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Advice from Successful Returners to Work

Did you miss our Women Returners ‘Back to Your Future’ Virtual Conference? For those of you who couldn’t join us, our next few blogs will talk about the takeouts from this fantastic event.

We were delighted to present two Returner Panel sessions this year. The first one was chaired by Jane Garvey from BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and our second one was chaired by Trish Halpin, Co-host of Postcards from Midlife, ex-editor of Marie Claire and award-winning journalist.

Eight women who have successfully returned to work after a multi-year career break spoke about their experiences. Reasons for their career break varied including caring for small children, health reasons, adopting children and running a family business. Five of our panellists had returned to work via a returnship, one via a supported hiring role, one via their own networks and one created their own returnship path with the NHS. Click here to read our returner panellists bios.

Here are some of the highlights from their comments, including the panel’s advice for other women wanting to get back to work.

How they feel about being back at work now:

“I’m absolutely loving it. Bringing back my self-identity as a doctor has positively affected all part of my life, especially my confidence.”

“The role I’m in now is a perfect job for me, I have an absolutely great team and I love what I do.”

“The people around me create such a great team. It’s a positive place to be and I’m doing a job that is valuable to society.”

“Work has become my time and that is what I was missing whilst I was on my career break. I missed the mental challenge and being at work has provided me with mental stimulation, a great support network of other returners and I’m doing it for me.”

On imposter syndrome and lack of confidence:

“My confidence was rock bottom after looking for a job for 6 years and being unsuccessful but attending the Women Returners Event was the best decision I ever made. I had the niggling voice of am I too old? Has my career break been too long? I’m so glad that I forced myself to go along otherwise I wouldn’t be here now.”

“Everyone has it to some extend but it’s important to focus on what you do bring and not what you don’t have. Knowing my strengths and what I was good it (and believing in them) helped me come across more confidently.”

“We focus too much on the gap and we need to stop that. We are the sum total of all the experience we have in and out of work.  That’s the value that employers are looking for and life diversity that we bring to work. Keeping this in mind definitely made me feel more confident.”

On the journey back to work:

“I attended the Women Returners Conference twice, the first time I wasn’t quite ready to return and the second time I really focused on the coaching advice and took away a lot of helpful information that spurred me on. I realised I was procrastinating looking for the perfect life until someone told me not to make my return to work a life project. I applied for a job along with 400 other candidates and I got it.”

“I got some volunteering experience vaguely in the area I wanted to return to. This really helped build my confidence and crystalised what I was looking for in a job.”

“I had received many rejections from recruitment agencies, but my determination forced me to keep going. I then only applied to jobs that I really wanted, that I knew I could do with some stretch and that I was interested in. When I saw my job advertised, I really wanted it and that came through in my application.”

“I did a course in Innovation and found that my brain still functioned, I loved meeting new people, I was engaged and that helped me get my confidence back.”

“I tapped into my network and created a new one at the school gates.  That led to a career coach which then led me to my job. It’s important to use your network when returning to work.”

On their first week back:

“My first day was with my Returners Cohort and it was a great way to establish a network of people and having friendly faces in the office helped me feel more supported.”

“My employer created a 3-month onboarding programme which was really helpful for building my skills and knowledge. I also received coaching from Women Returners for the first 6 months which was invaluable.”

“Technology was my biggest challenge and I was fearful of looking incompetent. However, I quickly picked up the skills I needed.”

“I felt really supported from day one. Meeting other returners made me feel comfortable that I wasn’t alone, we take care of each other and support each other a lot.”

On balancing work and home life:

“You can’t do everything so having a support network around you helps a lot.”

“Being good is good enough, we can’t be perfect. As long as everyone is happy and healthy that is enough for me.”

“Flexibility on my return was key, my employer was supportive of that and I work from home 4 days a week allowing me to the school drop-off and pick-ups.”

For more inspiration from returners who have returned, read our Success Stories here.