Women need to work and want to work, they are good at work, they have brilliant careers, but they also want to have children and take care of sick family members, they are also good at this.
For thousands of women, work and family fail to integrate. The lack of flexibility in work forces their choices in favor of the family and when circumstances change and they would be able to return to work, they find their way blocked.
This article is written for women who have had an interruption in their career, for those who, for any reason, have had to take a step back, and for anyone who hopes to find meaning and balance in their working life.
Women and return to work
Our goal is to help women build meaningful and sustainable careers throughout their working life. It is increasingly unlikely that careers will continue steadily from start to retirement.
There will be several changes along the way, you may end up hating the career you have chosen, finding a new passion, having health problems, taking time to raise your children or taking care of elderly relatives.
Your career will have to reflect these changes. We want women to be able to build flexible careers, to develop at different speeds, to contemplate interruptions.
This goal is supported by fundamental beliefs:
- life is long, complex and disordered;
- work adds something to our life;
- our value does not derive exclusively from work;
- parenting develops a new set of skills;
- ageism is pernicious, widespread and wrong;
- we should be free to choose.
A photograph of the current situation of women and the world of work
The situation of many women today is as follows: women’s careers are interrupted; a lack of women at the top in all sectors; a persistent gender pay gap; women who work for which they are too qualified; women who take work breaks that end up lasting forever; limited options when they decide to return.
But today is also the right time for a change. A woman who returns to work after a break can be the ideal solution for new businesses and startups that need to grow, why?
- You are brilliantly organized and you will use your time effectively, these new companies are looking for leaders who are focused on results.
- You are full of resources . You have 20 years of experience on and off the job. You are creative and capable of using lateral thinking to solve problems.
- You are hungry . After years of putting others in front of you, it is now your turn and you will be working hard.
- You are convenient . Why hire someone full time when the same job can be done in less time by an expert and efficient person focused on getting the result in the shortest possible time?
- You are an investment not a responsibility. You have self-awareness and you know how to work in a team, you are mature, you don’t need supervision.
- Your difference is your strength . The ideas are better and the environment is more fun when it is varied.
The benefits for businesses in hiring a woman
Having more women among employees brings a number of benefits to companies:
- They represent the customer base . Over 75% of consumer decisions are made by women.
- Brain drain costs . Many companies spend a fortune on hiring and training bright women just to see them leave after 7 or 8 years.
- Increased transparency . Thanks to social media, everyone can know what companies do and who works there. The lack of senior women in a company can discourage talented young women.
- The loss of invaluable social and intellectual capital . Women take many years of trust with them when they leave.
- Technology has just begun to influence the way we work . Agility, communication, flexibility and collaboration are needed to succeed in a connected world. All strengths that women have always shown to possess.
Change mentality to return to the world of work
Before looking on the job posting pages you need to do a search in your head. Often it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us from returning to work and getting the success we deserve.
We create false reasons and excuses that limit our expectations and ambitions. We often look at ourselves, at others and at the world through mental models deeply rooted in us, often unconscious, which originate from our back ground, which tell us a pre-packaged “truth” about ourselves and how things are going.
To progress we must challenge and reject them. The key to unlocking these mental models is first of all to bring them out for what they are and then collect evidence to check if they are true or not. Use a table like this, write your mental models, the evidence that proves them and the evidence to the contrary. .
Mental Model: The family couldn’t do it without me.
Evidence to prove it: I take my children to school, cook all meals, do housework, take care of the administration.
The cons: I never asked anyone else to do these jobs for me.
Mental model: I’m too old.
Evidence to prove it : Everyone who works here is 20 years younger than me, I’m too old to learn new methods and technologies.
The case against: Except the manager who is my same age. I just learned how to use Hootsuite. Our population is aging.
Mental model: I am irrelevant, my skills are not up to date.
Evidence to prove it: We only talk about digital marketing these days and I don’t know anything about it.
The cons: I know the prospect of a female consumer very well. I use apps and platforms on a regular basis.
Mental Model: I can’t go back to the same level because I need flexibility.
Evidence to prove it: No one in a senior position in my previous job worked part time.
The cons: The list of Time Wise Power 50 shows that there are many people who have excellent flexible jobs.
The CV must tell your story
You are a 35, 45, 55 year old woman with previous work experience, perhaps with a degree or qualification of some kind, with the ambition to return to work and a worrying gap in your CV. Where do you start from? You need a story. It must be short and able to connect with people who could help you get a meeting, an opening and finally a job.
The elements of your story:
- Your strengths , your talents (you work better alone or in a team, in structured or unstructured environments).
- Your professional skills , your background, your experience (your qualifications, in which sectors you have worked, in what type of companies – large, small, public, private – what languages you speak, what important projects you have implemented, which ones technologies or processes you are expert).
- What interests you (what you really like, what makes you feel alive, what you really love).
- What have you been doing since you left . What you did out of work added extra value to your skills and experience. Recognize these values.
- How all this translates into what you want to do now . You have to put it all together and create your story, short, coherent and memorable. A few sentences that explain who you are, what interests you and the link with what you want to do now.
The strategy to create a useful network to find a job
A network is a supportive community. Our research has shown that it is 4 times more likely to find work through your network than through a recruitment agency.
Building your network is the most important part of finding a job. Networking is above all finding many people to help, it is an act of generosity.
Be curious about everyone you meet, ask and listen, concentrate on being interested, not interesting.
- Prepare some jokes to say at each networking event (people are not interested in what you do, your role but who you really are).
- Create a list of relevant contacts within your current network (alumni associations, courses you attend, professional support groups, people you meet at the gym, volunteer groups, relatives, neighbors, all the people you come in contact with) .
- Think about how you could help them.
- Let them know what you’re looking for, (find ways to talk to them, people are happy to help).
- Identify groups that could grow your network (there are many people who share your interests and skills, you can start online on Facebook or LinkedIn).
- If there are no groups that correspond to your passions, skills and interests, make one yourself.
The tools for the job market
Much has changed in the job market but you will still need a CV, a LinkedIn profile and an interview.
Here are some guidelines for writing a CV:
- Length : no more than 2 pages.
- Style : write in the third person.
- Personal details : name and contacts, address, telephone, email, link to your LinkedIn profile or to your website if you have one.
- Personal statements : schematic presentation about you summarizing why you should be hired.
- Key competences : be specific, avoid too basic or generic competences, look at the job description and think about the competences necessary for the role you are applying for.
- Work experience : this section should provide sufficient evidence that you are able to do the job. Chronologically show the most significant experiences for the role you are applying for, focus on the results you have achieved.
LinkedIn is the ideal way to reconnect with people you’ve worked with in the past (who might introduce you to someone), it’s used by recruiting agencies and anyone who wants to understand who you are.
There are more than 500 million people on LinkedIn, it is the platform on which you can build your future.
- Use a professional photo . Not a snapshot taken on vacation. You smile.
- Create a compelling summary , a reader must have a clear idea of who you are and how you can add value to his organization. Tell the story of your career and your successes, your main skills and what you want to do in the future. Detail your experience by making sure you use the keywords relevant to the position you are targeting.
- Connect with people , you can start with old colleagues. Follow the people you admire and care about, choose influencers, people who work in your field and share interesting articles.
- Join some groups , there are many: people with common interests or with your own skills. Follow the companies and people you would like to work with.
- Let recruiters know that you are available for new opportunities.
Whatever the medium: live, on the phone or via Skype, here are some tips to face a job interview:
- It’s a conversation , it’s not just about you, listen to what the recruiter has to say, you’ll need it to understand what’s important to him and to fix the answer.
- Do research on the company , on the role requested and on the person who will interview you, you must show enthusiasm, create empathy with the recruiter.
- Prepare the opening sentences , they will ask you to talk about you, be ready, it is an opportunity to introduce yourself and provide a good first impression.
- Whatever the question they want to know if you are able to do the job, the things they want to know anyway are formulated are:a) why you want this job;
b) what you can do for them;
c) if you are the right person;
d) what differentiates you from other candidates;
e) if you can agree on terms that are suitable for both.
- They will ask you if you have questions to ask, prepare them in advance, they can concern the sector, future trends, the company, their positioning and their strategy, your specific role, the person who is interviewing you.
- Manage your risk . There will be elements where your CV and your experience will not adapt perfectly to what the company is looking for, find ways to deal with any problems,
- Answer clearly , succinctly and confidently.
- Do exercises to prepare yourself : think about what you will have to say about yourself and create your own script. Practice reciting it by heart, aloud, with a relaxed pace, in front of an audience to ask for feedback.
The strategy to prepare for “attacking” the labor market
The job market is a place where workers compete for the best jobs and companies compete for the best talent. It’s a competition.
Be prepared to compete, build a plan, be methodical:
- clearly identify in which sector you are most likely to win, where you are most competitive, which are the skills in which you have an advantage;
- make a list of the organizations you would like to work for;
- identify the magazines and newsletters, the sites, the platforms where the offers for the job you are interested in are published;
- find out who the recruiters are , who is hiring people with your skills;
- build your contact base , identify who you should ideally contact;
- use LinkedIn systematically to bring up opportunities and to connect with the people they hire.
Flexibility is the main demand of women who wish to rekindle their career.
Flexible work arrangements include several solutions, such as working full time but for fewer days a week, or working more hours in certain periods and less in others, or flexible arrival and departure times, or the possibility of working completely or partially from home, and so on.
How to negotiate flexibility:
- first of all focus on the role, on why you are perfect for that role and on what you will offer to the company;
- determine exactly which business models might work for you;
- create a series of alternative scenarios that could adapt to your needs;
- clarify exactly what activities are required by that role, objectives and responsibilities;
- provide proof that you are able to do what is required in the way you propose;
- reflect on any possible objection you may receive;
- discuss the boundaries of your work (when you are available for calls, when you will reply to emails, etc.) and what support you will need;
- agrees how to handle emergencies or requests outside the norm.