Advice for Returner Candidates

In the final of our series of posts about our Return with Resilience programme we wanted to share some of our learning and tips for returning to work after a career break.

Depending on the reasons for your break and the length of time you have been out of the workforce it can be a daunting time, so we hope these tips are helpful:

  • Be Clear

Spend some time thinking about what you are trying to achieve.  Do you want a similar role to the one you left?  Something different? A different sector? Full time, part time, working from home?  What skills do you want to use?

  • Be Flexible

Once you have created an outline of what you are looking for, think about how flexible you can be in order to keep as many options open as possible.  For example, if you want to work part-time what flexibility can you offer regarding the particular hours you work?

  • Identify your Skills

It is important to know what transferable skills you have and to be able to “sell” them to a potential employer.  Think about the skills you used in previous roles, the strengths that you naturally have and any new skills you have gained during your career break.  Make sure these are clear and evidenced on your CV.

  • Spend your time wisely

Many returners fall into the trap of focusing their job search entirely on job boards when in reality many jobs are never advertised and are filled through direct connections and networking.  Think about how you will connect with others and be visible.  Creating a strong LinkedIn profile and being an active, regular participant are key.

  • Do your research

Which companies are you interested in?  What sectors are booming?  What companies are in the news and are therefore likely to be recruiting?  Which companies offer in-house returner programmes?

  • Get support

It’s ok to ask for help.  Think about the support networks you have around you and how they can help you e.g., by sharing your details on LinkedIn to reach a wider audience, or by practicing interview answers with you or reading over your CV. 

Finally, be open minded, returning after a break is a great opportunity to get involved with something new and exciting!  Good luck!

Return with Resilience Candidate feedback

We were delighted with the response to our recent Scottish Government funded women returner’s programme. Two examples of the impact by Ange Kerr and Sharon Le Ruez are shared in the videos below.

Learning from Return with Resilience

The People Portfolio recently collaborated with HRC Recruitment and Mind & Mission Ltd to deliver a Scottish Government funded Women Returner’s programme. The overall aim of the Government’s funding was to address gender inequality in the workplace and build on their commitment to reducing the gender pay gap.

Our project, called Return with Resilience, focused on women over 50 (or those transitioning through the menopause) who had had a career break of at least 6 months and were now looking to return to work.

This is a group in particular need of support.

A recent article by The Centre for Better Aging states, “It is clear barriers to employment for older workers were an issue before the pandemic but have been exacerbated by the economic fallout of COVID-19. Before the pandemic there were already around 824,000 people age 50-64 in the UK who were not working but would like to be. This number is rising and will continue to unless action is taken to protect older workers. Over 50s need targeted, individualised back-to-work support to ensure they don’t face an uncertain financial future.”  

We designed a supportive, interactive programme which combined group employability workshops with individual mental fitness coaching which supported two groups of 6 women in February and March.

Attracting participants to take part was a surprising initial key challenge in delivering the project.  Although we knew the programme had great content and skilled facilitators, as well as being free for the participants, we had to work hard to promote it and attract relevant delegates. 

We learned that many of these women were not active on the usual recruitment channels – i.e. job boards, LinkedIn etc., – so we had to use a range of social media channels to reach them. We also had a one-to-one call with each of them to answer any questions and build trust before having a launch call where wider introductions were made, and technical issues dealt with in a safe space. 

As we began to talk to the women, we learned that another challenge in recruiting delegates had been due to a deep-rooted lack of confidence.  Many talked about needing to really dig deep in order to take the initial leap and apply, trusting us with their journey. 

The length of the career break can often impact this and those with longer career breaks can feel so far removed from the workplace that they just don’t know if they will ever fit back into the world of work, let alone knowing where to start. 

The feedback received from the participants was overwhelmingly positive and demonstrated how very much needed support like this is –

  • “With an undeniably long career break, the programme helped me identify key skills and more importantly, transferrable skills and I have updated my CV accordingly.”
  • “Attending the workshop has given me a fresh perspective on my Job searches, I’m much more proactive now and actively seeking roles in areas that interest me.”
  • “Participating in this group gave me confidence I could hold my own space back in business.”                                                                                                                              
  • “This course has been highly beneficial to me as have been away from Financial Services for 5 years. It made me realise that I still have a lot to offer to an employer in terms of skills and experience despite being nearly 60! In fact, it did what it said on the tin as I now have a job and am so looking forward to it.”

Many of the women we worked with had caring responsibilities too, from children to parents and partners.  They had become used to putting others before themselves, and the pandemic exacerbated this. The majority of the women we worked with are now looking for either part time work or some flexibility as they go back to work. 

So, if employers want to attract this demographic of applicant, something other than the traditional 9 – 5 working pattern may be what’s needed, flexibility is key. A possible unplanned benefit of the COVID pandemic is that there are currently many more conversations happening about flexible and hybrid working as people return to the workplace. 

We very much hope that this can benefit career break returners and will encourage more companies to support this demographic.

Return with Resilience

Return with Resilience

I was first introduced to the idea of returner programmes a few years ago, when I was working inhouse as a Head of Resourcing.  I met a wide range of people who had taken career breaks, from anything between a year and 15 years+, for a multitude of reason e.g. raising a family, caring responsibilities, international travel, extended break following redundancy.  They were all struggling to get back into the workplace. 

I have since designed, project managed and facilitated several similar programmes in this field for both men and women and my biggest takeaway with every group I have supported has been what a highly skilled, resourceful and motivated group they were.  The main challenges and personal obstacles they faced were a loss of confidence and not knowing how to successfully present themselves to the market.  However once they were provided with  support and guidance in these areas, they went on to become very hardworking, successful and engaged/loyal employees. 

I am therefore thrilled that The People Portfolio is collaborating with HRC Recruitment and Mind and Mission to deliver a new returner programme, funded by the Scottish Government.  Called Return with Resilience it is specifically aimed at women from financial services or engineering backgrounds who are over 50 and/or transitioning through the menopause.  This group can often find that they face disadvantage or discrimination during this phase of their career.  The overall objective of the government’s women returners fund is to reduce the gender pay gap.  More details on the strategic aims can be found here; https://www.gov.scot/news/helping-women-return-to-work/

We will provide employability support such as CV writing, Interview and Job Search skills and delegates will also receive mental fitness coaching, from Mind and Mission, to support their confidence and resilience as they re-enter the workplace.

Return with Resilience applications are open and can be made at  https://jobs.hrcrecruitment.co.uk/job/scottish-returner-programme-return-with-resilience-7114.aspx for financial services applicants and https://jobs.hrcrecruitment.co.uk/job/scottish-returner-programme-return-with-resilience-7115.aspx for engineering applicants.

We will be posting programme updates on this blog and also on our LinkedIn page, so follow us there for the latest news.  https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-people-portfolio


Black Women in Technology

Generating Genius has been working for 15 years to ensure that talented and able students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are positioned to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematical STEM careers. 

Despite a record number of women now working in IT, new research undertaken by BCS, The Charted Institute of IT, shows that at just 0.7%, black women are still heavily under-represented in the sector.   

The People Portfolio is delighted to be supporting Generating Genius to promote their ‘Black Women into Tech’ (BWIT) programme, focussed on further closing the diversity gap. 

The programme will formally launch in January, providing participants with insight, practical knowledge and work experience with employer partners inc. HSBC, Rightmove, MAN Group, PDT Partners, and IRI Big Data and Analytics. 

Women who meet all of the following criteria should apply: 

  • Black women from African/Caribbean descent 
  • Undergraduates in any year of study, or first-year post graduate 
  • STEM students e.g. Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics or Engineering  
    OR 
    Any subject and can provide a demonstrable passion for technology e.g. has completing a coding course 
  • Women aspiring to a career in technology 

We encourage those interested to submit an application now , as places are limited. 

If you have any questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with either morna@thepeopleportfolio.co.uk or helen@thepeopleportfolio.co.uk 

Why work with a Career Coach when changing roles?

You’ve never needed to work with one before.

There’s lots of free resources online e.g. CV templates, interview tips etc., so you could use them instead, right?

Well yes, that may be true, but the market is currently swamped with candidates, in all but a very small number of sectors.  So, it’s important that your application is as strong as it possibly can be.  You need to ensure you can stand out from the crowd at every stage.

Think of the example of a personal trainer in a gym – do you need one?  Maybe, maybe not. I guess it depends how important your improvement in fitness is to you.  You could just go for a run, you could go to the gym and just use the equipment by yourself, but if you want to be focused on meeting clear objectives and working steadily towards them, expert support makes a huge difference.

Or the example of a slimming club.  Lots of people diet quite regularly, but if you have a big event coming up e.g. a wedding, you might decide that the focus, accountability, recipes etc., provided by joining a slimming club will help to shift those last few pounds and keep you focused on the end goal.

In the same way that you might decide to invest in yourself with a personal trainer or slimming club, a career coach provides the expertise, support, encouragement and accountability that will make all the difference in your career search.

So, what will my coach do?

Through a series of personally tailored video calls and materials they will help you:

  • Navigate through this period of change – they are someone to talk to about how you are feeling about your career transition
  • Rebuild your confidence, if it has taken a knock
  • Review career options – they help you uncover options that you had not thought about
  • Uncover and talk confidently and succinctly about your skills and achievements
  • Develop your personal brand – through writing a great CV, supporting with the creation of a video cv to help you stand out from the crowd, polish up your LinkedIn profile and advising on how to be more visible on LinkedIn
  • Adopt the best job search strategies and advise you on how to carry them out
  • Understand interview types and techniques and how to confidently prepare for them
  • Transition into your new role

Working with a Career Coach can ultimately give you the tools and confidence to shorten the time it takes to make that change in your career.