It can be difficult to get back to your career after you’ve taken a break from work. At Heart of the City we recently welcomed a volunteer who was doing just that, so we wanted to ask her what it was like. Jenner Sturges has returned back to work and we wanted to share some of her experiences here, as well as her tips for employers to help support people coming back into the workforce.
“Relaunching your career after a break can be hard. I’ve got more than 15 years of experience in my field and want to be able to use that properly, but differently. Everyone’s job search challenges will vary, but I’m focusing on experienced professionals that have a lot to give, but can’t or don’t want to do it for 40 hours a week, and so are looking for something a little different.”
What could employers do to help support back in and retain these people in the workforce?
“There’s been a lot of (necessary) talk about flexibility recently, but what does that really mean in your organisation? I saw a fantastic job advert which included actual employee examples. One does the school drop off every day, one works condensed hours in order to study. They state, “Lots of organisations say they support flexible working, we have proof.” A great example of being honest and open and I hope others can follow this.”
“Part-time is more clear in terms of what it means, but there’s often less on offer. Maybe it’s partly still due to what’s seen as the norm. In external facing roles, employers often want their staff to be available as much a possible, but is that always necessary? I’ve worked 3 days a week. My contacts knew my working pattern, were comfortable with it, and nothing was ever such an emergency that it couldn’t wait a day. When writing a job description, could you consider part-time, or offered with a job share option? You could end up with two highly experienced, committed employees instead of one.”
“To achieve my ideal work/life balance, I’m looking for a role with less responsibility than previously. I’m offering the expertise, experience and maturity I’ve developed over nearly two decades of professional work and am happy to do that for a lower financial reward. However, I’m being met with feedback that I’m ‘overqualified’. And I’m not alone. Being an open-minded employer could really pay off. What are your real concerns about hiring someone who could do the job with minimal training and supervision, and probably bring more to the role than you initially expected? Please don’t be put off by experience!”
“So what’s needed for there to be more roles that offer part time hours and genuine flexibility for an experienced candidate? It’s complex, but trust is a big factor. I hope that on receiving my application, a potential employer will trust that:
- I’m applying for jobs that I really am interested in (not because I’m desperate)
- I’m not using this role as a stepping stone back into work, I want to commit
- You will get 100% of me for the time we agree that I’m working
- I will have an impact, perform the role successfully and be a valuable member of your team whilst being there 3 days a week
I’ll end with a message for anyone with hiring responsibilities. Please look beyond the CV and ask meaningful questions. Don’t shy away from challenging a returner about why they want the role and what they can bring.”