Navigating a Successful Career Change

As life expectancy increases, our working lives will get longer and many of us will be lucky enough to be working into our 70s and beyond. This provides an opportunity to move from the traditional model for our career and life (education, work, retirement) to something more flexible that enables us to enjoy a number of different careers with breaks interspersed throughout.

Often around mid-life, our focus shifts and we look for more meaning and purpose. Making the right career change for you on your return to work can enable you to pursue something that fits with your values, plays to your strengths and utilises your transferable skills.  Rachel Wright, Career Coach, recently joined us for a webinar for members of our Professional Network and shared her 3 step plan for navigating a career change.

1.Take stock and understand who you are

  • Reflect on what motivates you and interests you now at this stage in your life
  • Consider what your key skills and strengths are that you’d like to be using in a new role – ask a few trusted friends to share what they believe your strengths to be when they’ve seen you at your best, or use an online strengths tool such as Gallup Strengthsfinder
  • Look back over your career and reflect on the highs and lows. Why did you particularly enjoy a role – was it the type of work you were doing, team you were part of, organisational culture?

Capture on one page everything that comes out of your reflections and use this as a lens to assess job options.

2.Explore career ideas and gain clarity on what you want to do

  • Expand your list of career ideas first before narrowing them down
  • Carry out some research online to inspire and provide info on routes into professions (have a look at or ) capturing the ideas that energise you the most
  • Share these, and your one page reflection document with a few trusted people to ask them for advice about job ideas, and create a list of career options
  • Step back and consider what excites you most and narrow it down to a maximum of 3 career change options to research further

Consider: Is this area of work increasing or reducing in demand? How far will I be able to use my skills/strengths I enjoy and what skills/strengths will I need to develop?

3.Take action steps towards making a successful career change

  • Research your 3 chosen ideas further online
  • Reach out to your network to speak to people who can give you further insights into these areas or help connect you to other people
  • Use LinkedIn to connect with friends, former colleagues and new contacts working in areas you’re interested in exploring. Like and comment on other users’ posts who are working in areas you’re interested in to help get you noticed
  • Attend seminars, events, networking groups and join professional associations to build knowledge and relationships including possibly finding yourself a mentor
  • Explore opportunities for strategic volunteering to build your experience, confidence, and contacts – this could also lead to paid employment (see Strategic Volunteering in our Resource Signposts)
  • Research free online training and courses to upskill, develop and build your knowledge (see here for a selection of retraining courses)

By diarising time to take small actions, you’ll move one step closer every day to making your successful career change.

How to Succeed on a Returner Retraining Programme

This guest blog is by Gee Foottit from St. James’s Place Wealth Management – Financial Adviser Academy, who shares some excellent advice from graduates of their Academy programme for future returner retrainees.

Since 2018 I have been working with Women Returners to bring in talent to the St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy, which retrains experienced professionals to become financial advisers. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of the women who have joined us from the Women Returners community and wanted to share some of their personal tips on navigating a return to work via a retraining programme.

Tips from Alison Jarvis

  • See the retraining programme as an opportunity rather than as something to fear.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Realise that even if you have not been working recently in the traditional sense, you are bringing other skills, competencies, character traits and views to the table that can expand the organisation’s view/understanding of the marketplace.
  • Remember they have selected you for a reason – it wasn’t that they thought you showed no potential and had zero skills.
  • Network broadly with your internal stakeholders.
  • Establish boundaries for your personal time and try, where possible, to adhere to them.
  • Don’t be afraid to take on challenge – you will grow.
  • Making errors is normal for everyone, regardless of how they arrived at where they are today.
  • Don’t give up your ambition just because you are a returner and might feel “on the back foot” – this is likely to be a mental barrier.
  • Enjoy it!

Alison joined the Financial Adviser Academy programme in January 2020 after a previous career as a lawyer, PR/BD/market research specialist and project manager. She spent 7 years working in the developing world prior to returning to the UK. She struggled to find meaningful, suitably paid work owing to her eclectic, international non-linear career path and her age demographic, so spent 3.5 years consulting and temping in very unsatisfactory, low paid roles before joining the Academy.

Tips from Kam Singh

  • If you’re going to start your own business, I would recommend setting a year’s worth of expenditure aside to pay towards household bills so you can focus on the business and not worry about family cashflow, depending on your next chosen career and guaranteed money coming in.
  • Try and dress in work clothes i.e. casual smart prior, to re-entering your career, so you’ll have a good routine of grabbing a few outfits that match ‘on the go’.
  • Invest in smart shoes you can walk in!
  • Keep an open mind as life and times change – stay neutral so you can accept new and different points of view.
  • Reintroduce ‘you time’ so your family accept your new routine and get used to you not being around.

Kam joined the Financial Adviser Academy programme in Sept 2019, following a previous career in Corporate Banking and a 4 year career break. 

Tips from Viviana Antinolfi 

  • If you have children, it is important to surround yourself with enough help.
  • Put clear boundaries to the time you devote to work as you want to keep a balance with other important things in life.
  • Ask your partner (if you have one) to contribute more – by taking time off work you have most likely allowed them to focus on their career, now it’s payback time.
  • Don’t be scared to reach out to your network as most people are genuinely happy to see what you are up to.
  • Don’t expect success to happen overnight. it takes time to build a new career. Enjoy each small win as they are a step forward.
  • Be enthusiastic about what you do. If you are unsure, others / your clients will be too.
  • Bring your past experience to the new job. You have a massive knowledge accumulated in what you did in the past, use it!

Viviana joined the Financial Adviser Academy programme in Jan 2020 following a previous career in Investment Banking at Managing Director level, and a 6 year career break.

Tips from Rebecca Maxwell-Hyslop 

  • Don’t underestimate the transferable skills picked up whilst on your career break.
  • Remember you don’t lose the years of experience that you gained in the workplace pre-break.
  • Ensure you have back-up plans at home, whether that be a partner or fellow local parents.
  • Rebuild your network – get to know people in the same industry, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, people are flattered if you ask!
  • There will be good days and bad – remind yourself of your why – why you are doing the role, why now.
  • Share your experience of going back to work socially and professionally – be enthusiastic. Sharing my experience makes me more accountable.
  • If you have children and they are old enough to understand, share the journey with them. If they feel included, they are more likely to be supportive. Mine are fascinated about how to run a business and enjoy seeing the benefits of a second income!
  • Believe in yourself!

Rebecca joined the Financial Adviser Academy programme in Sept 2020, following a previous career Trading at Credit Suisse, and a 3.5 year career break.

Gee’s Own Tips

I hope you enjoyed those pearls of wisdom; my final thoughts are:

  • Understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Have a clear plan of what you want to achieve over the next 1, 3 and 5 years, review it regularly and create a personal development plan.
  • Adopt a growth mindset – if you can’t do something, it’s only because you don’t know how to yet.
  • Write down the challenges you’ve faced in life and how you overcame them. This will remind you of how resilient you really are and that any challenge can be overcome.
  • Leverage the support of mentors and coaches offered to you, source your own if need be.
  • Network with like-minded positive and successful people.
  • Join any internal Professional Women’s Networks available.
  • Do your research, don’t be afraid to ask for help, be bold and take your first step!

Gee Foottit is the Academy Engagement Manager at St. James’s Place Wealth Management – Financial Adviser AcademySt. James’s Place offers a retraining opportunity to become a qualified Financial Adviser. This consists of 6 months’ virtual learning and gaining professional qualifications, followed by 18 months’ support in the role. The candidates have the choice of starting their own Financial Advice business or joining one of St. Jame’s Place’s established Practices as an Adviser.

Apprenticeships and Other Returner Retraining Programme Trends

This is the last of a series of 3 articles for returning professionals on new trends in returner programmes. Read on for trends in Returner Retraining Programmes, and see our previous post for new trends in returnship programmes and new trends in supported hiring.

Are you looking to change career after your career break, maybe for greater job satisfaction, more opportunities or greater flexibility? If you’re prepared to start at a more junior level in a new field, and want to find an employer who values your skills and previous experience, a Returner Retraining Programme could be a great option for you. Retraining is expensive if you’re self-funding, and it can be hard to find your first role. These programmes enable you to gain new qualifications and related work experience, while also receiving a salary while you train.

What are Returner Retraining Programmes?

Returner Retraining Programmes are run by employers and include a combination of paid work and study, rather than being purely a training course. Although some are newly created, they are usually variants of existing company training programmes, originally developed for graduates or career changers, and adapted for and targeted at returners.

The structure of these programmes varies. With some employers, you start in a job from day one, combining work with on-the-job training and study. With other employers, you have an initial 2-3 month training course followed by an 9-24 month work placement. You may also receive coaching or mentoring support, although this is less common than with a returnship or supported hiring.

Some retraining employers are looking for people with specific transferable areas of experience, such as professional services, whereas others have a broader target and are more interested in assessing your potential through your skills and attitudes.

Examples of Returner Retraining Programmes are Softcat Tech Starter Programme, St. James’s Place Academy Career Change Programme and the Investec Return to Work Retraining Programme (also see our other Opportunities).

Growth of Retraining Programmes

Although graduate training programmes have existed for a long time, retraining programmes aimed at returners have only developed in the last few years. Numbers remain low but are steadily growing.

The majority of UK returner retraining programmes to date have been in 2 sectors, tech and investment management. The employers launching these initiatives have skills gaps to fill and are also keen to improve diversity. They’ve starting to target returners as they recognise the value of the transferable skills, business and life experience and maturity that you can bring. They see your potential and expect that your career will accelerate quickly once you’ve finished your training.

Trends in Retraining

Within the UK, the apprenticeship levy has made it attractive for larger employers to develop the retraining programme as an apprenticeship, meaning that many recent programmes are structured this way. To meet the Government criteria, they have to last at least a year, you have one day a week to study with an external training provider, and you receive a recognised qualification at the end.

The combination of skills/diversity drivers and the apprenticeship levy has driven a lot of interest in the concept of returner retraining and we expect the number of initiatives will increase over the next few years, particularly as broader awareness of the returner talent pool continues to grow. As with other returner initiatives, we may also see expansion into other geographical markets.

Read our returner programme success stories here to hear from retraining programme participants themselves about their experiences. One example is Rebecca at St. James’s Place Academy.