited as a panelist and proud to
represent O2, a company investing in Diversity & Inclusion programmes
because it recognises that it makes business sense to have an employee workforce
that reflects its 25 million customer base. It also makes business sense
because having a diverse workforce creates happier, more productive and more
innovative business teams.
To all those who, for whatever reason, decided to
leave work but are now looking to return … know that it is possible. Stay
positive and keep an open mind about the opportunities that come your way.
Believe in yourself and your own strengths, don’t let the inner critic grind
you down. Engage with Women Returners (or similar organisations) to help
support you on your journey. The journey will have twists and turns, it might
be smooth or bumpy but it’s a journey of discovery and I look forward to what
lies ahead on my road to success.
Samina Malik, Supplier Manager at O2 

Q&A with Macquarie Group: An employer’s perspective on a returner programme

Julianne from Women Returners interviewed Fiona Griffin, Division Director at Macquarie Asset
Management to get the employer’s perspective on the benefits of running a returnship programme.
Macquarie Group has recently launched the new Macquarie Returner Programme in the UK. What is your motivation for running a returner programme?
We recognise that there’s a significant pool of highly
qualified, experienced professionals who are looking for the right opportunity
to get back into the workforce. By having a structured programme specifically
designed for that purpose, we hope to facilitate a successful return that
brings benefits to both Macquarie and the individual concerned. It’s also
important to demonstrate to our existing people that we value the investments
they make in their careers. A career break doesn’t mean the end of your career
with Macquarie, for many it can represent a new opportunity.
How does the Returner Programme fit with your other diversity initiatives?
Our commitment is to create and promote a diverse and
inclusive workplace for everyone. The Returner Programme fits in perfectly with
this. We recognise that the diversity of our people is fundamental to our
success. Testament to that are the four employee network groups that were
started by our people in EMEA. Each works on a different area of inclusion–
Balance – which promotes gender balance in the workforce; Pride – supporting
LGBT people and their allies; Engage – for those who are multilingual; as well
as a network for Parents and Carers.
What can participants expect from the Returner Programme?
The programme aims to show a Returner what it’s like to
own their career – something Macquarie people are expected to do on a daily
basis. If it’s a concept they enjoy, then participants will hopefully apply for
roles based on a deeper understanding of what it is like to work at Macquarie.
The programme is full time for 12 weeks and is designed to fit into the school
term. We believe in providing a positive environment for our people, which
is illustrated in all the additional benefits as part of our programme. Participants
are assigned to one of our business groups and given a mentor from that area. They will receive specialised group coaching support from Women Returners to aid their return to work, and there will be an opportunity to take part in various networking opportunities, gaining exposure to senior leaders across the entire group. My Family Care support and emergency backup care can also be provided, if it is required. At the end of the programme, participants will be eligible to be considered for a permanent role.
What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
If you have been contemplating a return to work after a
career break, this is a wonderful opportunity to get back into the workplace,
refresh your knowledge and confidence and re-engage. Change can be good – take
the opportunity.
Further information
Posted by Julianne