Liz, O2 Career Returner
It’s been just over a year since I joined O2. At the time there were many uncertainties, was I, and my family, really ready for me to return back to work? And, more crucially, would I be able to secure a permanent role at the end of the programme? The answer ended up being yes to both.
I knew taking a break from my career was a risk, but it was at the time the right thing for us as a family. When our youngest started school, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I would want to go back to work. What wasn’t so easy was working out how many hours I would be able to work each week, how I would manage school holidays, and how I would convince potential employers that I was worth at the very least an interview.
In the beginning, my attempts to apply for roles were unsuccessful. The world of project management has progressed, and I lacked the more commonly used Agile project management experience, most PM roles seemed to be requesting. My uncertainty about being able to work full-time didn’t help.
It was suggested to me that I look at return to work programmes – which is how I found Women Returners and the O2 opportunity. The programme gave me an opportunity to experience being back at work, regain confidence and network. It was through networking that I became aware of a vacancy for the role I am now doing. It’s a slight change in career direction, which has been great, as I always felt that my return to work was the perfect opportunity to have a second career that didn’t necessarily have to be a continuation of my previous career.
It’s worked out really well. I love my new career as a Solution Architect which allows me to get back to my more technical roots. I’m constantly learning things, the projects that I have worked on have all been so different. I love the feeling of making a difference, having the work I produce and present gaining approval feels like such a great achievement, especially when I look back on where I was a year ago – unsure if I would ever be able to return to a career of substance. And, I’m looking forward to becoming professionally qualified for the role later this year. Without the Return To Work programme I would never have had the confidence to apply for a change of career role, especially when I had received so many rejections because of my career break.
And once I realised that I would be able to work flexible hours and work from home, it became clear that whilst I started the programme working only part-time, working full-time was possible. I do wonder whether going back to a different role has helped me to transition. Working as a parent with dependents is very different to working without family commitments, but it enables me to have my cake and eat it.
My advice for anyone considering returning back to work after a career break is to take advantage of the great career return programmes that are now being offered by so many companies. It will not only help you to refresh your skills, but it will also improve your confidence, build up your network, and quite possibly end up with you in your dream job. Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns. I found being open about my family commitments – needing to fit work around school runs where possible, and school holidays i.e. buying extra holiday, etc it was possible for me to identify which roles would and wouldn’t work on a flexible basis, so you do also need to realistic, as not all roles can work this way.
Finally, my last piece of advice, don’t give up. You don’t lose your core abilities or past experience, and whatever the reason for your break, you will have grown as a person, all of which improves your potential value as an employee.