People have career breaks for many reasons; maternity/paternity, caring for a loved one, sickness or a sabbatical.
Whatever the reason for the time away, it can always be an overwhelming period of time when it comes to returning.
Through no fault of your own, the gremlins circulating in your head will make you question things – has the industry changed? Is going back the right decision? Am I ready? Is my family ready? Can I still do my job?
Self-doubt and conflicting thoughts are natural. Yes, it’s daunting but keep in mind, your company needs you and your experience is valuable.
I’ve worked in the marketing and advertising industry for over 20 years and during this time, I’ve taken gaps in my career for parenting. Speaking from experience, I know companies are losing lots of talented, valuable people because they are not returning after their break. And while it’s sometimes due to personal reasons, it’s often because companies make it difficult.
To overcome these obstacles, companies must create a culture of empathy and support people with coaching and flexible working hours. Businesses need these experienced people to take what they learnt from their time away – whether it be new levels of personal strength and resilience, or an insight into a growing issue or market trend – and add value to the company, like they did previously.
Creative Equals, an amazing organisation that Momentum Worldwide in the UK have partnered with, highlighting that only 12 per cent of Creative Directors are female and it’s mainly down to women getting to a certain level in their careers, having a break and then being met with too many barriers when it comes to re-entering. This is something Creative Equals are currently addressing through initiatives such as their #CreativeComeback programme – to help women return to various roles within the marketing & advertising industry.
It gives them placements and acts as a gateway back into the industry, so they can upskill and start working again, with the added bonus of the time away from the role giving them a fresh, objective perspective.
This initiative is solely for the marketing industry, but I highly recommend seeking out similar options.
The Government launched a programme in 2017 to help those returning to work, and the Women Returners Resource Network offers women from various industries support, roles and events to help them get their career back on track. Duo Me is another that helps people looking for more flexible working situations in their return to work.
Businesses need to embrace flexible working and tailor packages that meet both the employee and employer’s needs. Understanding your employees is what makes companies go from a good to a great place to work, and changes in working patterns and advances in technology have made it even easier for people to work in different ways. Companies need to consider this to support the path to returning to work.
As well as the actions of the company, the individual can also take steps to ensure a smoother return to work. You must be honest with yourself and your employer when it comes to knowing how much work you can take on at the beginning. Being overwhelmed straight away could be detrimental to your self-confidence and your ability to progress.
It helps if you can keep an open line of communication with your company if you’re planning to return, so you feel connected whilst you are off. There are also some great books and sites to read over for step by step advice, such as She’s Back, so that returning isn’t so daunting.
Many people experience the mixed emotions of returning to work and it’s good for us to discuss and support each other – just knowing that there are resources out there can help the transition be smoother. It’s also vital that companies understand what is needed to be put in place to help ensure talent doesn’t leave.
Anyone wishing to return work must focus on talking about how they owned their career break, so they can confidently talk about what they achieved whilst out of work. That way, when you are interviewed, you can confidently answer the dreaded ‘how long have you been out of work’ question with a really positive story to tell.
I’ve seen significant progress happen, especially over the last five years, and I know that in the next five years we’ll be seeing businesses implementing changes to welcome people back.
About the author
Anna Dalziel, Director of Brand, UK & Global at Momentum Worldwide. Part of the UK board of directors.
With over 20 years of international marketing experience, Anna is responsible for the planning, development and implementation of all of Momentum UK’s marketing strategies, marketing communications, new business and public relations activities, both internally and externally.
Anna is the key driver of initiatives and products designed to drive Growth at Momentum UK & Worldwide. Most recently she launched ‘BALANCE’, a programme of well-being, community and diversity initiatives.
In 2018 Anna was awarded PR & Marketing team of the year at The Drum Business Awards as well as featuring on the badass.gal list. Anna works across the whole business, both in the UK and globally, most recently with brands such as American Express, SAP and Microsoft. Her mantra is to get sh*t done and own it!
Alongside the day job, Anna mentors for SheSays to encourage more women to seize career development opportunities and to get into leadership roles. She also coaches netball.