Yemi, Career Returners @ Enfield Council 2017 (5 year break)
I have spent my working life as a Project and Programme Manager in a variety of fields. I graduated from Strathclyde University with a Masters’ degree in Process Engineering and that enabled me to turn my hand to all manner of things. I worked variously for multinational oil companies, merchant banks and a start-up in the oil industry in Nigeria before moving back to the UK in 2000.
Once in the UK, I started working in regeneration which I loved. My last role in the public sector came to an end in 2012 and I decided I needed to do something else. We had been foster carers for a while and I wanted to support my husband who had borne the brunt of our foster caring as well as do something with food which I also loved. I spent my time creating additive-free recipes for store cupboard staples, being more engaged in the community through the local NHS Trust but eventually I felt the urge to go back to work.
I started looking for work late 2015 and soon realised that I had a serious obstacle with recruiters – my CV was ‘not current’. I did the rounds of consultants that I had used before but in the main, the overriding feeling was one of not being taken seriously which was very disappointing and to be honest depressing. I didn’t feel that at 53 my best days were behind me! I didn’t want to re-train as I wanted to go back to doing what I had been doing and while I had kept abreast of changes to the sector and attended networking events, this didn’t help.
I came across the Career Returners @ Enfield Council programme in my local paper. I applied not really expecting a different outcome from the previous attempts, so I was pleasantly surprised when Enfield Council asked me to interview and totally happy when I made the grade and was offered a post as Programme Manager.
Re-joining the workplace as a Returner really worked for me. I tried not to place any expectations on the job beyond refreshing my CV. I had a post-holder to shadow and it felt as if being a ‘returner’ meant that both the organisation and myself could ‘suck it and see’. There were no expectations placed on me beyond seeing how I fitted into the organisation and there was a degree of liberation in that. Prior to my break, I had never been away from work for longer than 3 months. I famously took my first child to a Board away weekend when she was 7 weeks old and still being breastfed and I was back in work full time when my second was 3 months old. I loved work and I love to work.
The coaching provided via Women Returners was very focussed and perfect for me. It enabled me to work out my requirements of the job beyond the job’s requirements of me. 4 months into the job, I applied for and was successfully appointed to the post of Strategic Programme Manager for the division. That success was a function of the support I received from the Women Returners coaches, my fellow returners and Enfield Council HR. I now find myself in a very happy place, doing work I know how to do, and do well, with a very supportive Assistant Director.
My workplace in Local Government is a very different place to the one I left early in 2012. It is infinitely more challenging with less resources to go around, however, the commitment to delivering for the community is still very strong and that provides opportunity for innovation in doing what we do. I am involved in the delivery of a new community with a new train station and attendant community facilities as well as in the renewal of existing communities. It is varied, challenging, exciting and every-day I am happy to go to work.
Getting back to work after an extended break is a challenge. I found my confidence was at a low ebb, there were anxieties about fitting back in and understanding the cultural changes that have occurred in the interim. To anyone contemplating returning to work after an extended break, I would say find yourself a Returners Programme. It will help you adjust to the new realities, build up your confidence and help you find that place at work where you are fulfilled and back to being a professional working woman.