• How a MOOC can help working mothers test their career dream

    How a MOOC can help working mothers test their career dream

    I always keep my eye out for good resources for women returning to work. This week I heard on Twitter about a free new online course just launched by coursera for fledgling social entrepreneurs, guiding people who want to set up a business with social impact to move from idea to action. This is a […]

  • How to write a "Back to Work" Cover Letter

    How to write a “Back to Work” Cover Letter

    Many returnship and return-to-work programmes ask you to apply by sending a CV and a cover letter. We know that this can be a daunting task for returners, hence this post. We find that returners often struggle with cover letters, which can raise a lot of questions: How do I introduce myself when I’ve been […]

  • Returning to Work - Why it's More Important Now Than Ever

    Returning to Work – Why it’s More Important Now Than Ever

    In a recent case in the Court of Appeal, Wright v Wright the issue of spousal maintenance once again found itself in the spotlight. This is a vital issue for any Stay-At-Home Mother or parent thinking about reducing her hours. When you divorce, there is no longer an automatic right to a part of your […]

  • Affording a child in the UK – New research reveals growing child costs

    Affording a child in the UK – New research reveals growing child costs

    Raising a family can be expensive but, as we all know, it’s worth every penny. But whether you’re considering starting your own enterprise, reducing your work hours, returning to work or becoming a stay at home mum, you need to be aware of all the financial implications. Aviva – the insurance company – recently ran […]

How a MOOC can help working mothers test their career dream

How a MOOC can help working mothers test their career dream

I always keep my eye out for good resources for women returning to work. This week I heard on Twitter about a free new online course just launched by coursera for fledgling social entrepreneurs, guiding people who want to set up a business with social impact to move from idea to action. This is a fantastic addition to the rapidly increasing number of free online courses run by University-level experts that you can take part in from your own home in your own time. I’m a great fan of these MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and think that they are a wonderful resource for women returners: I’ve heard very positive reports from colleagues, friends and coachees, who have followed courses on subjects ranging from creative writing to medical neuroscience.

There are many ways in which you might be able to use a MOOC when you are returning to work or changing career:

  • Testing whether you have the interest and commitment to invest in a masters programme, either to become more specialised &/or retrain into a new field.
  • Updating/refreshing/upskilling before returning to your previous field.
  • Exploring more creative possibilities, either purely for fulfilment and enjoyment, to investigate whether you want to take your working life in this direction or to finally to write your novel.
  • Keeping your brain working & your CV current while you are prioritising caring responsibilities.

Returning to social entrepreneurship, I know that for many women returning from a long career break, there’s a desire to find work with meaning and purpose; if you’ve been wondering how you can combine setting up your own business with doing something more meaningful, the coursera course could give you the impetus you need to test whether your dreams can become reality (see here for more details).

Let us know if you have studied a great free online course – we’d love to receive any recommendations!

Some MOOC Providers

  • coursera (courses from 115+ top universities including Yale & Stanford)
  • edX (courses from MIT, Harvard, etc)
  • Future Learn (range of universities & cultural institutions)
  • Open Learning (free learning from The Open University)
  • Udacity (tech skills from Silicon Valley companies)
  • Course list with individual US universities

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

How to write a "Back to Work" Cover Letter

How to write a “Back to Work” Cover Letter

Many returnship and return-to-work programmes ask you to apply by sending a CV and a cover letter. We know that this can be a daunting task for returners, hence this post.

We find that returners often struggle with cover letters, which can raise a lot of questions:

  • How do I introduce myself when I’ve been out of the workforce for so long?
  • How do I account for my time away from my career?
  • Is my previous work experience relevant when it was so long ago?
  • How can I be convincing when I’m not sure whether I would employ me now?

Introduction

  • Start with your background & your target role – not with your career break (“I am a marketing professional with 10 years of international experience and am writing to apply for the position of Senior Marketing Manager advertised on your website”)
  • Then mention your career break. As on your CV, keep mention of your career break short, simple and factual (‘Following a 5 year parental career break, ..” is sufficient) and emphasise that you are now motivated and enthusiastic to return to work in the relevant field
  • Briefly mention anything you’ve done during your career break which is relevant to the role (such as further study, refresher courses, volunteer or paid activities and projects) and state how it has kept your knowledge/skills up-to-date or developed new skills

Show your suitability for the role .. and believe it!

  • Show how you fit the top 5-6 requirements of the role, using evidence from your previous work experience and relevant activities during your break
  • Remember that however long ago it was, you did lead a department, manage projects, produce reports, negotiate contracts or whatever your former role required. You still have these skills, even if you haven’t used them for a while
  • Your former experience includes both what you did and how you got it done, i.e. both your technical abilities and your management skills. Even if your technical knowledge feels a bit rusty, you have the same capacity to learn as you always did and you will get back up to speed. Your management skills have probably been enhanced significantly if your break was to bring up your children! While we don’t recommend that you use parenting as examples in your CV or cover letter, the chances are that your skills of negotiation, influencing and time management have all been fully utilised during your break
  • You might be having trouble remembering some of the content and detail of your earlier career. If so, dig out your old performance reviews, 360 feedback and any other reports you might have kept. Re-reading these can also remind you of what others valued about your contribution in the past: these will be the qualities that you offer a new employer too
  • For return to work or returnship programme applications, make sure you mention that you have been on a career break, where this is a key criterion for candidates. You risk being excluded from these opportunities if you try too hard to cover your break

Explain why you are interested in this role/organisation

  • Show an understanding of the organisation by doing your research into the company and the role – use social media such as the company LinkedIn page & Twitter account alongside the website
  • Even it’s a returnship you need to show that you’re motivated by the organisation and the area not just the opportunity to get back into the workforce

If the exercise of writing a cover letter hasn’t reinforced your belief that you are ready to return, you probably need to do some work on regaining your professional identity and building your confidence. Follow the links to our relevant posts and consider getting some support with increasing your self-belief.

More Information

For general information and tips on how a cover letter should look in 2015 look at Tailored Career Coaching (written by one of our associates).

julianne&katerinaAuthor: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Returning to Work - Why it's More Important Now Than Ever

Returning to Work – Why it’s More Important Now Than Ever

In a recent case in the Court of Appeal, Wright v Wright the issue of spousal maintenance once again found itself in the spotlight. This is a vital issue for any Stay-At-Home Mother or parent thinking about reducing her hours. When you divorce, there is no longer an automatic right to a part of your husbands income. Courts now expect you to ‘Get on With it’, find a job and become self sufficient, especially when you have children older than five. Although it does still depend on your circumstances. Of course you are probably not planning on a divorce, however marriages do change over time and you need to be prepared for every eventuality. We asked Family Lawyer Jonathan West to comment.

The Case on Spousal Maintenance

The case involved an application by the husband, a millionaire equine surgeon, to reduce the maintenance payments that he was providing to his wife after their divorce. At the time of the hearing the wife was 51 years of age, the husband 59 and the children were 16 and 10 – the eldest being at boarding school.

Their marriage had lasted 11 years and after they separated Tracey Wright received a £450,000 mortgage free home and maintenance of £75,000 a year – of which £33,000 was spousal support for her own personal upkeep.

The question for the court was essentially what was a reasonable period of time for spousal maintenance to continue in the circumstances of the case.

UK and Wales Spousal Maintenance vs. Europe

In the jurisdiction of England and Wales, whilst for decades there has been a duty on courts to consider a clean break outcome in divorce, many cases resulted in substantive joint life orders, or nominal ones.

It is not at all uncommon for a spouse – statistically usually the husband – to end up paying periodical payments to the other spouse for a period often significantly longer than the marriage lasted.

Many European countries severely limit maintenance terms – for example Sweden, terms are ordinarily between one and four years unless there are “extraordinary reasons” for granting a longer period, which even then, where possible, would be time limited.

Move south wards to the Czech Republic, maintenance orders are incredibly rare – in 2001 statistics show that there were just 932 maintenance orders out of over 30,000 divorces.

In The Netherlands there is a maximum 12 year term and if the marriage has lasted under five years maintenance will be limited to a maximum of the same length of the marriage. Denmark operates a similar system.

Even our nearest neighbours, The Scots, operate a system whereby maintenance will usually only last for three years save in exceptional circumstances.

Recent Changes in the UK

Over the course of the last few years in England we have seen a retreat from the joint lives orders for maintenance which will (typically) only terminate when a wife remarries or dies.

In 2008 Sir Mark Potter said the wife had no right to keep on living at the same standard:

“… On the exit from the marriage, the partnership ends and in ordinary circumstances a wife has no right or expectation of continuing economic parity … A clean break is to be encouraged wherever possible.”

Lady Hale said partners are expected to be self sufficient:

“the ultimate objective is to give each party an equal start on the road to independence” and what she refers to as self sufficiency. She emphasized that the court was seeking provision that enabled a gentle transition for the payee from the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage to the standard that he/she could expect as a self-sufficient individual.

These judgements indicate that the court has been moving for some time away from lifelong orders to a more considered approach of guiding the parties towards independence from one another and self sufficiency.

The Outcome of Wright vs. Wright

Whilst we have been moving away from lifelong orders what is interesting from the Wright case is the language used by the Judge – Lord Justice Pitchford – who said that Mrs Wright must “just get on with it” when he upheld the earlier court’s decision to set a tapered reduction of the personal maintenance payments over the next five years. The judge expects her to take steps to obtain employment like “vast numbers of other women with children.”

Lord Justice Pitchford was of the view that it was “imperative that the wife go out to work and support herself” and that “The time had come to recognise that, at the time of his retirement, the husband should not be paying spousal maintenance.”

“The wife had done nothing since 2008 to look for work, retrain or to prepare herself for work.” He continued that, “There is a general expectation that, once children are in year two, mothers can begin part-time work and make a financial contribution” and that, “the order was never intended to provide the wife with an income for life”.

What it Means for You

This case could be the signal for many men to return to court to have a review of their maintenance payments. To counter this it would be prudent for non-working spouses to consider their employment sooner rather than later as it seems that courts will be looking for non-earners to maximise their earning capacity.

It would appear that a court will take a dim view of any non earning spouse arriving at court having done nothing to seek employment and moving towards self sufficiency. At the very least they should register with a headhunter or employment agency. That way if a party is not able to obtain employment they will at least have some evidence with which to repel any suggestion that they are sitting on their backside and living off the fat of the land.

This judgement is not likely to affect the ultra wealthy where maintenance is not an issue as the capital provided is sufficient in itself, but could well affect the mass affluent.

Maintenance must cover immediate needs but must also encourage a spouse to become independent. A joint life order discourages independence and also discourages people getting on with their lives by marrying a new partner. Why would someone choose to marry a poorer person than their spouse when they will lose the benefit of their substantive maintenance order?

I am not for one moment suggesting that responsibility for looking after a former spouse and children be thrown onto the state and the starting point is that it must be correct for the income earning spouse to support their family. However the meal ticket for life may just have been cancelled.

Author: Jonathan West, Head of Family Law at Prolegal Solicitors. Jonathan has written many articles and commented in various publications such as The Times, The Independent, Baby and me, Huffington Post, 50 Connect and has even appeared on BBC Breakfast as a Family Law expert.

Affording a child in the UK – New research reveals growing child costs

Affording a child in the UK – New research reveals growing child costs

Raising a family can be expensive but, as we all know, it’s worth every penny. But whether you’re considering starting your own enterprise, reducing your work hours, returning to work or becoming a stay at home mum, you need to be aware of all the financial implications.

Aviva – the insurance company – recently ran a detailed study into the costs of raising a family in the UK. The research revealed that, on average, parents will have spent over £35,000 on their child by the time they reach the age of five. That’s more than £7,000 a year which is just over a third of the average UK salary. © normalityrelief

The Essentials for Working Parents

Kitting your life out with all the essentials necessary to raise a child is costly. Cots, push chairs, changing tables and childcare do not come cheap. According to Aviva’s survey results, the average parent spends just over £3,000 a year on essential items before any toys, school equipment or family trips out can be paid for.

Location, Location, Location

Parents from all over the UK took part in the survey which revealed a real North-South divide when it came to the cost of raising children. Your location can make a huge difference to just how much money you’ll need to spend over the course of your son or daughters infancy.

London based parents have a raw deal paying nearly £10,000 annually on their under 5s – more than double what it costs to raise a child in Wales (£4,220). Towns and cities in the North West also had relatively low child costs, in comparison with the South, with an average spend of just over £4,500 annually.

Keeping up appearances

As well as location, social pressures and keeping up appearances seemed to play a huge role in driving up the cost of raising a child. One in five parents who took part in the survey, said they often spend money on certain items for their children just to feel as though they’re keeping up with other families in their area.

Thinking ahead for Working Parents

Past the age of 5 child costs can increase significantly with school trips, educational equipment, pocket money and, eventually, university fees all becoming necessary spends. But there are parents around the country looking to the future with over half (52%) saying they have opening savings accounts in their children’s names before they turn five. It was also revealed that an extremely forward-thinking 8% have already started saving for a house deposit for their child. Just under half (42%) had taken out life insurance and one in five had made a will.

Of course, the rewards of raising a child vastly outweigh the costs over the years. But better to be prepared and to plan ahead to make sure it’s a smooth a ride as possible and you can provide for your children. If you’d like to take a look at how much you’re spend on your child in comparison to the national average, take a look at Aviva’s child cost calculator.

Author: Daniel Rawlings, copywriter and executive reporting on new survey data by Aviva UK. Full details of the recent child costs survey can be found here.

Interview with A Returner from Credit Suisse Returners Programme

Interview with A Returner from Credit Suisse Returners Programme

Julianne Miles interviews Julia Dawson, a 2014 Real Returns participant to find out more about her experiences in last years Credit Suisse Returners Programme and to get her advice on applying for and making the most of a returnship.

What prompted you to apply for Real Returns?

I had read about returnships in the United States and so knew about the concept. I had been on a career break to raise a family for over three years and was interested in going back into banking but not into equity sales where I had spent the previous 11 years. The Real Returns programme at Credit Suisse seemed to open up new opportunities, allowing me to apply my skills and experience to a different area.

What were the benefits to you of the Real Returns programme?

The programme offered an open door back to banking with no downside and great potential upside. The 10-week framework structured around the school terms allowed me to trial a return to the workplace without too much disruption to my family routines. It was an easier transition than going straight back into a permanent role and gave me the opportunity to really show what I could do.

Real Returns gave me a lot of confidence – it was fantastic to see so many capable women finding their feet. The peer group was a really positive aspect, as we were all in it together. There was more involvement from very senior management than you might think – you get amazing access as everyone was interested in finding out more about the inaugural Real Returns cohort.

What type of work did you do?

I led a research project on diversity, The Credit Suisse Gender 3000, a subject that remains very relevant and incredibly interesting. [Julia’s research report was published in September 2014]. All the participants were involved with business critical projects and made a significant contribution.

What support did you receive?

We had support from the programme managers throughout the 10 weeks. In addition, each returner was assigned a mentor – a great point-person for introductions, particularly for people looking more broadly within the bank for opportunities. We also received training and career coaching, which I was initially sceptical about but found extremely rewarding and eye-opening on a personal and professional level.

What happened at the end of the programme?

I was offered a full-time job in equity research within the Thematics team. I was appointed as a Managing Director, the same level as I was prior to my career break, so I have not had to take a step down in my career progression at all.

What advice would you give to potential applicants to Real Returns or other returnships?

Be honest about who you are in your application and get your application in as soon as possible – you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. It is a wonderful way to get back to work and maybe to try something new in a related field.

What advice would you give to future returnship participants?

Several things made this a valuable experience for me. I would advise other participants to network as much as possible – take the opportunities given to you. Keep an open mind about the areas that might interest you – coming back to work brings a great freshness and invigoration and many departments want to take advantage of this. Make the most of the coaching sessions as they can be very revealing and rewarding. And finally, really showcase your contribution on the program – you are part of a valuable talent pool so show what you can still do and have to offer.

Any final comments?

I was surprised how little pressure I felt once I got through the door. It was thoroughly enjoyable and invigorating. I am extremely happy to be back at work.
julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Is it possible to return to work after a career break at 50+?

Is it possible to return to work after a career break at 50+?

This is a question I discussed recently with Dr Ros Altmann, the UK Government’s Older Workers Business Champion. It is also a question I hear regularly from our Network, particularly those who have paused their career for health reasons or in order to look after elderly relatives.

While it might be true that some organisations fail to recognise the great value and benefit of hiring older workers, quite often the returners themselves are creating self-imposed barriers that need not exist. It is necessary to develop the right mindset where your age is to your advantage.

The women I speak to who are hoping to return to employment, regularly tell me that organisations are only looking for younger people or those who have worked their way up a career ladder. It is easy for them to fear that they are too old and too out of touch, to be considered employable. They worry that they won’t fit into the office environment and that their prior experience, expertise and qualifications are no longer relevant.

Instead of looking at what is missing from your CV, it is much more helpful to notice what your years of experience, both in and out of the workforce, have given you. As Michele (who found full-time work in her 50s, following a divorce) says:

‘I was attractive to my new employer because at my age I was reliable, I brought a wealth of different experiences which meant I could talk to anybody and I was serious about my work. At the same time, I wasn’t going to take his clients and set up on my own. And, I wasn’t going to get pregnant which made a big difference in a small company.’

A Harvard Business Review article, 3 years ago, which highlighted the concept of internships for returners mentions that such internships ‘… allow [companies] to hire people who have a level of maturity and experience not found in younger recruits and who are at a life stage where parental leaves and spousal relocations are most likely behind them. In short, these applicants are an excellent investment’. (HBR November 2012 ‘The 40-year-old intern’).

You may know that we have been working hard for the past two years to introduce such ‘internships for returners’ into the UK. Up to now, these programmes have mostly existed in the financial services sector but shortly more will be announced in a wholly new field and I hope there will be more during 2015.

It is also the case that the ‘internship for returners’ route is only one of many ways to return to work and I list below the links to other relevant articles we’ve published. However you plan to return, you can help yourself by remembering all the qualities described above and knowing that you offer future employers commitment and stability. You know you will stay a long time if you enjoy your work and are valued for what you bring to the organisation.

Dr Altmann has been tasked with making the case for older workers within the business community and challenging outdated perceptions. She will be reporting to the Government in March with her recommendations on what Government policy needs to be to enable older workers to continue to be productively employed. We hope that her work will help to dispel the fears of the over 50s that they are no longer employable and lead to more opportunities for older returners.

julianne&katerinaAuthor: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

From Registered Nurse to Plug-In Developer

From Registered Nurse to Plug-In Developer

Now here’s a great story of a mother changing career. To inspire you all to try something new. Of course there is lots of work in nursing, but there is also lots of work in IT, and it’s probably better paid. Is it for you?

Read Steph Wells’ honest and inspiring story

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Working Mums - Finding your work / life blend in 2015

Working Mums – Finding your work / life blend in 2015

If you’re returning to work in 2015 after maternity leave you might be understandably worried about the prospect of juggling work and your new life at home. Hopefully help is at hand! Last year working mum Anna Rasmussen launched a research project called Keeping Women In. Anna asked 250 high potential working mothers to tell us about their lives inside and outside of work. She specifically asked the women what they needed their employers to do to support them to reach their full career potential after having kids. The results of Anna’s research are based on the concept of achieving an acceptable work / life blend.

Her research is full of simple, effective tips for businesses (and bosses) to support working mothers. You can download a free summary report and also watch this short video

One of the key findings of Keeping Women In was that 80% of the potential solutions to help support working mothers relate to leaders and individual bosses. Just 20% relate to the wider business. Here are some examples of top tips for both:

Tips for leaders managing working mothers:

  • Openly talk to your working mothers about their home lives and discuss any specific challenges they face eg. childcare, school holidays, current workload and working in the evenings
  • Set clear objectives and career plans
  • Recognise merit and contribution over presenteeism
  • Acknowledge hours worked outside of the office and provide recognition
  • Openly communicate career opportunities and provide encouragement and support to move to the next level

Tips for the wider business for managing working mothers:

  • Offer a condensed working week in school holidays, flexibility to work from home if needed or emergency child care support
  • Ensure effective technology is in place to support remote working
  • Develop a culture that supports high achieving working mothers
  • Organise company family days
  • Encourage company networking and mentoring so that high achieving working mothers receive exposure to senior figures within the business

Implementing small changes can make a huge difference to the over-all well-being of working mothers and this in turn impacts productivity and retention.

I’ve had the privilege of working personally with Anna on this project and have seen first-hand the positive steps working mothers and their employers have taken as a result of it. Hopefully you will find it equally inspiring.

We are determined to continue to support working mums in 2015! As such, we going to be running a series of webinars over the next few months to give even more insight into our Keeping Women In research findings and we need real working Mums – people like you to get involved!

KWI_Logo_green_blend.
Anna photoAuthor: Alexa Garthwaite, supporting the marketing of the researcher: Anna Rasmussen. Anna works with organisations to attract, engage and retain female talent. She has developed the app Open Blend which facilitates interactive coaching sessions between a business leader and a working mother. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for further updates about Keeping Women In, including webinar details, please email alexa.garthwaite@guidantgroup.com – She would love to hear from you