I started my career break in 2011. I’d been working as an integration lead in the Commercial Credit Risk function of Lloyd’s Banking Group, tasked with using my project management skills to smooth the way as LBG merged with HBOS, when an intriguing opportunity surfaced. My husband’s company had asked him to go to Dubai to set up their new office there, and I jumped at the chance of a bit of adventure, resigning from work to become a “trailing spouse”. Following two fairly eventful years in the Middle East, during which time I retrained as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, we relocated again to South-West France and I became very absorbed in village life there: renovating a farmhouse, teaching English, learning French, writing a novel, volunteering on the local “Amicale Laique” and fostering abandoned and homeless dogs. Lovely as it was, I always had a nagging feeling that I wasn’t quite “done” with corporate life.
So at the beginning of 2017, a New Year’s Resolution and a quick Google search brought me to the virtual doorstep of Women Returners, where I was thrilled to learn about the concept of the returnship. I signed up for some coaching with Anna, knocked my CV into shape, attempted to spruce up my LinkedIn, and started applying. First of all, I had to get over feeling like an imposter – I had the mistaken belief that returnships were only for women coming back from breaks for childrearing, not for people like me. I fretted about how I was going to convince employers that I deserved this chance too. I needn’t have worried. Everyone I spoke to understood completely that there are as many stories of why career breaks happen as there are returners, and they’re all valid.
Anna helped me work out the narrative of my career break, and we focused on all of the skills that I’d built up during my time off. Things like resilience and flexibility. Understanding different cultures and different ways of doing things. Coaching and teaching. All of these are valuable assets in the corporate world, and I’d spent six years honing them – I couldn’t wait to start telling potential employers about all I had to offer!
I was absolutely bowled over by the response. Within five months, I reached final interviews for returnships with three companies, and received offers from two, both offers being for roles equal to or better than the job that I had before my break. I couldn’t believe it . Another of my preconceptions was that I should expect to take a step back or down to get back into work, but I was wrong again. I was genuinely torn between my offers, but in the end I took up a role as a Programme Manager within Asset Management in UBS in London.
UBS hire into full time roles, and the support they put in place around their Career Comeback programme is exceptional. There is a two week onboarding process during which you get to meet an incredible variety of senior leaders from around the business, and receive some fantastic business coaching to help ease you back in to the world of work. I can’t praise the team who put this together highly enough – they are absolutely driven to deliver excellence on this, and it’s a great preparation to build confidence before you are unleashed on your waiting team.
It’s still early days for me as I’ve only been in role for a couple of months, but I am certain that it’s been the right move for me. It’s not been easy getting used to work life again, but it is astonishing how quickly the skills come back. My advice if you are thinking of returning to work is to think first about what your unique story and selling point is, and how that can benefit the employers that you want to work for. Don’t try to make excuses for your break, or hide it – focus on how it’s helped you develop into a more rounded person with loads of interesting transferable skills that employers are really going to want to hear about.