The Value Returners Bring and Top Tips for Success – Advice from Employers

An impressive group of programme managers and business leaders met on our Employer Panel at the 2022 Women Returners Back to Your Future Conference. They delivered an optimistic take on how the post-pandemic world has shifted very much in favour of returners, discussing the value returners bring as well as sharing tips on how to succeed at interview and back at work.

Claire Cohen, author and journalist, hosted our panel of Tiziana Casaula, J.P. Morgan; Dane Lloyd Dwyer, Amazon Lockers; Sarah Mavius, FDM Group; Brian Stanislas MBE, Civil Service HR (Cabinet Office); and Alexander Trusty, Moody’s Corporation.  Here’s a summary of what they shared:

Value Returners Bring

  • “Returner programmes are greatly valued as returners show huge commitment, grit, and willingness to contribute”
  • “Returners bring a bias for action and energy.” They’re ready to prove what they can do and eager to climb a steep learning curve
  • “We see lots of ownership from returners, they come with a diverse experience and their break helps them to understand cultural nuances and have more empathy”
  • They have a “drive to add value quickly” – this helps them to learn and be curious and enables them to move fast
  • Once they’ve made the decision to return, “returners are very proactive and want to prove to themselves and their employer that they can do it”
  • “Attracting senior female talent to our returner programmes helps us to reduce the gender pay gap and achieve gender parity in terms of leadership.”
  • “In the current war for talent, these programmes help us to find the right people!”

What employers are looking for?

  • Your previous experience fits the role you’re going for
  • That you “embrace the values and culture of our organisation”
  • “At interview we want to see your commitment and enthusiasm to return to work.” Employers are looking for reassurance that you are able to tackle your work as well as your other responsibilities.
  • They want to hear that you’re “managing all your stakeholders in terms of expectation setting” as you return to work including your family!
  • “Be transparent about what you need – openness and communication at the beginning are so important.” If you need flexibility, be open about it so employers can see how they can meet your needs. When this is done well, returners move fast and climb the curve more quickly than expected
  • “If you’re changing careers, outline your transferable skills e.g. stakeholder management, project management, communication skills, and align them to the role you’re going for”
  • They value your many years of experience, especially those of older employees. “Age is not a barrier to returning to work – your experience raises the whole team and is very valuable for more junior members of the team.”

We were left with a tangible sense of optimism that more and more employers not just welcome returners but are eagerly seeking out the experience, energy, and value that they bring to the workplace.

To hear the experiences and inspiring stories of returning women, listen and subscribe to our Career Returners Podcast, out fortnightly on Wednesdays.

How to Succeed as a Returner Candidate – Top Tips from Employers

Four leading Returner Programme Managers, on an Employer Panel at our 2021 Women Returners ‘Back to Your Future’ Conference, provided a wide range of practical advice on how to succeed as a returner candidate, ably facilitated by Melissa Janvier, a Bank of England returner.

Here’s a summary of top tips from our panel: Helena Fernandes from Credit Suisse, Brett Hemmerling from Moody’s, Tace Heuston from J.P. Morgan and Sarah Mavius from FDM Group.

What stands out in a returner application

  • We want to understand your motivations – what’s driving you to return
  • We’re interested in what you’ve done previously in your professional career – your strengths and skillset
  • It’s important to own your career break – we want to see you’ve had one and the transferable skills you gained during it
  • Clarity on what you’re looking to do next and how that aligns with your professional experience and transferable skills – that helps us to think about what would be a good fit
  • Focus and minimal irrelevant detail
  • If you’re interested in more than one role with us, it’s fine to apply for several, provided the opportunities align with your skillset – don’t just apply for all

At Interview

  • It’s natural to be nervous. It’s ok!
  • We’re aware you’ve not had an interview for a while. Often the interview may be more conversational and viewed as an opportunity to get to know you and understand your skills. We’re not expecting you to know all the up to date terminology.
  • Understand what skills and strengths you bring and be able to articulate them clearly
  • Practice to build confidence. Write a list of the types of questions you might get and prep your answers. Practice saying them out loud in front of a mirror, so that your answers become more fluid and you can check your body language is positive.
  • Think about who can provide a reference – if your career break is 5 years+, get creative. If you’ve been volunteering or working on a small scale during your career break, consider who you could ask there that can attest to your skills and strengths

What do the best returners do that make them stand out on a returner programme?

  • They embrace all the resources and opportunities given to them, and leverage them to ensure they’re making connections and learning about the culture and company – this reflects their motivations and commitment to us
  • They’re proactive and engaged
  • They’re contributors – they want to share their experience and they get involved at many levels
  • They’re team players
  • They ask questions and ask for help when they need it

Final top tips

  • Network and explore as much as possible so you can identify where to focus your energy
  • Have confidence in your skills and experience, gained in your previous roles and on your career break.
  • Be open and positive
  • Believe in yourself!

For more info about our current Returner Opportunities, click here