One minute your career is tracking nicely, you are learning more, going up the ranks and hopefully your pay is following a similar trajectory. And then you have kids and one way and the ‘work path’ has a bend or a cross roads in it. No big deal, but what happens when that ‘year or so’ off turns into something longer? And then how about if in time decide you want to go back to  your career – what do you do then? That’s exactly what Deb Khan  specialises in: helping guide women through this process and get them back in the work place.

  • We wrote our book because we knew there was so much untapped potential out there – women who wanted and needed to go back to work or step up after a break post slowing down. And it appeared not many people were telling them how to do that – what tactics, tips and tools they needed to do that. So wrote a practical guide full of tips and stories of real people who had managed to do it.  To try to help. Here goes:

  • You’re not alone. It’s increasingly common to step away from work. Sometimes it’s voluntary, often it’s not. Men and women both have caring responsibilities or take time out for so many reasons. They manage to get back in the saddle. You can too.

  • Before you do anything – pause. Take a step back and work out what’s happening in your head. What are the stories you are telling yourself about work – what you want, what are your real ambitions, what are your barriers from achieving them, what limitations are you placing on yourself?

  • Test those assumptions. Ask a friend to help you work out if they are true. If it is – for example – the family won’t cope without me – why do you think that? What are the alternatives?

  • A great coach can be critical in helping you understand your ambitions and helping you work out what work means to you, where you want to be and how you will get there

  • Have a plan.

  • You may be overwhelmed, exhausted, emotional or just turned off completely at the thought of actively looking for work. But having small children is a temporary condition. They grow.  Life is long and messy. What’s your plan for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years?

  • Get your home life in order. It’s not just about you. Going back will affect everyone in the family, and they’ll need to do more.

  • Delegate, organise and schedule – be clear about who needs to do what and when. Not just the cooking but the being in for the plumber, the washing, the first point of call for school if you’re unable to answer the phone.

  • If someone offers you a job on Monday, will you be able to say yes? Why not? They really don’t want to hear about your completed childcare / dog walking / caring arrangements. They have enough of their own.

  • The jobs market, like most markets, is competitive.employers are competing for the best talent and people are competing for the best jobs. As in any market, to win, you need to play to your strengths, you need to have a strategy and you need to deploy some tactics that will help you succeed.

  • If you want to change direction, be realistic.

  • Think about how your next position could be a step on the way to your ideal job. If you’ve been an accountant, say, then a move into branding with a charity is going to be a stretch. Your first move might need to be into finance in the charitable sector.

  • Recruiters don’t enjoy dealing with CVs that have career breaks or people who need a bit of flexibility. That’s probably you.

  • Our research showed that women returning after a career break are five times more likely to find work through a contact than through a recruiter. Use your contacts.

  • Engage that network and make it work for you. All this people you studied with or ever worked with, people you know. They are your secret weapon

  • Don’t be shy about asking for help – most people will be flattered. Ask if you can buy someone a cup of tea for 15 mins to seek their advice about work.

  • All those cups of tea will give you a reason to get out there, smarten up and learn more about what people are doing.

  • Figure out who is hiring people for the sort of role you want.

  • Maximise your social networks. Make friends with LinkedIn: it’s where all the jobs are. Follow the people who are hiring – it might feel like stalking, but it’s not.

  • Get your profile updated and ask ex-colleagues for recommendations. On Facebook, look for groups where you know people will be posting the sort of opportunities you’re looking for; follow the organisations that are hiring people like you. Same with Twitter.

  • Dedicate at least an hour a day to this. And double-check all your online profiles.

  • Follow them. Use Linkedin to spot connections and ask people make introductions.

  • Work on your profile, your story and your brand.

  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder put it best :“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”

  • You’re a mum? Join the club. Over 80% of women of working age have children. This does not differentiate you.

  • You need a short, punchy line that tells the world about you, your unique value and why someone should hire you. It needs to be  memorable enough for someone else to use it to help connect you with people who could help you get a meeting, an opening and ultimately a job.

  • Invest in yourself.

  • Consider retraining using online courses. Identify where your skill gaps are.

  • Mothers want flexibility but there’s not a lot on offer. The flexible-working site Timewise found that fewer than one in 10 quality jobs (ie paying over £20k a year) is advertised as flexible.

  • Don’t apply only for those jobs.

  • Don’t start with I’m a mum of two looking for part time work. How will that help anyone? Practice saying what you CAN do, what skills and years of experience you have.

  • Be able to say, simply, what value you could add, what problems you could solve. Employers have problems, you can solve them.

  • Remember you have acquired skills that will make a real difference – resilience, adaptability, drive, emotional intelligence, empathy, understanding, dealing with uncertainty and the list goes on.

  • Focus on what you have to offer. If you’re confident you can deliver the job in a way that suits you and the employer, be prepared to negotiate.

  • Where when and how you do that is a whole different conversation.

  • Most companies use an Applicant Tracking System – your CV will be screened automatically before it reaches a human.

  • A professional CV that is crisp, relevant, and is formatted correctly will have a far greater chance of cutting through

  • Translate your digital skills into business assets.

  • All that scrolling you do every day, those multiple channels you’re handling at any one time, the searching, sharing, tagging, liking has given you an absolute, up to date, on the money skill set.

  • A combination of this self taught knowledge topped up with some readily available, often free, training will accelerate your employability. Digital Mums and Tech City are two excellent examples of training providers.

  • According to Tech City UK the digital economy is growing 50% faster than the rest of the economy accounting for 1.64 million jobs in the UK.

  • So…every business is a digital business and needs digital skills. Women are FANTASTIC at communication, sharing, supporting, trend spotting and collaborating. Everything we read says that these are EXACTLY the skills that modern organisations are looking for.

  • The Huffington Post say 85 % of jobs in 2030 haven’t been created yet. So get ready for a lifetime of retraining, learning and staying nimble and open to change

  • Go into any conversation wanting to learn – in other words –   knowing more than you went in with.

  • When you’re in front of people – engage and show your enthusiasm. A positive presence is an asset; someone everyone wants to work with. People buy people.

  • Remember be professional. We know how hard it can be to even get to a meeting on time some days. Trust us, as mums with busy lives we know how tough it can be

  • But – don’t talk too much about personal stuff – don’t waste time in the meeting telling people you’ve had a bad day with the traffic/tube/dog walking / washing machine going kaputt

  • If you have an offer – brilliant.

  • Know your value. Do your homework on the rates for this work and how it is measured.

  • Women don’t negotiate enough. We’d much rather be seen as nice than being tough.  

  • Baroness Karren Brady was recently interviewed about the gender pay gap on Loose Women. Her view:

  • “..women have this fear factor, where they don’t have the confidence to ask .. they are sort of grateful for the job and don’t want to rock the boat. We need to get more women rocking the boat.”

  • Whoever you work for you need to hustle. In corporate life promotion, the right projects and pay rises don’t come in boxes.

  • So staying back and moving upwards and onward will need some grit and skills.

  • Rejection – it’s horrible but inevitable in the jobs market. Have a plan and track your progress so  you don’t let emotions throw you. Set targets of a specific number of CVs to send out each week. Minimum. And follow them up with calls.

  • Behave like you are a recruiter, working for yourself. It’s a job getting a job.

  • Read read read. About work, trends, the world of work. There are so many resources in our book – podcasts, Audible links, blogs, papers and good old hard copy books. We have found all of them invaluable

  • You’ve got this, because listen up – no one cares about your career as much as you do.** Our book She’s Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work has lots more detail on the steps you can take to position yourself to win. And at £9.99 with 37 5 star reviews, it could be the best investment you make in your future.**

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