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Sally Shaw is Business Support Lead, Corporate Audit at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She spoke to Workingmums.co.uk about how her decision to take part in BAML’s third Returning Talent programme earlier this year helped her get a senior job in the financial sector after she had taken a career break from her job as senior internal auditor at JP Morgan Chase in 2001. The programme aims to help bridge the gap between being a stay-at-home parent or carer and re-entering the workplace. People who have been out of work for a year or more are invited to apply for one of the 20 available places via the firm’s careers website. Applications for the 2015 programme, which begins with a conference on 20 January, are open until 9 January. Click here for further details.
Workingmums: Why did you apply to the programme?
Sally: I was very keen to investigate returning to work after a 13-year break. I was curious to see how the work environment had changed in general, and to find out what Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in particular, was doing to accommodate the needs of working mums.
WM: What had you been doing before?
Sally: I had a background in Internal Audit within Investment Banking, and took a career break when my son was born. A family move to Chicago, where my visa did not permit me to work, resulted in my break being far longer than I’d expected.
WM: What did you hope to get out of it?
Sally: I was looking for some reassurance that returning to work was the right decision for my family and me, and for some advice as to how to present my 13-year career gap without this appearing potentially negative to prospective employers. Additionally, it was important for me to learn how to reconnect with the working environment and to know how to sell the skills I already possessed through my previous work experience.
WM: Did it meet your expectations?
Sally: It exceeded my expectations! The speakers at the one-day conference were inspiring. I was selected to attend a two-day follow-up workshop which covered everything from an analysis of my personality type to developing career resilience. It also incorporated invaluable advice from a Bank of America Merrill Lynch recruiter, which included tips on how to articulate strengths and skills in an interview, and how to sharpen my CV, plus key ways to deliver an elevator pitch.
WM: What was the most useful part of the programme for you?
Sally: I really valued the opportunity to identify my core values through psychometric testing, the results of which aligned my personality with appropriate job roles. These findings helped me realise that a Chief Operating Officer type role would tie in well with my personality and how I like to work.
WM: Were there any aspects you found particularly challenging?
Sally: Walking into a room full of strangers on the first day of the programme was pretty challenging. I took a deep breath and introduced myself, recognising that everyone was in the same boat. It wasn’t long before the noise levels rose dramatically as everyone got talking and realised we all shared a common-ground.
WM: Do you stay in touch with others who took part?
Sally: I meet up regularly with another Returning Talent attendee who also works at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Additionally, there is a LinkedIn group which connects us and Bank of America Merrill Lynch also recently held a 2014 alumni lunch – where it was great to hear that so many others had also been successful in finding new roles as a result of the programme.
WM: What are you doing now work-wise?
Sally: I am very pleased to say that after completing the programme, I now work as part of the EMEA Chief Operating Officer team in Corporate Audit for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London.
WM: Would you recommend the programme to others?
Sally: Absolutely! Even if you are unsure whether it’s the right time for you to return, it will help you make that decision. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to build your network and to learn from the experience of others.
For more information on the Returning Talent programme, click here.