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 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.