It isn’t often that a return to work story starts with Woman’s Hour, but in my case that was exactly where the process began! I was made redundant from my role as a Director of a fund investing in mezzanine debt in 2002 and as my children were then very young I took the opportunity to scale back my working life and to adopt a more flexible approach to my career. Over the next 13 years I had a number of roles as a Non-Executive Director and undertook a variety of consultancy assignments. By the start of 2015, however, my young children had morphed into teenagers and I was finding the role of the consultant increasingly solitary. I had more time and I needed a new challenge; in particular, however, I wanted to be part of a team and to add human interaction to my daily life.
I had enjoyed my role in the finance industry, but to be perfectly honest I had no faith that in my 50s I would be employable in that sector. I was trying to consider my available options and wrestling with how I might approach a return to substantive employment. Mired in this thought process, and without any real views on how to progress, I found myself in mid April 2015 listening to Woman’s Hour as I distracted myself from the tedium of ironing. As luck would have it, the programme was running an article on exactly my dilemma and featured Julianne Miles talking about returnship programmes and the Women Returners website she had set up with Katerina Gould. I quickly Googled the site and realised that the programmes that Julianne and Katerina were promoting could provide a useful route to achieve my goal of getting back into substantive employment.
Following my registration with Women Returners my first course of action was to attend a number of networking events developed around the objective of helping women in my position get back into the workplace. These event were of great assistance in helping me think about my strengths, the development of my personal message (the “elevator pitch”), working on my CV (formats have changed since I last had to prepare one in anger) and developing my LinkedIn profile to ensure it had the right professional impact. I also found a number on online courses provided by MOOCs which added support to this process.
I applied for a couple of returnship programmes and then in mid- June an email popped into my inbox from Women Returners advertising a role with coaching support as part of the Portfolio Monitoring Unit at MV Credit. When I read the job description I was stunned; I thought I had a very specific and highly specialised CV and I couldn’t believe that a job was on offer which appeared to fit my skills and experience perfectly. The only doubt which gnawed at me a bit was that I had operated at a more senior level than the position being offered. This issue had been raised at one of the networking events I had attended and Katerina has advised how to deal with this in one of her blogs on the site. I decided to face the issue head-on in my application letter and to be honest in acknowledging this was probably the case but emphasising that I wanted to take on a role I was confident I could perform effectively.
I applied for the role, went through an extensive interview process and was hired, alongside a fellow Women Returners applicant, on a part-time (three days a week) basis. I have now been at MV Credit since the beginning of November and have not looked back. My colleagues have been welcoming and positive in their attitude towards me. I have also benefited from coaching sessions with Julianne as I revise my work-life balance, placing more emphasis on myself and my working life and less on the needs of my family. My husband has been great and he is delighted to take back more of the cooking – which is more his passion than mine. My teenagers have both wished me luck and have seized the greater independence and self-reliance required of them with a demonstration of maturity of which they can be rightly proud.
My words of advice to those looking to return to work would probably encompass the following:
- Prioritise your search over other non-paid activities.
- Attend events to meet as many people as you can and to ensure your knowledge and strategies are up to date.
- Find ways to keep your skills current.
- Accept that you do not need to be a domestic goddess and that other members of the family can contribute to the running of your home life.
- Stay positive and retain belief in your skills and abilities.