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Conference 2024: Top Tips for your Return from our Returner Panellists

At this year’s Back to Your Future Conference, we heard from an inspiring panel of 5 returners who shared their stories and top tips for a successful return. Three of the 5 panellists had been in the Conference audience last year, providing a real motivational boost to those watching.

The panel was wonderfully facilitated by broadcaster Jane Garvey, and included:

Fifi Crowley, a Delivery Manager at publishing company DC Thomson. Fifi worked in Professional Services and Investment Banking for over 10 years. She took a 5 year career break to set up her own Art Gallery and start a family and returned to work in October 2023 via DC Thomson’s Returnship Programme. It was at the Conference last year that she realised she could use her skills and experience in a different sector and opportunities then opened up to her.

Dagma Cummings, an Operational Risk Analyst at Starling Bank. Dagma worked in Finance for over 20 years, but after her role was made redundant in 2012, she found it difficult to get a new job. After temporarily looking for alternative work, she ended up working 10 years in retail at Harrods. Alongside this, she set up a cake making business from home. Keen to return to her industry after 10 years out, she returned in April 2023 via Starling Bank’s Returnship Programme.

Victoria Grantham, a Senior Associate Solicitor at DAC Beachcroft LLP. Vicky returned to private practice in 2021 after a career break from law of 15 years to raise her young family. During this time, she also managed the finances and HR function of her husband’s small business, helping her to build commercial skills and stay intellectually stimulated. When she was ready to return, she spent a long time exploring different options before returning to law via DACB’s Reconnect Programme.

Subiya Muneer, a Solutions Developer at Deloitte Ireland LLP. After a 3 year career break due to her role being made redundant during Covid, Subiya struggled to return to work with a gap on her CV. Going through a divorce at the same time and with 2 young children to support, Subiya was keen to become financially independent. In 2023, she started the next chapter of her career when she joined Deloitte’s Returnship programme.

Iuliana Udangiu, a Business Optimisation Analyst at EDF Energy. After a 4 year career break for health reasons, Iuliana participated in our Bursary ‘Return to work’ Programme, and then successfully went on to secure a returnship with EDF in September 2023. Prior to this, her work experience included Finance, Project, Change and Asset Management within the Hospitality, Fashion and Tourism sectors. During her career break, she upskilled, continued her voluntary work and diligently worked to recover her health.

Here’s some of their valuable advice, together with some thoughts from our coaching team:

  • ‘Network religiously when you’re looking to return to work’. Expand your circle of contacts to maximise your exposure to different ideas and opportunities.
  • ‘Put yourself in different environments to work out what works’. Explore different roles, sectors, cultures and work places to test what’s right and aligns well with your values and interests now.
  • ‘Attend forums that inspire, to meet like minded people and hear new ideas’. Build peer support and learn from others as to how they’ve navigated their route back to work.
  • ‘Research free bootcamps that can help upskill you’. There are so many free courses available online – check out our resource signposts here.
  • ‘Explore returner opportunities – they open the door to a supported route back’. Returner Employers are specifically looking for those with a gap on their CV and will value transferable skills gained during your career break.
  • ‘Accept you may have to compromise at the start if you’ve been on a long career break’… but it won’t take long to get back to where you were and progress beyond.
  • ‘If you’ve taken a break for health reasons, be honest as to what might impact your prospective employer’, so that they can make any necessary adjustments.
  • ‘If your new role involves working from home, set up a proper office and have boundaries’. Wake up and get ready as if you were going to the office so you’re in the right frame of mind.
  • ‘If you’re working remotely, take time to visit your teams in person so you feel connected.’ Taking the time to do this in the early weeks will help you build relationships from the start and will help you to feel connected.
  • ‘Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable’. It will take time to get comfortable in your new role so pace yourself and take one day at a time.
  • ‘Have self-belief – if you believe you can do it, that’s half the battle!’ A positive mindset helps you weather the knocks and keeps you moving forwards towards your goal of returning to a fulfilling career.