Changing the landscape for returners in the UK

At our Women Returners ‘Back to Your Future’ Conference, co-founder and CEO Julianne Miles MBE spoke about what led her to set up Women Returners and how the UK landscape for returners has changed over the last five years.

After her own 4-year career break to care for her young family, Julianne decided that she didn’t want to return to her former career in corporate strategy and marketing. She found it difficult to decide what to do next and was disappointed to find that there was no support available to help her. In the end, she found her own way back by retraining as a Chartered Psychologist and setting up an occupational psychology practice.

As a sideline, Julianne began to help more and more friends and acquaintances who had taken career breaks and were unsure of what to do or how to get back to work. In 2012, together with Women Returners co-founder Katarina Gould (who stepped back to pursue other interests in 2016), she started this blog to support returners. The initial aim was to provide free online return to work advice and to spread positive success stories about returning to work. 

Julianne and Katerina became increasingly frustrated by the structural difficulties that talented and experienced returners faced when trying to get back to work. The story was always the same – they were ignored or rejected out of hand when they applied for jobs through traditional recruitment processes, and had to find roles through their networks, to retrain or to take much lower-level positions. 

In 2014, they had the ambitious goal of putting returners on the map for UK business. The idea was to introduce returner programmes to create bridges between employers who wanted to recruit talented and diverse professionals and returners looking to find satisfying work using their skills and experience. They also wanted to act as a voice and advocate for career returners within the Government and professional bodies.

“Our mission has always been to make career breaks a normal part of a 40 to 50 year career, and to remove the ‘career break penalty'” Julianne told the Conference audience. “To do this we work with three different groups – individuals, organisations and the Government.”

Julianne explained that, alongside their free Returner Network for individuals, Women Returners partners with employers to develop and support three main types of returner programme:

  • Returnships – high level, paid ‘professional internships’, where returners do a job for three to six months with transition support provided by the organisation. At the end of the period, there is a very strong likelihood of a permanent role if it works for both sides. These have really taken off in the UK and now in Ireland, and are at the pioneer stage in mainland Europe,
  • Supported hire programmes – bringing returners into a permanent role with transition support, and an understanding that there may be a short ramp-up period as a returner gets up to speed. The term ‘supported hire’ was coined by Women Returners in 2015.
  • Returner training programme – a form of returner programme where people who have taken an extended break are retrained into a different field, such as tech or wealth management.

“Five years ago, we introduced the concept of the returnship into the UK and have broadened our offering from there,” said Julianne. “I did think that employers might not be that interested. However, this has definitely not been the case! In 2014 there were 3 UK returner programmes, by 2018 over 70 employers ran them.”

“Almost every day I get contacted by a new employer asking about returner programmes. The interest is growing and growing, and we’re seeing a real change in attitudes generally. Employers are realising that this is a really strong pool of candidates and they are looking beyond the gap to the skills returners bring.”
Julianne described how Women Returners has partnered with employers to develop programmes around England, Scotland and Ireland. Although the concentration remains in the South, activity in the Midlands and the North of England is building. There is still little happening in Mainland Europe but she hopes this will change over the next 5 years. To be honest, unlike many other patients at https://mckesson.uk/antibiotics/, I am extremely happy with the drug. Although, it has its shortcomings. I didn’t take against colds and infections (I’ve never heard of it) and against specific microbes that were found in the crop and caused abdominal pain (the pain was particularly acute during palpation) during the last few months.

“I’m proud to say that returners are now firmly on the Government’ agenda,” said Julianne. “There’s a returners unit within the Equalities Office, and last year we co-wrote best practice guidance for employers on returner programmes which is on GOV.UK.”
“We’re doing what we can to change the context,” said Julianne, “but I want to ask you as returners to do your bit as well. Be positive, proactive and don’t write yourself off! If you find yourself thinking ‘I’m too old’, ‘It’s too late’, ‘Nobody’s going to want me’ – push all those thoughts away. Listen to and gain support from the positive people in your life who can help you think about what you CAN bring. Remember – you are the same, competent professional that you were before you took your career break. You might be a bit out of practice, but it won’t take long to get up to speed and to be firing on all cylinders!”

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

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!

10 Tips to Get Back to Work after a Career Break

If you had spoken to me this time last

year, I never would have believed I would be in the position I am in now.
Charlotte

Whether you’ve been out of the workplace for one year or many years, the thought of restarting your career can be daunting.
The following 10 tips are directly inspired by our library of success stories of people
like you who have taken time out from work only to return stronger than ever.
Read on and you never know where you might be this time next year.

1. Prepare to step out of your comfort zone
No-one can deny that rejoining the workplace
after an extended leave is a scary prospect, but it’s also an exciting one. Push
yourself out of your comfort zone and you never know what might happen. What
have you got to lose? Read Natalie’s story

2. Shape
the narrative of your career break

There are as many career break stories as there
are returners, and you are the only person who can tell yours. Think about all
of the skills you have built up in your time off work, and how they could
benefit an employer. You don’t need to make excuses for your career break or
try to hide it; it could actually end up being your biggest asset! Read Fiona’s story
3.
Work out what YOU need

Take time to have a serious think about what you
want from a job, and consider how much flexibility and support you would need. It’s
important to have those conversations with potential employers upfront to avoid
conflict and frustration further down the line. Don’t forget that you’re
assessing companies for their suitability just as much as they’re assessing
you. Read Clare’s story
4. Develop
a new specialism

It’s never too late to learn something new.
Whether you want to update your existing knowledge or head off in a different
direction, there are more study options now than ever, including short courses,
distance learning and on-the-job training. It’s worth taking the time to do
your research, such as looking at job adverts to find out which qualifications
potential employers are looking for. Read Carolyne’s story
5. Reach
out to your network

If you feel like you’ve got a gap in your
knowledge, then another option is to find someone to bring you up to speed.
You’re bound to have a contact in your industry who could help, either from a
previous job or your studies. Don’t be afraid to reach out, e.g. on LinkedIn,
and tell people what you need without worrying about what you can offer in
return. These same networks can also point you in the direction of
opportunities and could even open a door for you somewhere along the line. Read Carolien’s story

6. Apply your skills in a new field
Taking time out from work can provide you with the
distance you need to come back with a fresh pair of eyes and reassess your
career plan. This could be the perfect opportunity for you to move across to a
new area. Take some time to look around, talk to people, and see what’s
available. Read Maria’s story

7. Find your tribe

A good support network can make all the difference in ensuring a
smooth transition back into the workplace. You can set up your own group with
people you already know, face-to-face or on WhatsApp, or join our Women Returners group (for network members) on LinkedInRead Clare’s story

8. Consider coaching
If you’re unsure about how to explain your
career gap, worried about the practicalities of juggling family commitments with
a new job, or suffering from a lack of confidence or direction, you could
benefit from some career coaching. (find out about Women Returners coaching here). Read Kate’s story


9.
Look for volunteering roles in your sector

If you’ve been out of the workplace for a long
period, a volunteering role in your sector will bolster your CV with recent and
relevant experience, bring you up to speed with new developments and provide
you with references and new contacts in your industry. Some roles provide
training too. Read Antje’s story
10. And finally, don’t give up! 
It’s all too easy to lose confidence and feel
demoralised when looking for a job using traditional recruitment routes if you
have a non-traditional career path, but with more and more companies in the UK coming
around to the benefits of offering returner programmes and/or flexible working, there
are new opportunities available all the time. And one of them may well have
your name on it! Read Anna’s story

If you have decided to make the move back into
the workplace this year, or you’re simply considering your options at the
moment, make sure you’ve signed up to our network (sign up here) to get return-to-work advice, support, information and opportunities.

 
Posted by Elaine

Back to your future? Join us at the Women Returners Conference 2017

Following our blogging summer break, we are excited to announce the launch of our 2017 Conference, on Monday 20 November in London. We ran our first Conference last year (see here for how it came about), and had such positive feedback that we decided to make it into an annual event.

If you can make it to London, do join us for a day of inspiration, advice and support, specifically designed for women professionals returning to work after a long career break. Alongside workshops and speaker sessions, you will have the opportunity to meet informally with other like-minded women and returner employers. You will also be able to hear the personal experiences of other returners, talking about what it’s like to be on a returnship and how they’ve found being back at work after a long break. The Conference is supported by the 30% Club, and sponsored by Bloomberg and FDM Group (with other sponsors in the pipeline). The content will be relevant to you whether your background is finance, law, tech, engineering, marketing, retail or any other professional area, and whether your career break is 2, 5 or 15+ years.

See here for highlights and a video from our sold-out 2016 event.

“Brilliant, a belief shifting event. I arrived feeling a lot of too – too old, too out of touch, too long a gap, too unwanted and left with all of those reversed, brimming with possibilities. Thank you.” 2016 Conference Attendee
To find out more about the Conference including how to book tickets, see here.

If you’re not able to join us, we’ll make sure we post advice from our speakers and panelists on the blog after the event. These are our Top 5 Return to Work Tips from last year’s Conference.


We hope to see you in November!



Posted by Donna

Women Returners Conference 2016 – Video highlights

One of our 2016 highlights was our first Women Returners Conference. We wanted to share a video which aims to capture the high level of energy and enthusiasm on the day.

Our thanks to everyone who was involved in making it such a fantastic experience: speakers, sponsors, coaches, organisers and all of you who joined us in the audience. We hope it inspires you to make 2017 your Back to Work Year!

Top 5 Conference return to work tips

We’ve just about recovered from our Women Returners Conference last week … the pre-organisation, the excitement of the day and the post-event exhaustion! It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and energy of our 175 attendees and very rewarding for us to read the positive feedback we received after the event (see here for Conference photos and comments).
For those of you who weren’t able to join us, I wanted to share some advice from our speakers and from our panelists of successful returners and returner employers.
Top 5 Return to Work Tips
1. Don’t underestimate yourself.  This was a consistent theme, starting with our first keynote speaker Jane Garvey’s observation that women too easily doubt our own abilities and that we need to recognise that we bring so much more to the table than we think.
2. Think maturity not age. Our ICAEW employer panel talked about the value to companies both of life maturity and of the amazing array of skills and experience that returners can offer in comparison with a young graduate and even compared with people who have risen up through the ranks.
3. Appreciate your ‘Cognitive Diversity’. Brenda Trenowden, Chair of 30% Club, highlighted the push from UK business to increase diversity. Alongside diversity of gender, age and ethnicity the new goal is a team with ‘cognitive diversity’.  Basically, companies are valuing people who think differently. From my experience, seeing the world in a different way comes easily to people returning after a career break – you return with a new, and often more balanced, perspective.
4. Be brave and move out of your comfort zone. Many of our panelists, including those with very impressive CVs, talked about the self-doubt and anxiety they had faced on their return to work. However, all of them said that the pain was worth it in the end!
5. Move to action. This was my main takeout from the stories we heard. Don’t procrastinate endlessly, looking for the perfect next step. One of our panelists retrained as a mediator, before deciding that wasn’t the right path for her; she’s now working in a legal role she loves after taking a set of interim legal roles along the way. It may be a windy road back, but you’ll learn more by doing than by thinking.

More advice
We’re working on some advice video clips from Conference speakers and panelists and hope to share these with you over the next month or so. In the meantime, see our website for other returner stories and advice.

Posted by Julianne

Back to your Future? Join us at the Women Returners Conference 2016

London November 14th 2016



How our first Conference came about

At Women Returners, we’ve been talking for a year or so about holding our own large-scale event in London. We’ve had many requests from our network for a forum where they can both meet other returning professional women and get advice and support from us in person. I loved the idea, as we know how isolating it can be when you decide to return to the workforce after a break. I also saw this as a great opportunity to bring returners together with the corporate employers interested in hiring them, and for a group of inspiring women who had successfully returned to the workforce after a long break to tell their stories to others.

However, we were also rather daunted. Although we have lots of experience of running workshops and event speaking, we worried that moving into event management would involve a whole new set of skills. Recognising this as a ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ moment, we decided to practice what we preach and to give it a go! We brought in the expertise of Stephanie as our events consultant and the Conference started to take shape.

What’s happening at the Conference

It has been a lot of work to set up, but I’m very excited by the programme on offer. We’re delighted to have sponsorship from the ICAEW, who are hosting the event in Central London, and from a diverse range of employers who will be on hand to talk about their returner programmes and to meet informally with the women attending (including Credit Suisse, Skanska, O2 and Fidelity International). The fantastic Jane Garvey from Woman’s Hour will be speaking, as will Brenda Trenowden, the Chair of the 30% Club who is a strong advocate of returnship programmes. We have panels of successful returners who can tell you what it’s really like to be on a returnship and how to make your own way back if a returner programme doesn’t appeal or isn’t available.

You’ll get to meet a peer group of like-minded women – and the Women Returners team! I’ll be telling you about the changing context for UK returners and running a workshop to help you to be more targeted in your career. And those who register soon will have the chance of a 1-1 coaching session with one of our expert coaches. You’ll also get CV advice from Victoria McLean at City CV.

There’s much more on offer through the day, so do look at our website for more details if you can make it to London on 14th November: Women Returners Conference. Through sponsorship we’ve managed to heavily subsidise the tickets so they’re only £85 before 30th Sept.

We hope to meet you then!

Posted by Julianne