Though I had always thought that I would return to work as soon as my youngest was in kindergarten, I had not anticipated some of the challenges I faced in re-entry. Specifically, I struggled to find a permanent position in financial services. Part of it was down to circumstance: I had lived and worked abroad so my contacts list locally was not as fresh as it could have been. Networking and personal connection is a huge part of getting a new job. However, part of it was also likely down to my perspective.
As I began my search, I had some insecurities: would I find something? Was I still marketable? Would people want to hire me? Would I be able to handle the challenges of the job and my home responsibilities? This was potentially amplified as I am a single parent. I found a job that is extremely easy to manage with my schedule. I was able to reacquaint myself with the MS Office suite and all current apps within the first few days. I had to learn a new skillset as I returned to a new industry, but I had worked on some banking deals in energy and power, so I had the fundamentals. In retrospect it was significantly easier than I expected.
I am now at the point where my contract has been extended a few times and I am ready for my next challenge. I am interviewing for positions in financial services, where my heart is. I believe, in retrospect that I landed the perfect job for me at the perfect time. It allowed for a smooth transition; I am now no longer a returner and my second time around experience is significantly different in a more pleasurable and easier way. I have to wonder if I got the job I did when I did, at least in part, because of the construct of my own beliefs and fears?
For all the women who are job seekers in the market now, fear not! Do not be afraid to dream as big as you want, you can make it happen as long as you believe, and you take action. If you are feeling unsure, you can still succeed by taking a job and then re-evaluating where you want to go from there. Will your re-entry job be a stepping stone to a C-level position? Or will you decide that you are happy with a less challenging but very predictable job. The choice is yours and the best news is that you are always free to change your mind and pivot up or down… Because we’ve got this!
As I move on from my ‘returnship’ into a permanent role, it is significantly easier than my initial return to work campaign. I have hired a coach, who is effective, and I enjoy working with. I told her my goal is to be her easiest, fastest client in getting a new job: our goals are aligned! I share with you my experience and some suggestions that you can also easily implement to make your own job search more effective:
Enjoy the process: if you are not currently enjoying the process it is important to identify why. Do you have limiting beliefs that may be coming into play? Examples could include not feeling hirable, not feeling fully ready to return, fears about whether you will be able to handle all the responsibilities in different areas of your life with the addition of a new job? I had a few of these, and once I have identified them, talked myself through the reasons they are not necessarily true or valid, I feel more positive about my search.
Set small, achievable goals: this gives you a greater probability of success in meeting your benchmarks. Success feels good; thus, you are establishing a positive feedback loop which makes it fun and sustainable. I realized that I spent quite a lot of time writing what I ‘should’ be doing but never actually doing it. This led to feelings of guilt, and more avoidance. Or alternatively, I would take great action on one position but not follow through. For instance, I would meet a contact who volunteered to advocate for me internally. But I would never check that employer’s job board or apply. I would then feel worried and even ashamed that I had not followed through but move on to the next task.
With my coach’s guidance, I made a firm commitment to spend a minimum of 15 minutes per day on job search activities with the option of having a weekend day or two off. I call my time my 15 minutes of fame. I can use the time to research positions, apply online, customize my resume, find contacts on LinkedIn to advocate for me for positions I have applied to. I can also use the time for interviews, interview prep… the list is endless! I have a hard cap at 30 minutes per day, I set a timer. My coach recommended this so that the process is sustainable and does not become a boom and bust effort. It also keeps me from getting overwhelmed.
I am doing a significantly better job of keeping on top of my opportunities and sourcing new ones. My next initiative is to add in more networking as my coach and I have targeted an about 80% goal for time spent on networking; this because networking is a more proven way of getting a job. I am networking online through LinkedIn, getting contacts and referrals from friends and colleagues, and attending industry groups. This time around I feel more congruent in my search, I know I will succeed and I am eager to learn where and how as my story unfolds.
Are you thinking about returning or have you been looking for a new job? It has been a year since we posted about taking the first steps to get back to work. Many of us have found the work we were looking for. Looking back 12 months, we feel that our comments and tips about getting back to work still ring true. What do you think? We’d like to hear from you!
Here’s what we had to say then…..
I have admitted to myself that I want to go back to work. That wasn’t too difficult, but I imagine it will be more difficult to say it out loud to others, but for now what can I do?
These are some of the steps we have taken or wish we had taken to get moving. We will talk in more detail about these and other topics in later blog posts, but for those of you who are looking for a roadmap, here are a few first steps to take.
Network: think about your family, friends, volunteer peers, and sideline parents as your network beyond former work colleagues. You’d be surprised how many folks will be willing to introduce you to someone you want to meet. Try to open as many doors as possible.
It’s a technical world: let technology be your assistant – use Google searches, Linkedin, and websites such as Indeed.com or Glassdoor.com to help you do research, look for job openings, and make connections. When reviewing or looking at these sites, look for current terminology to use in your conversations, resume, and correspondence.
Social media is useful: follow people or places at companies where you would like to work and look for job postings. Learn how to use Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. You don’t have to post if that’s not your thing, however there can be lots to learn from following a company’s social media.
Remember, ask for help – you would be surprised how many people will be more than willing to go to bat for you. Get started!
As the new year approaches we reflect on the past year. It seems like only yesterday that we began searching, networking and looking for that one job so we could say “I am back at work!” Some of us have found that “one” job and others are taking advantage of the new gig economy and piecing together work that meets their needs and others still search for the one role that is the best fit for them. Wherever you are in your journey back to work, be sure to take a few moments to congratulate yourself for the networking, conversations, guidance and friendship you have found and shared this year. Without the support of each other back to work can be a long and difficult path. Together we have been able to achieve more than we would have alone. We’ve Got This! #womenhelpingwomen
In speaking with a friend who heads a large team in several separate locations, he mentioned that he was pleased with himself as a manager in how he had handled a certain situation in a project their team was doing and a problem they had to deal with. He said that he was happy with himself that he had specifically found ways to motivate his team members to each do their best despite some very different personality and work styles. He also was very happy that he had managed to delegate without hovering, which is something he has struggled with in the past that we have talked about managing. I congratulated him on his accomplishment; I do feel it takes a certain amount of self-awareness to trust in oneself and the process enough to let go.
However, after our discussion it struck me: these are skills that parents have to develop to be successful and possibly to stay (more?) sane. As our children grow, we realize that at a certain point, children must be left to do their own work, have their own successes and failures and have their own learning style. Different children even those raised in the same household may have wildly different personalities, learning styles, approaches to conflict and even work ethics.
I won’t hide that I did feel somewhat pleased that I realized that I have developed better management skills through being a mother and that perhaps they are incrementally better as a function of my staying home with my children and experiencing the issues full on, rather than delegating to a caregiver. I often ask myself and my children if I could have handled a certain situation better. (360 feedback, anyone?) I alternate between raising the bar, and providing guidance and support in an effort to help my children excel. I have also learned that I have to let them fail so that they can learn not to repeat their mistake. I had never connected that these parenting skills could contribute so heavily to being a good manager.
For those of you contemplating a return and feeling like you might have lost skills, perhaps you have become rustier on some technical skills. But you also may have built some invaluable intangible skills that are now in demand. If you can focus on the strengths you have built, you can feel current and confident in your return to full-time, paid work…. because we’ve got this!
Opportunities come from many places. I wasn’t thinking that they would come in a car dealership? I recently got a new car. I waited until the end of the month to get a great deal… or found myself there at the end of the month because my beloved 10year old car had failed inspection? There was a significant wait to meet with the finance office to pay for the car – several hours. While waiting patiently with my two… not as patiently waiting children, I started talking to a fellow car shopper waiting near me. She had two kids around the same ages as my kids and lives in a neighboring town. Our kids started playing together.
After chatting for almost an hour, she talked about how she was home with her children but was ready to return to work. She works in marketing, had enjoyed a vibrant career and had been off for 2 years. We continued chatting about both personal and professional topics, exchanged contact details and promised to be in touch. We texted that night! She was going to send me her resume so I could share it with a friend who is in marketing.
When I received her resume, the format was familiar: it was a CV. This made sense to me as the bulk of her experience was abroad in a country where CVs are the standard vs a resume. It was a strong CV, in that it was long, detailed and description of duties oriented. It was also suitably modest. I wrote her back, told her that her experience was amazing but that to be competitive in the US we should work on shrinking the document to one or two pages at most, looking for achievements vs listing every single detail of what she actually did.
This took some time. I knew she felt scattered, almost guilty that she did not turn it around as quickly as she wanted. I knew it because I had absolutely been there, in fact, about a year ago. The pressures of trying to care for her primary school aged children, a husband travelling and do her best work was a lot. I reminded her there was not a deadline, that opportunities come and go and that she would be ready for the right one. We went back and forth a few times with edits. She finished the final document today and now sounds very current and powerful!
The feeling of having a current, ready to go resume is amazing! I have made one connection already (amazing in under 24hours, right?) and will make two more. She can now start browsing for jobs in her free time and is ready if someone asks ‘do you have a resume?” It is possible to go from ‘wanting to go back to work’ to having multiple opportunities. By keeping your eyes and ears open, you might make some connections and even a new friend! Because we’ve got this!
I am proud to call myself a successful returner! I re-entered the full-time, paid workforce in November 2017 after looking since the beginning of that year. The position I returned to was workable with my family commitments and I was enjoying working outside the home, and of course the paycheck. But I had taken a large step back in seniority and in compensation and my returnship was not in the industry where I had my 15+ year career. Because my search had been long and arduous, and I hadn’t landed directly back in financial services, where I had left and where I had wanted, I may have experienced a (slight?) crisis of confidence.
Though I was thankful to be offered a job through my returnship, I decided it ultimately wasn’t my passion and where I wanted to take my career and I graciously declined. This meant I had to up my game on the networking front to get something that I indeed DID want. I have a finance industry mentor, who set up a lunch with me, him and the global head of equity factor index products at a well-known index firm. It was a fabulous lunch – we connected well personally. After talking more about my background, he said, you know, we are hiring my position but for the fixed income market – is that anything you would be interested in? Wait… WHAT?
YES! I was over the moon that someone thought that I could be global head of anything! This position combined a good mix of my quantitative and people skills, and was at an amazing level of seniority. The firm placed a high value on my international and multicultural experience. I was thrilled…. Until the questions started coming. What if they didn’t want me because I wasn’t already global head of something. Or because I was not in index products in my current job. I sent my resume and waited with baited breath. HR contacted me for a screening call in short order. I was not nervous, but those nagging doubts persisted. The 20-30m screening call w HR went over an hour and we both laughed genuinely several times.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t get the job. I think they were looking for a candidate with more well-rounded experience in fixed income markets. I took it pretty well; I have a ton of experience in credit, but none in FX or rates or really any other of the potential factors of which I would have been global head. I have decided to rebrand this as a positive: I did not get this position, but people who are hiring think I can possibly be global head of SOMETHING. So, so will I. I’ve got this!
Time flies as they say. It has been a year since our group at We’ve Got This came together to talk about going back to work, grow our networks and strategize about finding that “one job”it takes to say I have gone back to work. Looking back on the year, it started for me by reaching out to other women looking to return to the workforce and using those conversations and other connections to be ready, to be employable and to contribute as an employee.
When I wrote our first blog post that voice in my head still doubted this would all work out as I hoped. As the weeks passed, I practiced answers to questions, connected with people to learn more about industries and roles all the while thinking why would now be any different than other times I had considered returning to work. For me the difference was the support and thoughtful conversations with my “team”-the women I gathered together for lunch every week to review our searches, talk about new ideas and celebrate the small steps forward and figure out what we learned from our near misses.
Those conversations became our slogan “we’ve got this”. You too can put together a plan to return to work. Continue to network, practice answers to potential questions or your elevator pitch as you drive, walk, make dinner or drift off to sleep. You can do this!
You can read some, all or parts of the book in no particular order. The book rings true to many of our own conversations. It’s great to be reminded about being open to new ideas and ways of thinking. Take some time to think about the life you wish to lead as well as how that will look when you return to work.
This is an oldie but a goodie. I find it still so relevant after all these years. If you’re one of the 93% who identify as shy, this is a must-read to help you move beyond “Hello.” Roane shares hundreds of anecdotes, examples, and insights on how to break the ice, establish rapport, build conversations, and make connections that count.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
I first read this book in high school and the principles still resonate today. A reminder to be approachable, keep conversations focused on others vs self, and achieve your goals through listening and redirecting the conversation through questions. This classic is applicable for every day interactions and for those immersed in a new job search.
It is a book I was assigned to read in business school at some point. I assumed it was a story about operations management. I was not thrilled to start it. It ended up being a good story, a page turner that also had great business teaching. I have read it at least 5x since.
Happy reading and enjoy the summer!
Do you have a favorite book to recommend? Share it here at We’ve Got This.
Summer is hot in New England this year and we think it’s time for a quick post to keep us all moving forward. We share some of our favorite quotes that motivate us or help us through a tough day. We proudly help each other. As we make choices about employment whether that is returning to work, seeking new employment or looking for other new opportunities; sometimes we all need an extra boost of motivation. We’d love to read your favorite quote in our comments!
“If we control the controllable, everything else will follow.”–Dave Anderson
“You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are!”-Sierra Boggess
“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” -Simone de Beauvoir
“The most effective way to do it, is to just do it.” -Amelia Earhart
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”-Often Quoted – Source Unknown
“Shoot for the moon! If you miss, you’re still among the stars!”-Norman Vincent Peele