Julia’s Story: Return to Accounting
Having trained in accounting with Arthur Andersen and then worked in UK and Australia, in my 30s I was Finance Director at a large brand consultancy and instrumental in selling the company. At 38 I decided to take a career break, partly due to the birth of my first child, and also because my hunger for work had gone.
However I became very bored at home so after a year took a role as FD of a PR consultancy. It was supposedly 3 days a week but I ended up working 5 days & being paid for 3. I resigned and became a non-executive director, recruiting my replacement and working a few days a month. I made sure that I kept my hand in several ways: by keeping in touch with the industry and with my colleagues, reading and keeping up my professional association subscription.
After 2.5 years at home with 2 children, I divorced and decided that I both needed and wanted to go back to work. I’ve always loved what I do and I know that I’m good at it. I told everyone I knew that I was looking for a finance role that I could do in school hours with some work from home. I unsuccessfully applied for a few advertised roles – I found that my interview confidence had gone and that recruiters questioned my commitment to work.
A more effective strategy was telling all my friends and mums at school gates what I was looking for – most opportunities I received came from these contacts. The husband of one of the mums at school was a CFO and he knew of a large local company who were looking for senior-level finance support but couldn’t afford a full-time employee. I met the CEO and we had immediate rapport. He offered me a financial controller position 20 hours across 4 days, with at least one day in London and most working from home. I negotiated 6 to 7 weeks of unpaid leave during the summer holidays and time off at Easter and Christmas. It was slightly below my abilities and I traded off involvement in the strategic development of the company, but it was exactly the balance I was looking for. I was doing interesting work and could switch off and be with my family in the evenings and at weekends.
My confidence came back quicker than I thought and Google was very useful for checking what I didn’t know! I was very glad I’d gone back – I had to accept that my household would no longer run like clockwork but on the whole I appreciated my time at home much more. At work I was much better at multi-tasking, less hide-bound on things that mattered less and more tolerant of colleagues.
Now, some years on I have my own company and took on my first employee last year. I concentrate on small to medium sized businesses, turnover up to c. £12m, who need the input of a senior finance person but not full time. As the children have got older so I have increased the hours I work, whilst still being there for them in the evenings, weekends and holidays. Juggling it all is an art in itself!
For anyone considering returning to work I would say:
- Believe in yourself. You could do it before, you still can
- Keep your hand in while you’re at home
- Put the word around
- Give it a go!