Career Advice Returner to Work

How to Succeed on a Returners Programme

John Smith

More and more companies are now hiring talent in mid-senior roles who are coming back to work after an extended career break. According to UK government data, £5 million was allocated to the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in the 2017 Spring Budget to support people who had taken career breaks to return to work. The funds were intended to support the implementation of returners programmes in the public sector, and to develop best practice guidelines for the private sector.

What is a Returners Programme and how can it help you get back to work?

Returners Programmes are aimed at facilitating the training and deployment of individuals looking to return to work after an extended career break. The reasons for a career break can range from caring duties to taking out time to focus on your mental wellbeing. However, it can be hard to get back into the workforce once you’ve left, especially if your break’s been long. Return to work schemes focus on bringing experienced talent back to work by upskilling and reskilling them and facilitating a smooth transition back to work.

But what are employers looking for when hiring returners and how can you make the most of a return to work scheme?

In this blog we’ll cover:

How to ace your returner application

When you’re planning a return to work after a career break, one of the first things you need to consider is how to explain employment gaps in your CV. However, as more and more businesses start integrating returners into the workforce, the focus is shifting from why or for how long you took a break. Instead, employers want to know what you did before your break and the skills and experience you picked up.  

This shift in employer mindset is reflected in LinkedIn’s recent introduction of a Career Break feature that lets users explain and normalise time taken off for caring duties, bereavement or a gap year and removes the stigma of having ‘employment-free’ periods in your CV. This is why you should be using LinkedIn’s career break feature today.

When applying to a returner programme, outline all the relevant experience and professional qualifications you’ve had and list any transferrable skills you picked up during your break. This could be either soft or hard skills or a mix of both. For example – you could have picked up a new language whilst travelling on a gap year or done a course in coding.

Employers also want to understand your motivations for wanting to return to work and what you’re looking for in your next role. Do an honest self-assessment and identify your core competencies and professional experiences that align with your next steps.

For example – if your background and experience has been in teaching and you’re seeking a new role as a business analyst or software developer, you would at least need to demonstrate some transferrable skills that would support your new role. Providing this clarity helps employers on returners programmes find the best fit for you.

How to prepare for an interview

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before an interview, especially after an extended break. First off, congratulations for making it this far!

Interviews for returner programmes are not aimed to be tricky or catch you out for not knowing the most recent terminology. Instead, they are an opportunity for employers to get to know you better and understand the skills and attitude you bring to the role. They know it’s your first interview in a while, so relax!

A good tip is to practise your answers to some common questions either with a friend or family member or even just in front of the mirror. This builds confidence and gives you a chance to work on your body language as well.

It’s also worthwhile to think of possible references in case you’re asked to provide them. This might seem tricky if you’ve had a considerably long break of five years or more. Think of any volunteering jobs you’ve had that could attest to your skills. For example – you could have played an active role in the parent community at your child’s school and organised fairs and other fundraising activities. You could ask someone from the administrative or governing body to provide a reference. You could also consider reaching out to your old professional contacts. Remember: don’t ask, don’t get!

What makes applicants stand out

In addition to your background and skills, employers want to see that you take proactive steps to advance your career. Whether it’s by making strategic connections through effective business networking or doing your research to learn about the company and its culture or even asking insightful questions – all demonstrate your commitment and eligibility for a role.

For returners, transferrable skills play a big part of the new perspectives they bring to a role. Employers want to know how creatively and effectively you can use one set of skills across multiple job functions. For example – you can explain how your fundraising and team management skills were developed whilst organising a community fair and demonstrate how those skills align with the role you’re applying to.

Managing life admin for a returner

According to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, after child birth ‘women’s employment rates jump sharply down from about 90% to 75%, and average weekly hours of work for those still in paid work fall from around 40 to less than 30.’ Women being the primary care givers in most cases, it can be a daunting prospect for a large majority to return to work after children.

There are childcare options to consider as you plan a return to work and a combination of various life admin tasks. It’s important to get ahead and start thinking of alternate arrangements when you want to go back to work so you’re not bogged down with any distractions during the application process.

Benefits of hiring returners

There are currently an estimated 2.1 million people out of the labour market of which 89% are women. According to a report by PWC, ‘addressing the career gap penalty for female professionals can deliver significant economic benefits.’ The report projects an additional income of £1.7 billion annually by bringing more women returners into the workforce.

Returner programmes help businesses hire experienced talent who may have been overlooked by traditional recruitment methods. Bringing back returners particularly in the IT sector addresses the digital skills shortage and helps businesses build more diverse teams whilst reducing the gender pay gap.

How to launch your career with FDM’s Returners Programme

FDM’s Returner Programme welcomes people with a career break of 12+ months. Our programme aims to train and recruit Returners for a number of Technical and Business roles and helps facilitate a seamless reintegration into the work force.  Our Returners Programme includes support for wellbeing and mentoring, as well as assistance for flexible working arrangements should you require them.

FDM Group is a global leader in the recruit, train and deploy sector, specialising in technology.  We work in partnership with our clients to help with their technology projects and to fill specialty skills gaps in their teams. We look at a broad range of factors during our application process, not just degree type or university. We focus on the potential of candidates and what they can bring to a role to make a real difference.

Get back to work with FDM’s Returner’s Programme today.