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Jaspreet Dhawan-Randell returned to work at the start of the year after a career break and with the support of a returner programme run by her current employer Fidelity International, an investment management services company.
Jaspreet, a mum of two, had had a career break of one and a half years. Before that she had been working as a systems analyst at UBS. She says she took a conscious decision to spend time at home with her family. Her son was about to start school and she wanted to help him settle in.
Jaspreet, who lives in the City of London, says she was worried when she took her break that it would be challenging to get back to work and that starting a new job with children would be difficult. “When you come back from maternity leave to a job people know you and how well you can work. If you start a new job and you need emergency childcare it is hard because you do not want anything to reflect badly on you,” she says.
She started looking on Workingmums.co.uk to find a flexible job to return to. In September when her son started school she saw the returner job posted by Fidelity International.
With a supported role, she says, issues such as childcare and work life balance are things which are already apparent and understood and not something you have to worry about. “That was one of the biggest appeals to me. It was a great comfort,” says Jaspreet.
Keeping in touch
During her career break she had kept her hand in by taking a few IT courses and had extended her childcare hours to do so. “I felt it was important to keep in touch and I think that really helped me get the position as that knowledge was relatively fresh in my mind and I could review my notes before the assessment day,” she says.
There were around 15 women on the assessment days. Some had had career breaks of up to 13 years. “It was very diverse and we got to know each other. It was very open and comforting to be with other women who were in a similar situation,” says Jaspreet. “Everyone had some concerns.”
The women started a whatsapp group to let each other know about job opportunities and provide support and advice as well as to share experiences.
Jaspreet is one of three women who got a job at Fidelity International after the assessment day and they still meet regularly for lunch. The format of the day was key to its success, she states. It began with an introduction and a coaching session from Women Returners which helped the women prepare for interviews, covering issues such as how to tell interviewers about their previous experience, and get in some practice beforehand.
“That helped a lot with building confidence,” she says. At lunch there was a networking session with people who had made the return to work and other workers at Fidelity International. “They had been in the same situation and understood what we were feeling,” said Jaspreet. Two interviews followed. “It was a packed day, but I felt that even if I hadn’t have got the placement I would have learnt something useful.”
She was successful, though, and started her job as a technical consultant in January, giving her time to arrange childcare and prepare herself properly for the transition back to work. The coaching with Women Returners continued once a month, with coaching sessions focusing on issues like building a professional network and work life balance. There was also support in the form of meetings with senior managers in technology and business and Jaspreet has a mentor.
Since returning she has been able to adjust her hours so she can pick up her children in the early evening. She works five days a week, with her main office base in Kent. However, she can work regularly from the nearer London office and from home on an ad hoc basis.
Jaspreet says the programme and others like it are invaluable. “Before you go back to work, especially in financial services, people may be concerned about whether they can manage work and home life. These programmes make it easier for women to approach companies,” she says. “There is a definite need for them. I know a lot of women who think they can’t manage when they have children. These programmes say you can have the same career as before you had children. There is an open dialogue. Slowly, I think we are seeing a change in attitudes.”