Laura Weston has gone from a five-year career break from marketing to running the programme that helped her back to work.
Laura had been out of full-time work for over five years when she took part in the programme. She had decided to take a career break having her second child because she couldn’t find anything flexible and at the right level following years of running digital content teams for large companies, including The Sun.
Although she had done some freelance work from home in the early days, she had lost confidence. “It’s funny how quickly you lose confidence doing the school run every day,” she says.
When her youngest child was about to enter Year 1 she made a definite decision to look for work. She saw the Back2Businessship programme founded by SMG and f1 recruitment ltd and conducted in partnership with Golin, and decided to apply. “It was what I needed. I got new skills, got a better understanding of the recruitment sector and built up my confidence,” she says, adding: “Self belief is the biggest hurdle, finding out that you are still relevant.”
She said the stories from other returnees were “inspirational” and made her feel she could follow in their footsteps. There was also practical help, for instance, with identifying an action plan and learning how to use LinkedIn in recruitment, how to pitch yourself to employers and how to negotiate flexible working.
“It is so daunting from the outside,” says Laura. “A few weeks after you are back you wonder why you were so concerned.”
After the programme, which has been running for over three years, Laura was selected to do a three-month placement with communications firm Golin. “It was a placement with clear objectives rather than an internship,” she says. Around a quarter of those on the course are taken on placements.
Laura is now marketing director for Golin, back to a similar level to where she was before her career break, although in a different role.
Part of that role involves organising the back2businessship programme. She has also spoken on the programme about her own experiences and believes returners need to be more confident about what they have to offer. “It is important for returners to see the positives that they bring to employers rather than thinking of themselves as at a disadvantage,” she says.
Around 25 people went on the programme last year. Laura says the number is kept around the same because it is an intensive, intimate programme where each person is given a recruitment adviser to help them with their job search. However, the team are planning other events for returners to raise awareness and confidence and also to tackle what Laura calls the “flexible bottleneck” – meaning those who are trapped in flexible jobs below their skills set.
The support for those who go on the back2businessship programme is ongoing. A LinkedIn group is set up for participants so they can stay in touch and support each other in their job search.
Laura says employers are becoming much more aware of the benefits of returner initiatives. “They have moved from intent to action. They want to act,” she says.
She says working on the programme after having been a participant is very rewarding. “I’m happy to give any support I can,” she says.