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Back2businessship Programme 2017, Day Three – 10 Insights From Inspiring Women Successfully Balancing Work And Family

11 November 2017

At this year’s Back2businessship, we have asked the delegates to write short blogs. From day three, we hear from Anna Hastie and Laure Legrange, two of this year’s delegates.

Day 3 of the Back2Businessship programme is about “Power Mentoring”.  A big word. And with big words come big expectations.  It sounded amazing – how is the team going to achieve that?

Well, 6 hours later, having listened to personal and professional stories from no less than 10 women today, it would be fair to say that yes, the “Class of 2017” was definitely power mentored.

We’ve compiled the top ten insights from the day that should help any returner looking to get back into the workplace.

1.‘Talk about yourself first, logistics second’. Sharmini Selvarajah, Government Equalities Office. Having shared her personal return to work story with us, Sharmini Selvarajah reinforced the importance of communicating your experience and ensuring employers get a strong sense of who you are. The details of what the working week could look like for you can come later.  Recognise that your experience outside work has an impact on your skills – what seems obvious to you might not be obvious to someone else.  Beyond the words of wisdom, Sharmini’s smile and strong passion for her work were enough to inspire.  She is working on returnships within the public sector, launching a recruitment initiative this month.

2. ‘Use your wits, use your intuition, and be a bit cheeky’. Anneka Iantosca, Digital Mums. Find your tribe online and network! Think about what you want to gain from your networking, and what you can offer. Digital mums are advocates of flexible working, asking why ‘Flexible’ is treated like an expletive. Anneka’s advice was ‘find work that works!’

3. ‘Go to your employer with a solution’ Justine Roberts, Mumsnet co-founder. Sharing with us the Mumsnet story, Justine described how she ‘bounced into her passion’ and how she works harder than in any of her previous roles, but on her terms.  Mumsnet has a Family Friendly Charter setting out the importance of flexible working, and how to support returners amongst other things. Businesses are being encouraged to sign up.  If flexibility is important for you, then go to your employer with a solution, explaining how it’s going to work well for the business.

4.  ‘Get a mentor, and make sure it’s someone you have chemistry with’ Carly O’Brien, Virgin Money. A mentor can help you make career choices, assist with specific needs, or provide inspiration. ‘If you don’t have a mentor, seek one.’ Don’t be afraid to approach colleagues from around the company to learn more about what they do. A quick coffee can open up new opportunities.

5.  ‘Be interesting! Find your USP and talk about it at interviews’ Laura Weston, Golin. As a previous delegate on the Back2Businessship scheme, Laura had plenty of practical tips.  One key tip was to take your interview beyond your previous job – what have you done that will set you apart from other candidates and will engage your interviewer?  Perhaps you have taken part in a project or upskilled during your career break that a potential employer would love to hear about.

6. ‘Believe in yourself and ask for what you want’ Cathy Toft, Oracle. Don’t let imposter syndrome take hold – don’t think everyone else is better than you and have confidence in your skills.  Cathy ‘asked’ to be promoted to Board member and she was. If it’s a higher salary, or consideration for a promotion that you want – ask for it! Cathy thanks her husband for being a great mentor. Equally, she says, ‘do your work (and more on the side), know what you’re talking about and ‘own’ the role for the right reason.

7. ‘Focus on the outcomes, and not the hours’ Victoria Biggs, Trainline. Think about what you are delivering on a regular basis and not the time you are spending on tasks.  What can you plan and implement quickly to start delivering positive outcomes for the company? It’s useful to regularly review your objectives to make sure you are delivering the right output.  Completing a ‘to do’ list and identifying the top 3 things to focus on during the week ahead will keep you efficient.

8. ‘Be highly organised and don’t waste time with BS‘ Laurie Davison, Exari Systems. Laurie is a proud working mother and a woman in a male dominated working environment and she will tell things as they are. Laurie is strict with time management and will take calls on her train or drive home but the 5.30pm-7.30pm slot is off limits!

9.  ‘Being clear on your values will help you find the right role and be confident at work’ Louisa Rowntree, Honda. Try making a list of what matters most to you in life, and find a company that has those values at the heart of what it does.  Use your contacts and LinkedIn connections to find people that can help you find out more about the culture of a company before you seek an interview or accept a job offer.

10.  ‘Be proud of your career break’ Julie McDonald, Freelancer and Business Owner. Communicate that your career break was a conscious decision and don’t apologise for it. Take the opportunity to share what you have learnt from it and what you can bring to the job as a result.

Thank you to all those that came and shared their stories with us and believe in the value returners can add to the workplace.  Hearing experiences from such as a diverse range of women who are successfully balancing work and home life is inspirational to all of us!