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Jane Bateman is back at work after five years out, having completed a returner initiative. The former Head of Brand for Egg is currently on a placement with communications firm Golin and says she slotted back in from day one.
She thinks such initiatives are good for returners, but also for employers.
“Many people take career breaks and they have a lot of experience to offer. These initiatives help you bridge the gap between career break and work, but they are really valuable for businesses as well.”
Jane took part in the Back2Businessship programme founded by SMG and f1 recruitment ltd and conducted in partnership with Golin.
After she left the workplace she had been freelancing as an independent consultant, but found it difficult to maintain momentum and networking alongside her family commitments after her second child was born and because the family home was undergoing refurbishment. So she decided to put her career on hold.
She had been keeping an eye out for job opportunities as soon as her three children were slightly older.
“I had always enjoyed being at work. I got a lot of fulfillment from being productive and being part of a team,” she says. “I always thought I would go back.”
She hadn’t seen many part-time or flexible roles in her field over the years so she said she resigned to the fact that she would probably have to just take the plunge in a full-time role. “I was bullish in my approach,” she says. “What I was looking for was a tone and language in the job advert and an organisational culture which resonated with me as a person.”
Relevant recent experience
Jane got in touch with recruitment consultants and did her best to get her cv out. Recruitment consultants always asked about childcare, she says, and about relevant recent experience which might show she could hit the ground running. “I felt uncomfortable being asked,” she says, “as it is difficult to come across convincingly when you are not in a job. Conversations about jobs tended to start fairly positively, but as soon as people looked at my cv and saw I had had a career break the conversations waned. I felt I was being judged on my relevant recent experience rather than on my potential or past experience. It was challenging.”
She applied for a returnship programme for legal and accounting professionals because she didn’t know of any for marketing professionals, but after around 18 months of job searching she came across the back2businessship programme and applied.
Jane says it was very helpful and helped her hone her message about what she had done and what she had to offer so that it was more convincing and she was more confident giving it. “You have to craft your offering so your employer understands what you can bring to the table that adds value. Everyone has a different story and they just need to hone what they are saying so it comes across convincingly,” she says. There were also practical tips about things like updating your LinkedIn profile, interview techniques and setting up a business. There were also catch-up sessions about workplace change as well as a series of inspirational speakers talking about their own returner experience. The programme’s participants have stayed in touch and share ideas. “It’s a very supportive network and very positive,” says Jane.
After the six-day programme, Jane applied for a three-month placement at Golin so she could put some of what she had learnt into practice and because there was the possibility of a permanent role at the end of the placement.
She’s still doing the placement as a director working on strategic services and marketing, working a four-day week. “It matches my skills and experience and I am learning continuously,” she says.
Although she slotted back into work from day one, she reckons it took her two weeks for the novelty of being back at work to wear off. “It was no more difficult than starting a new job,” she says. “It doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things. There’s a message there for employers too: that it is not much of a risk to bring people with relevant experience back.”
Jane is particularly impressed by Golin’s “grown-up attitude” to work, which she says is based on trust and collaboration. “The programme and placement are a great stepping stone back to work and I think it’s a win win for everyone.”