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 If you’re worried about your IT skills being out of date, take a course before you get back to work.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).
Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.

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

Routes back to work after a career break

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

Employed Roles

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

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

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

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

Self-employed options

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

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

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

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

Other routes

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

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

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

Note: updated from a 2104 post

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

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 

Lending your Skills to get Ahead – How to do ‘Strategic Volunteering’

Strategic volunteering can build your skills, be intellectually demanding and provide a route back to work after a career break. We hope this week’s second post by Jill Ridley-Smith will inspire you to explore this route further.
The new CEO of the £225 million turnover business turns to
us, the Board, saying he wants our input into the development of his five-year
strategic plan. He also wants to initiate an acquisition strategy to diversify
revenues because he’s worried the core business is too dependent on a single
source of income. His team have identified the first potential acquisition and
will present it to us for our consideration in the next meeting. He surmises
that his inherited management team and organisation structure aren’t right to
deliver the new plan; where are the gaps, strengths and weaknesses in the
senior team? He knows his top line is vulnerable as customers are increasingly
more discerning and demanding and the business needs to respond – well, given
students now have to pay University tuition fees this is hardly unexpected.
Yes, this is what it’s like being on the Board of Governors for one of the
largest Universities in the UK.
There are almost limitless possibilities in the non-profit
sector for individuals willing to give up some of their time and expertise –
boards of charities, sports bodies, education, and Government organisations to
name a few. These roles can be interesting, relevant, thought-provoking and
rewarding. The individuals who take them on are respected and appreciated. This
month on the website Women on Boards
there are 220 roles advertised and roughly two thirds of these are in
non-profit organisations. Most of these roles are pro-bono (i.e. unpaid), but
they often cover expenses.
As very few of us have the luxury of being able
to work for free, the clue is in the term ‘strategic’ – if you are considering
this type of volunteering as a route back into the workplace, it needs to be
volunteering with an agenda. This could be to take a role that leverages your
historical business experience, or if you are looking for a career change, a
role where you gain experience in a new sector; or it could simply be to get
back in touch with the working world and become current again.
As with every job search,
it’s improbable a CV enhancing role as a strategic volunteer will fall into
your lap. It requires re-engaging with your old business networks, getting out
there and making new connections; for instance, you could be very pleasantly
surprised by what can come from simply being sociable at the school gates. Be
mindful too that strategic volunteering roles are ‘proper’ jobs (to get one
you’ll need a good CV, references and to deliver at the interview) and these
roles carry considerable responsibility. When working on the Board of a charity
under the auspices of the Charity Commission or a public sector body that
manages Government money, the buck stops with you.
Boards must have good governance, appropriate risk measurement and assessment
and must sufficiently scrutinise financials and probe the operational decisions
of the management. As a good example, the Trustees of Kids Company simply did
not apply the necessary rigour required; this is an extract from the House of
Commons Committee report into the collapse of the business: “Trustees relied
upon wishful thinking and false optimism and became inured to the
precariousness of the charity’s financial situation.”
So, assuming you are not solely motivated by the social
cause, why strategically volunteer if it’s no easier to get a volunteering role
than a paid one and the role comes with a
weighty responsibility? Well, the attraction is in the relatively limited time
commitment for the intellectual return: the norm is quarterly meetings and
their prep, a few strategy days and a commitment to a few years’ service. When you’ve got very young children, time is
so precious and we all do our very best to juggle work and family life. For me,
at that time, strategic volunteering was a manageable commitment that kept me
on the career track. I started with one, then two strategic volunteering roles
and this has now morphed into fully ‘going plural’. It means that rather than
working full-time for one company, I’m self-employed and I have a number of
non-executive director positions with different companies.
I still do some unpaid business mentoring and I have one
pro-bono NED (Non-Executive Director) position
but it’s less of a means-to-an-end now so I can enjoy it for what it is and the
social benefit that comes from it. I lent my time to get ahead and it’s been a
win-win journey for me and the organisations I remain committed to.
Jill Ridley-Smith
works as a Business Mentor and is a Non-Executive Director on three Boards. She
took a career break in 2009 after a successful career in Private Equity with
HgCapital and prior to this she held management roles at GlaxoSmithKline and
LEK Consulting. She has an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management. You can read more of Jill’s return to work story here.



For more information on becoming a trustee, also visit Getting on Board, a charity that helps individuals become new leaders in communities through board-level volunteering. Watch out for more information on their new campaign in early March that is aimed at encouraging women on a career break to take up charity board positions.

Posted by Muriel

How ‘strategic’ volunteering can support your return to work

If you’ve been out of the workplace for many years, we often recommend that you consider strategic volunteering, but it may not be clear to you exactly what we mean by this or how it can be a route back to work. For me, strategic volunteering was a crucial step in getting back to work after my career break; I reflected on this during a trustees’ meeting this week (taking time out from Women Returners). As with so many people who take a career break, I had lost any sense of myself as a professional person possessing management and leadership skills that would be of use outside my domestic role. Through joining a charity board, in a non-executive role, I had the opportunity to rebuild my self-belief in a variety of ways:
  • talking with other professionals, as equals, on matters of strategy, policy and operations reminded me that I knew about this stuff!
  • taking on specific projects, such as overhauling the financial reporting systems, was a concrete opportunity to contribute and make a difference
  • feedback from my colleagues was positive and encouraging (in contrast to the normal complaints from my children)
  • I learned that my different way of looking at matters (from being the sole female and not steeped in the charity’s historical way of operating) was valued.
What separates strategic volunteering from the other unpaid roles you may have taken on during your break, from class rep to community volunteer, is that the work you are doing creates a platform for your return, either through refreshing or developing your skills, or by being an entry route to a new role.

Strategic volunteering comes in many guises. These are examples of other people who’ve used it as a starting point for their new career:

  • Jill volunteered as a business start-up adviser which allowed her to create a portfolio career with a number of NED positions.  You can read her story here
  • For Suzanne, being PTA chair was a perfect way to revive her dormant people management and influencing skills (there is nothing harder than engaging a group of volunteers), allowed her to be creative in a public arena and gain experience in presenting and speaking to large groups. A bonus was that getting to know her co-chair led to them setting up a business together when their term of office ended.
You can read some other inspiring examples in our previous post: Finding your way back through strategic volunteering.

If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it!

Posted by Katerina

Life after architecture: a returner’s story

We have been spending a lot of time with the people at RIBA recently, meeting some very interesting returners and also practices which want to hire them. This is a return to work success story of one architect who took a different, but no less fulfilling route back to her professional career after a 10 year break.
 

Architect to QA Manager, Architectural Recruitment

I qualified as an architect in the early nineties and started working in practice in London. Then, when my husband was relocated to New York in 1998, I went with him and found work there myself, firstly as an architect and then in the wider construction industry. On the news that I was expecting twins in 2004 we decided to move back to London and they were born just after we arrived back later that year. The first three or so years passed in a blur and then slowly, as they progressed to school and I had more time on my hands, my mind turned to what I was going to do next.
The thought of returning to practice, where hours are long and workload unpredictable, seemed impossible now that I had a whole new life at home that had not existed before. Working late and on weekends had never been a problem before children but now with the school day ending at 3:15 it seemed, in my mind at least, impossible to make it work. So I gloomily resigned myself to fact that I would never work again in my profession and busied myself with local voluntary work at the Macular Society and the Foodbank.
Then one day in 2014, a full 10 years after leaving my job in New York, I spotted a job ad in Building Design (the weekly newspaper for architects that I had kept on reading) for a 3 day a week role as quality assurance manager for an architectural recruitment agency. The job description said that the role would suit someone with an architectural background who would like to do something different with their training. I was intrigued and immediately emailed my CV and a covering letter, explaining exactly my situation and that I had been out of the workplace for 10 years, fully expecting it to disappear into the ether. However, much to my immense surprise, later that day when school home time was in full flow, I received a phone call from the operations director of the company saying they had been waiting for a CV like mine for months!
An interview was arranged and, nerves notwithstanding, it turned out to be a really lovely chat. They were open to my doing the hours of 3 days a week in any combination to suit me so that I could continue to drop off and pick up my children from school every day. We agreed on 10:00 to 2:00 Monday – Thursday and all day from home on a Friday to make up the difference. During holidays I condense the hours back to 3 whole days, 1 from home, which makes childcare between my husband and I so much easier to organise.
I have been there for a year now and it has restored my confidence and general zest for life no end, the balance is perfect. As the agency hires its recruiters from industry I have found myself surrounded by architects once again, which I love, and also by dealing with practices in London, a few of which I have either worked for or have acquaintances in, I have been able to slot back into the architectural community.
My role has evolved too from originally just checking written work that leaves the office and producing KPI statistics for the weekly meetings to now analysing those numbers and reporting on performance to the management team. I have also created and put in place systems to do this. It has been hard work and challenging but really rewarding, calling on my organisational skills and knowledge of processes.
Having found a way back into the workplace I am hoping, with the backing of the company, to be able to create a support network and possible partnerships with architectural practices to enable other women in the profession in a similar position to get back in and use their hard earned qualifications and experience again. It’s early days but watch this space!
Posted by Katerina

Returning to law after 12 years – Katharine’s story

This week, we’re highlighting Katharine’s* success story, showing how it is possible to return to a legal career after a 12 year gap, and how interim roles can provide a flexible route back to work.  

“I worked as a senior in-house commercial lawyer for 8 years for a FTSE 250 manufacturing company, and was lucky enough to work 4 days a week when it was very rare. Having moved out to Hertfordshire I took a career break after the birth of my third child. After 7 years at home I re-trained, qualified and worked in a new profession as a family mediator for a few years. It was challenging, interesting and rewarding, but lonely (working from home except when meeting clients) and made me realise how well suited I am to working as an in-house lawyer, and how much I enjoy it. As well as helping me regain my confidence, I believe my family mediation experience gave me enhanced skills – my EQ and softer skills developed, and learning to adopt a step by step approach now means nothing is overwhelming.
My first step was to attend a solicitors’ returner course through the Law Society. It was then a major commitment to bring myself up to date with the relevant legal developments (through a leading on-line legal know-how provider) and to try various initiatives – there were plenty of setbacks and dead ends along the way. However, I kept going and remained positive (mostly!) focusing on interim, part-time in-house roles. (I felt interim roles could give me more options, particularly as a returner).
6 months after the returner course I was offered my first interim in-house role. It was a great start and I quickly adapted to changes in the office environment (open plan, quieter, more emails and instant messaging and fewer telephone conversations, no admin support). I was soon ready for a new challenge and after 5 months joined a global company to provide maternity leave cover for 9 months as part of a European legal team of 10 which I loved. I was sorry when that came to an end, but have recently completed an assignment with the legal team of a FTSE 100 company. I have found all my roles through recruitment agencies (including one which specialises in flexible working) and through Lawyers on Demand (LOD) which provides freelance lawyers as a flexible resource to in-house legal teams.
What have I learnt? At the returner course I had to think of a USP quickly and mine was being adaptable and embracing change. This has turned out to be accurate, both in terms of industry sector (FMCG, telecoms/cloud services and retail) and work content (preparing a company for sale, corporate and regulatory, commercial contracts). It is a privilege and a challenge to be able to work in different environments, and appeals to my sense of adventure – I have learnt a lot and stayed motivated and enthusiastic. My 3 recent roles have been 3-3.5 days per week but I expect there to be times when it is difficult to find interesting part-time work – it is still hard to come by. I will take advantage of those times to pursue other interests, and to spend more time with my children and elderly parents and on my voluntary roles.
My advice is to be determined in pursuing what you want and not to be afraid of trying new areas, even if it is not exactly what you think you are looking for. No experience is wasted and you will learn a lot along the way. I am also pleased that my children can see there is another side to me as well as being their mother.”
Notes:

The next Law Society refresher course will run in October 2015. 

LOD (Lawyers On Demand) is our newest Interested Employer in the legal sector, joining law firm McAllister Olivarius and legal services firm Obelisk Support.


* name changed for confidentiality

 
 
Posted by Katerina 

Starting your own service business

When I was thinking through how to return to work after my career break, I investigated both going back into employment and setting up on my own. I decided that because of my requirements for flexibility, my temperament, and the enjoyment I derived from an earlier experience of entrepreneurship, I was best suited to working for myself. That was 10 years ago, when I set up my own coaching practice. My business activities have evolved significantly since then and I can’t imagine ever returning to an employed position.
I recently read that women-led businesses are often more successful, yet men are twice as likely as women to be entrepreneurially active. I know that many of you may be weighing up the pros and cons of setting up on your own; this is my personal experience of the benefits and drawbacks.
Advantages
  • Autonomy. You are in charge and don’t have to take instruction from your line manager or deal with the corporate politics which exist when you are employed
  • Managing your own time. You can choose (subject to client requirements) when, where and how you want to work. If you want to take time away from your work for any reason, you don’t need to get permission or negotiate with work colleagues. This has been invaluable for me in balancing the other demands from my family and volunteer activities. I also find that I am more productive as I can largely control my diary to suit the way I work best
  • Managing growth. You can set your own pace of business growth and development to fit with your life, your ambitions and your financial requirements
  • Pursuing your dream. You can pursue a business idea or a personal passion in a way that is rarely possible as an employee (as I did back in 2012 when I joined with Julianne to set up Women Returners)
Disadvantages
  • Isolation. If you set up as a sole trader you will be spending much more time on your own than you would have done in employment. You might miss the companionship of your colleagues and the availability of people with whom to bounce around ideas. In the early days of my business I worked hard at creating networks and communities to fill this gap and now I appreciate having a business partner and a network of associates
  • Being constantly on call.  Depending on your business activity, it could be harder for you to be ‘out of office’ as there will be no-one to cover for your in your absence .. and you don’t get paid for sick days!
  • Uncertainty of income. Unless you are in the position of having guaranteed work or clients from the start of your venture, maybe from a former employer or colleague, it will take time to build your work pipeline and your reputation. Temperamentally and economically, it has been important for me to be resilient through the downturn of the recent recession
  • Having to do everything for yourself. If you are used to corporate structures and systems, it can be quite a shock to have to do everything for yourself from invoicing to diary management. It’s particularly hard when your computer breaks down and there is no IT support to fix it!
How to get started
Sometimes returners are put off starting their own business by the belief that they have to offer an innovative service and so spend hours developing, researching and discarding possible options, in the search for a unique idea. In reality, starting your own business doesn’t have to be so hard! Indeed, if you are working as a freelancer, an associate or on occasional projects, you are de facto running your own business.
One of the simplest ways to start a business is to offer, for payment, a skill that you already have and which others value. So, whether you are offering tax advice, designing websites or conducting market research, you will be a business owner. You might even find that demand for your services builds to such an extent that you need to take on your own employees.
There are many sources of support for women starting their own businesses and the easiest first step can be to sign up for a short introductory workshop, such as a local Chamber of Commerce event. For a listing of useful resources, see our website. If you’re close to London, Enterprise Nation run regular StartUp Saturdays and if you’re a parent with a tech idea for a business, do look at the exciting Google Campus for Mums.
In our success stories we have a few examples of other returners who have successfully established their own businesses so you can read about Alison and Barbara‘s experiences.

Posted by Katerina

Challenging the stereotypes about returning professionals

This week I wrote an article for the Guardian Women in Leadership challenging the stereotypical views of women returners and urging employers to recognise the strong talent pool they are overlooking:
My aim was to highlight & question the attitude of so many corporate employers who reject those of you with a long CV gap purely because of their unconscious biases, in particular against women without recent experience. I hoped that it would make at least a few hiring employers question their stereotypes and be more open to considering returners as a result.
It has been great to see how this message has been spread on social media. The article has been shared nearly 1200 times around the world and picked up by Hearst Women who wrote a supportive piece:
Sharon Hodgson MP wrote on Twitter “As a returner I went on to become an MP! A career break should not be a career end!”
If you are one of the women experiencing rejection through conventional recruitment routes, we hope that the article does not make you feel more dispirited, but helps you to understand that it is not your personal failing – many other people are in your position. Remember that there are other ways to find a fulfilling business role, in particular using your network and building experience through freelance, voluntary or temporary roles. There are also increasing numbers of business employers who want to use returnships to bring you back.
We will continue to champion the abilities of returning professionals, to change employer perceptions and create routes back to fulfilling work so a career break is seen as a pause not an end to a corporate career.

Posted by Julianne