Routes back to work for expatriates: going independent

Returning to work as an expatriate is both exciting and challenging. In her second post, Claire d’Aboville explores how expatriates can work independently, adapt to different markets, make the most of their differences and turn them into competitive advantages.
You have put your career on hold,
possibly in order to raise children. During that time, the family has moved to
another country, where it currently resides. You feel now is the right time to get
back to a professional activity. Amongst the various routes, creating your own
business is an attractive option, offering flexibility and independence. What do
you need to consider? Let’s focus on specifics related to your expatriate
same field of work, or not?
First you need to think about the field
of work you want to get into. A few questions are worth investigating.
  • Are
    your skills recognised locally and what does it take to get local recognition? I
    once worked with a dentist from the Middle East who decided to go into
    headhunting because she did not feel like going through retraining as a dentist
    in the UK. You need to do a bit of research to find out whether your diploma
    and experience are accepted in the country you are in.
  • Do
    you speak the local language to a level that allows you to do a good job? My
    initial field of work was human resources. As a French person working in
    England and Germany, I felt it was easier to focus on the remuneration side of
    my profession than on the leadership development side. It felt less challenging
    to talk numbers than to talk emotions in a foreign language.
  • Are
    your skills up to date? Chances are that the world has moved on since you last worked. Also
    you may need to boost your confidence with some refresher course. Or you may
    want to learn something new. In any case, it might be wise to take a local
    course, as opposed to relying on e-learning, because a local course will also
    help you with your local network. I retrained as a coach in the UK.
  • Lastly,
    how portable do you want your activity to be? And how portable will your client
    base need to be? This is a wide topic. The two main aspects to consider are
    your personal plans and practicalities. Are you settled in this new country for
    many years or not? How quickly can you build a new client base if you move
    again? My current clients are UK based, but I could stay in touch remotely with
    many of them if I moved again.

In a nutshell, your field of work has to
fit two criteria: you feel passionate enough about it and it is practically

does it take?
In addition to thinking about the field
of work you want to engage in, you need to be aware of the specifics of
“going it alone” and how they impact you as an expatriate.
  • Every
    independent professional has to work on his/her marketing and to make sure he/she has enough clients to work with. It takes time to build a client base.
    Being from a different country, you may not have any initial network to press
    the “word-of-mouth” key. And you may not have ready-to-buy clients who know you
    from a previous role. Therefore your efforts and patience might be needed.
  • Depending
    on when you have moved to the new country, you might still be busy adjusting to
    the new environment. You are less in your comfort zone than if you were at
    home. You have more uncertainty to deal with. These adjustments take your attention and
    energy away from starting your business.
  • It
    is quite useful to think about how your business (and you in it!) can cope with
    moving country again. I know a French financial auditor who retrained as an
    artist in the UK and established a good client base there. After her husband
    took a new role in Dubai, she had to start her marketing all over again, but
    she was able to apply lessons learned in the UK.
  • Lastly,
    you need to learn about the local legal, fiscal and business practices. This
    requires research and probably expert advice, depending on the country. Not all
    countries are equally welcoming to very small independent businesses. My friend
    in France found it much more challenging to register her business there than I
    did to register mine in the UK.
market to serve, what ideal client?
Last but not least, who is your ideal
client and whom do you want to serve?
  • As
    an expatriate, the community you are likely to know best is the expatriate
    community. According to my observations, the bigger the culture gap and the
    more remote the host country, the stronger and more supportive the expatriate
    community is. That can create an ideal market for you.
  • Modern
    technology broadens your world and your potential client base. As a teacher or
    a coach, you can work via skype and phone. As a journalist or writer you can
    deliver your work over Internet. In those cases, it does not matter so much
    where your clients are, provided you are able to keep in contact with them and
    keep marketing yourself, i.e. be visible and in a position to get work.
  • Lastly,
    you may consider bringing to local clients precisely what local people do not
    have / have less of: i.e. language, technical skills or products specific to
    your culture. I know a French person who offers her perspective and interior design
    skills to the expatriate community in Hong-Kong.
Working independently offers
incomparable advantages with regards to flexibility and control of your time. As
an expatriate, you face specific challenges but you also can build on your
differences and turn them into competitive advantages.
For more information on issues facing expatriates, read Claire’s first post on returning to work after international relocation.

Post by Claire d’Aboville, a Women Returners associate, a multi-lingual and multi-cultural Executive Coach and founder of Partners in Coaching

How to set yourself up as a freelancer: practical matters

You have landed that first contract, but now it is your
responsibility to get paid, set yourself up as a sole trader or maybe create
your limited company.  Now, if like me,
you were used to giving your bank account and NI details to HR and waiting for
your payslip to come at the end of each month, this whole new process and
responsibility can be overwhelming.
Freelancing has always appealed to me, working on projects,
on my own timetable while still being around for my young family. After a 15
year career in the city, followed by 4 year break, it was time for me to craft
a way back into work. I wasn’t ready to go back to a big corporate career but
was hoping to work in some capacity.
A chance meeting with an old friend resulted in my first
freelance assignment. This was a great opportunity to get my teeth into project
work and fill in the gap in my CV, but also work in a smaller structure and in
a different industry. (I come from the Financial Information industry and this
was a venture in the Neglected Tropical Disease field). It’s amazing how
opportunities like this demonstrate how transferable skills can be (in my case
marketing/communications skills).
One freelance assignment led to another and now I am a happy
Once you get that first assignment, you have to decide if
you want to become self-employed or set up a limited company. The latter is
more complex, but one of its main benefit is that your business and personal
finances are distinct, meaning if a claim is made against your company, you are
not personally liable for it. You are also more flexible with your finances and
may be able to pay less tax. You can find out here more
details on setting up a limited company. If you choose this route Companies Made Simple is a
great resource for forming your company.
If, like me, you decide to go down the sole trader road, the
good news is that it’s actually relatively easy and quick and the paperwork
that comes with it is fairly light and manageable. The process can still be
daunting though.
The first thing you need to do is contact HMRC to register
as self-employed. This will ensure you pay the correct Income Tax and National
Insurance. It’s easy to do this online:on the HMRC website choose the option “Set up a sole trader”, you
will need to create a Government Gateway account and from there follow the
instructions. You can use your own name or choose a business name when you
start working as a sole trader.  If you
decide on the latter, give it some thought (you can’t use Ltd, LLP or plc, so
choose something that makes business sense and that is unique. You can check if
a business name is available here). More
information on how to choose a business name for a sole trader can be found here.
Once you have registered online with HMRC, it takes about 10
days for your registration to come through. And there is no rush. Although it
is better to get cracking as soon as you start working (and I concede, it’s
probably the most tempting thing to procrastinate), you have time to set this
up until October 5 of the second tax year after you have started work (the tax
year runs from April to April). You will then be able to do your tax return (another
hurdle, but remember one step at the time!). Also it is worth remembering that
you won’t pay tax on the first £10,600 you earn in a tax year.
Freelancing has its challenges: it is not as secure as a
permanent job, it can be lonely at times, you have to be disciplined to manage
your time effectively and you are responsible for declaring your income and
paying taxes, but it can also be a way for you to gradually slip back into the
professional sphere, take ownership of your project while still having some
time to dedicate to yourself or your family.
If you are thinking about becoming a freelancer, do read this post for more ideas.
Happy freelancing!
Posted by Muriel

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.
  • 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)
  • 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

One company’s mission to provide new career paths for returning lawyers: the founder’s view

I have long been concerned by the vast disparity between the
number of women who enter the legal sector and the percentage of women who rise
to the top of the profession. It is clear to me that there is one large,
contributing factor, which is becoming less and less of an ‘elephant in the
room’, and one which increasingly the sector needs to tackle. Women in
particular, and parents more generally, who wish to combine a legal career with
other commitments, most notably having a family, have been leaving the
profession in the face of a constant struggle to balance work with life. The
attrition rates speak for themselves – women have left, and continue to leave,
the profession in droves. We know why they are leaving and so the key question
is how can we, as an industry, stem this flow?
In 2010 I went on a trip to India to research my next
entrepreneurial move. Whilst there, I witnessed a trend of outsourcing to offshore
destinations which left me puzzled and frustrated given the amount of legal
talent which lay dormant right here in the UK. This gave me a business idea,
and thus Obelisk Support was born. I could see that we can offer a route back
into the profession for exceptionally talented lawyers by allowing them to work
flexibly. By tapping into this wasted talent pool, Obelisk Support could
compete with offshore destinations on quality, flexibility, price and
efficiency in its work with large multinational corporations and City law
The last 4 years have not been an easy ride – and I did face
something of an uphill battle in trying to convince clients that women could
work flexibly, often remotely, without compromising on the quality of their
delivery. But, the stories of our lawyers (80% of whom are female, many of them
returning from a career break) who have succeeded in working flexibly around
their family and other commitments is testament to the shifting attitudes of
the legal industry (and, admittedly, four years of hard work from the Obelisk Support
Seeing the work coming through the pipeline and clients
returning positive feedback on our lawyers’ work, some of whom never thought
they would earn again by doing legal work, fills me with great pride. And so it
is that I measure our success by the success of our lawyers.  Our success is best portrayed by the
individual stories of the lawyers we have placed.
The stories are many and underpin just why we have become
known as the legal business with a heart. Jane qualified at a top law firm,
where she practiced for 13 years, before taking a 10 year career break whilst
she started a family. After such a long break, re-entering the profession can
be daunting. However, through Obelisk, Jane is now working for a large bank.
She works remotely from home, for an average of 22.5 hours a week, all fitting
around her other commitments.
Annie, who has a younger family, was able to work around her
family commitments, working mostly from home and for around 5 hours a day. In Annie’s
own words, working with Obelisk has benefited her enormously ‘both personally and professionally’.
Karina moved to Chile, but was keen to stay in full-time work.
We secured her a full-time placement supporting a large telecommunications
company in Ireland, where she was able to work completely remotely from home.
We really do put the client and lawyer at the heart of our
legal solutions, and this is demonstrated by the unique way in which we
approach each client and consultant, taking into account the needs of both
parties and tailoring an efficient solution. My vision when I started Obelisk
Support was to enable women like Jane, Annie and Karina to do the work they
love, without having to make impossible compromises. That they have been able
to do so, whilst simultaneously delivering exemplary service to large
multinationals and law firms, should demonstrate to the legal profession that
flexibility can, and does, work.
Guest post by Dana Denis Smith, founder of Obelisk Support

Moving out of your return to work comfort zone

Last Saturday, I had my first experience of appearing on a live radio show, to talk about our work at Women Returners. Although I’m very comfortable with talking to all sorts of audiences about what we do and why we do it and have had a small amount of media training, it was still daunting to be appearing live on a public broadcast. But I did it – and enjoyed it!

This experience made me reflect how easy it is to stay in our comfort zones, generally, and specifically how remaining in our comfort zone can be a barrier to a finding a way back to work. There are many things we know we ‘should’ do which will help with our return (and this blog is full of ideas and advice) but if these things feel uncomfortable and difficult we make excuses and don’t do them.

Three zones not one
It is useful to think about three zones of experience. In your comfort zone, you feel safe and unchallenged and possibly slightly bored. In your stretch zone, you feel slightly unsafe and nervous and there is also some excitement at doing something a bit different. In your panic zone you feel out-of-your depth, scared and unhappy.

What might you be doing that keeps you in your return to work comfort zone?
– not calling a former colleague to arrange a coffee
– delaying putting your LinkedIn profile online
– filling your days with chores, volunteering and looking after others
– not putting yourself forward for a strategic volunteering opportunity
– not going to events or conferences in your area of interest

How can you move into your stretch zone but not your panic zone?

Sometimes we need something or someone to give us a push to do something that takes us out of our comfort zone and into our stretch zone. This was certainly true of the radio interview: I hadn’t actively sought the opportunity but when it came along I decided to go for it. As I reflected on the experience, there were quite a few things which helped me to make the move out of my comfort zone, without going into my panic zone, which will be useful to in your return to work activities:

  1. Small steps. This first interview was with a small local radio station, far from where I lived so I didn’t feel my reputation was at stake and nor was it a ‘make or break’ opportunity for the business.
  2. Mindset. I decided to treat the interview as an experiment and an opportunity to learn.  This mindset made it possible to be open to the experience and not judge myself too harshly on how I performed.
  3. Realistic expectations. Alongside my mindset, I chose to set my expectations at a reasonable level for me. I didn’t have to be perfectly fluent in the interview, I could be ‘good enough’. It was OK to make mistakes because I would learn from them for next time.
  4. Preparation. Even though I only managed to do this at the last minute, I spent the journey to the studio writing out bullet point answers to the questions I was expecting to be asked. Having thought through what I would say in advance and having my notes in front of me gave me focus and helped me to stay calm. I had also listened to the previous week’s programme so I had some idea of the format of the radio show and the style of the presenter.
  5. Enlist a buddy. Sharing the experience with Julianne made a big difference. I wasn’t alone and I had someone to give me a boost if I needed it.
  6. Celebrate success. By acknowledging that I had achieved what I set out to do, it reinforced the possibility that I could continue to stretch myself. It is great to know that I will never face my first radio interview again!
These six components are applicable to every return to work situation whether it is attending a networking event, calling a former contact or putting your self forward for a new role. What are you ready to do to move out of your job search comfort zone?

Posted by Katerina – Co-founder Women Returners

If you want to listen to the broadcast, click here

Routes back to law: Setting up in Private Practice

There are many routes back to work after a career break. Taking a more entrepreneurial route may allow you to create your own culture and flexible working practices. Katie Rainscourt, our guest blogger this week, offers the benefit of her experience of establishing her own family law firm. Her advice is equally relevant to other professionals thinking about setting up in private practice. And read to the end if you’d like a return to law mentor.

If you are or have been a
solicitor, are you using your legal skills to your best advantage?

I am managing partner of
Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors, a firm of solicitors based in Milton Keynes, working exclusively in family law.
I am delighted to be able to write a blog for Women Returners, and I do so
because I would like to bring to your attention the option of establishing your
own firm as an alternative option to joining an existing firm elsewhere.
Many skilled solicitors are
currently lost to the profession when they decide that they are unable to
return. One option that these individuals may not have considered is that of
establishing their own firm of solicitors, instead of returning to the traditional
firm environment, or choosing to opt out of the profession altogether. My firm
is a signatory to the Law Society diversity and inclusion charter, and I hope
that this blog may encourage returners to consider this alternative route, and lead
to greater inclusion within our profession.
Is this an option for you?
In terms of whether this is an
option for you, think about the area of law you practise or practised in. Do
you have skills that people will pay to access, and ask for advice from you, in
your area of expertise?
Your first step will be to sketch
out your business plan:
How familiar are you with the market in which you operate or
What is your product? What is
your brand? 
Where will you base your firm? 
What area of law is your expertise
focused in, and how can you best offer this to your clients? 
This will require
in-depth planning and research on your part. Think about your existing contacts or friends who may be able to help
you with your brainstorming.  These contacts
need not necessarily come from the legal world, but may come from a finance or business
background. Think of how best to promote
yourself and your skills, and what will be unique to you and your business.
There will be many decisions that
you need to make, but ultimately, you may end up with a product that you take a
great deal of pride in, and which will enable you to make best use of your legal
I would be delighted to act as a mentor
for a returner to law, or to speak to any of you who are interested in taking this
path, so please do get in touch with me via Julianne or Katerina at

Find your way back to work through Strategic Volunteering

Volunteering is a common activity among former professionals who are on a career break, whether or not they wish to return to work at some point. Charities, PTAs and local campaigns are always in need of additional support and committed people: for people on a career break they can provide the companionship and sense of purpose that they previously found in their career, as well as essential flexibility.

It is very easy to fill your time with voluntary roles and you can quickly feel very busy, productive and valued.  If you are thinking of returning to work at some stage, though, it is worth thinking about volunteering that can help you with your return either through developing your existing skills or acquiring new ones and, additionally, building your network. This is what we mean by strategic volunteering – work that does more than just make you feel that you are giving something back.

We have worked with many returners for whom strategic volunteering was their launch-pad back to work. In some cases this was a deliberate approach and in others, there was a more organic development by discovering a new interest or uncovering a previously hidden talent. You will find more details about some of these examples in our success stories.

These returners planned their volunteering deliberately as a route back to work:

Sue* was a volunteer Games Maker Selection interviewer for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. She’d previously had a career in HR and used the opportunity of our weekly shift to connect with the London 2012 HR team to find out about other permanent roles in the organisation. Three months into volunteering she was employed there.

Amy* a former City lawyer volunteered in the legal department of a national charity, advising on contractual matters which was her expertise. After some months she negotiated a move to the trusts and legacy team where she built the knowledge and expertise that enabled her to apply for employment in her target area of private client practice.

In our success stories you can read about Caroline Boyd who joined the Parent Gym as a volunteer trainer/facilitator following a 4 year break from a career in marketing. She loved this new type of work so much that after a year she successfully applied for a permanent training role with the Mind Gym, the commercial arm.

Lynda* a former radio producer used a series of volunteer roles as stepping stones to a new career, starting from the school PTA where she ran a portfolio of increasingly successful fundraising and social events for a number of years. Having regained her professional confidence she volunteered as the campaign manager for a London mayoral candidate, using her journalistic instincts to develop an effective PR campaign from a standing start. Armed with this experience and many new contacts, Lynda was employed by a new political party to manage its PR activity.

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

*names have been changed



We’ve previously discussed the variety and range of possible routes you can take back to work after a career break.  In this post we’re focusing on freelancing, with an introduction to what it is and how to do it.

What is freelancing?

The essence of freelancing is that you offer your skills to companies or individuals on a project-by-project basis.  As an independent contractor, rather than an employee, you can control where, when and how you work. Freelancing therefore gives you more flexibility than any part-time working request is likely to do and more freedom than owning your own business. It can be a perfect set-up for parents wanting to fit in work around school hours.

If this all sounds too good to be true, the downside is that there is much less security than in more structured employment: most freelancers have peaks and troughs in their work. You’ll also need to be self-motivated and comfortable with using your sales skills, particularly when you’re getting started and targeting your first clients. Once you have some client referrals and start to build a reputation you will find it much easier as word of mouth is likely to become a key source of business.

How do I get started?

Before you get started with looking for freelance work, there are some important questions to ask yourself about how and where you are going to work and what kind of work will you do.  If you don’t get these clear, you might find yourself taking on work that you don’t really want to do because of the content, hours or location, but you only discover this once you’ve started the project.  Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are the specific skills I want to offer my clients? What is my niche? Think of yourself as a brand: what are my Unique Selling Points?
  • What are my non-negotiable requirements on working hours and locations? How does my ideal working week look?
The key to success as a freelancer is to understand and believe in the skills and experience that you offer and your ability to provide value to your clients.

How do I find clients?
According to Lyndsey Miles, founder of Freelance Parents, there are 7 ways of gaining clients:
  • Approach your former boss or work colleagues (a very common way for returners to dip a toe in the water)
  • Referrals from your network
  • Freelance job sites
  • Low-cost advertising
  • Offering a free trial
  • Cold calling
  • Using social media as a marketing and networking tool
You might find some of these methods easier than others and they each have their benefits and drawbacks, but they do can work, as the stories on Lyndsey’s website show.
What if I don’t enjoy selling?

Another option for freelancers is tying in with one or more larger organisations who take on skilled and experienced professionals for freelance projects. This may be particularly appealing if business development is not your strong suit! Look for businesses in your sector which take on ‘consultants’ or ‘associates’. An increasing number of ‘virtual’ professional services businesses are resourced largely by independent freelancers, for example:
Strategy consulting: Eden McCallum
Law: Keystone Law, Obelisk Legal Support, Lawyers on Demand
Marketing: Stop Gap
Copyrighting/graphic design: Quill 

Freelancing can either be a long-term option, a stop-gap while your children are young or a way to ease back into work. I started out in my new career as a freelancer and was able to create a working life that fitted with my family and kept me stimulated and engaged.
Posted by Katerina

Routes back to work stories: Changing from Law to CSR

Last week we outlined some of the many routes back to work after a multi-year break. One option we encourage you to consider is creating your own ‘returnship’. Here is Stephanie’s story of how she used an internship to get back to work after 6 years and to begin a career change from her previous career as a lawyer into the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
This is one of the first of our return-to-work stories, which we will be featuring on
Stephanie: En
route to a new career

“Prior to taking a 6 year family break I had
worked as a City lawyer with a linear career path and clear promotion journey.
During my 6 years out of paid employment I realised that working was part of
me. I had never imagined not working before I had children and now was the time
to return. Both my children were at school and I had time to think about what I
wanted to do. Working that out was harder than I thought and it is still “work
in progress”. I had a clear picture of what I didn’t want to do and with the help
of Julianne Miles and the iRelaunch conference, understood my skillset and what I had
enjoyed in my previous career. This reflection time also brought out my strong interest in the links between the corporate and the not-for-profit sector.

An opportunity presented itself, thanks to
a good friend, to undertake a 3 month internship with a global organisation
whose head office was in London. My self-confidence and self-belief were both
low and just getting back to work and putting on work clothes again felt alien
but exciting.  I knew this was what I
wanted – to be working in a role that could accommodate me as the main carer of
our children. The internship led to 2 short-term contracts within the HR department.  My role was project based and internal facing
so accommodating a flexible working pattern was a little easier. Successfully
completing the projects I was given led to a permanent position, again within
HR. Due to the nature of the organisation, I have been given the chance to work
on a wide variety of projects and can now see a long term direction.  Part of my role is to manage the company’s
corporate and social responsibility agenda. I love it. It gives me the chance
to work with colleagues around the world and shape how the company interacts
with its stakeholders. Whilst I am not challenged academically, for now, this
role is perfect.
While I have a long-term dream to become a
CSR consultant for small to medium sized businesses looking to establish a CSR
programme for the first time, I have a lot to learn. The company I work for at
the moment is expanding rapidly and this gives me the chance to get involved in
many new projects touching different parts of the business.  I am not discounting that I might experience
another area of HR which I enjoy just as much as CSR. I am keeping an open
It’s easy to forget how many working years
you have left, even after a first career and then a family break, but not being
part of the pack forging their careers in their 30s means you have the luxury
of being able to take the meandering path to your long-term goal. This means
you are able to accept opportunities even if they don’t appear to take you straight
to the next step on the career ladder. This in itself can be empowering.

I am excited about where my journey will
end and whether it will be as an employee or a consultant.  Watch this space – it is all work in

Do you know of any other inspiring return-to-work stories we can feature on our website? 
Posted by Julianne

Ideas for routes back to work

In previous posts we’ve identified a selection of ways in which you can find your way back to work: returnships; networking and creative crafting of a role.  But these are just a fraction of the options that are available!

So, what other possibilities are there?  And has anyone actually found work like this?  Routes we’ve come across include:

Applying for advertised roles – although an obvious option, the places where roles are advertised might be less apparent, especially on the web (see our resources section for some ideas).  If you sign up to online recruitment agencies, be aware that you will be competing with thousands of others for attention, so be selective and don’t expect too much.  Most organisations now use their own websites as a recruitment vehicle and you can usually sign up for alerts that are issued when new roles are posted.  Many organisations use LinkedIn to search for people so make sure your profile is up-to-date and relevant to the kind of role you want.  You can also search on LinkedIn for the thousands of role which are advertised.

The following options can provide more flexibility and allow you to ease yourself gradually back to work if you are not ready for the bigger commitment of a permanent role (see thinking small for other examples).

Freelancing – Sarah* formerly a market research agency director became a freelance researcher for her previous employer as a first step to marketing herself as an extra resource to other agencies.  She became so successful at this that she soon created her own business taking on whole research projects which she designed and managed herself, drawing on additional freelance resource when she needs it.

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 and so having different associate relationships can provide necessary variety. Also, from a tax point of view, it means you won’t be classed by HMRC as an employee. I still do some work as an associate of the coaching organisation I joined when I first launched my own business.

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 and can open doors for you there.  Alternatively, you could discover that you enjoy working in this way and develop your own consultancy.

Interim roles – joining an organisation in a defined role for a defined time can be a great way to use your skills and experience without making a long-term commitment to returning to work. Opportunities arise as cover for maternity and long-term sickness and also when organisations are in transition and need someone on a temporary basis.  While there are established interim management agencies, you are likely to have more success finding these kinds of roles through networking.

Skilled or strategic volunteering – Amy*, a former city lawyer, chose to volunteer in the legal department of a major national charity as her route back to work.  She started out advising on contracts which was her expertise and after a while negotiated a move into the trusts and legacies team.  Here she was able to build up the right experience to apply for permanent paid roles as a private client lawyer in private practice, her ideal new role.

And finally, there is the option of starting your own business.  Sometimes this can develop from freelancing or project work and sometimes you have an idea for a product or service you want to develop.  A business can develop from a hobby, as it did for the woman who made my new curtains and for Helen* who now combines her PR and communication expertise and great interest in human stories with her business partner’s film-making skills to create personal and corporate videos.

On our success stories page you’ll see more examples of the different routes people find for getting back to work.  If you’ve returned to work, we’d love to hear your story too!

Posted by Katerina