This post was written by our Co-Founder JuIiet Eccleston

In my last blog, I looked at how the gender pay gap highlights the lack of workplace diversity. Since then, I’ve continued sharing my views and advice on this subject by hosting a webinar on how start-ups can develop their business proposition in a way that creates an equal playing field for all professionals. During this, one attendee posed an interesting question related to the difficulties faced by individuals who have taken career breaks – often due to care responsibilities – and then tried to return to work. At AnyGood? we’re committed to helping professionals return to employment, so I wanted to address some of the key challenges.

Typical barriers

When we take a closer look at this issue, there are many difficulties facing women and men who are trying to get back into work after a career break. In the first instance, many returning professionals find their chances of promotion or pay rises are slashed. Statistically, women are most impacted by this: in fact, research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed that mothers who return to work end up earning a third less than men and a recent study by Women Returners found that over a third (36%) actually expect to be demoted when they return to work.

Many other hurdles are logistical, such as difficulties in finding work that is flexible enough to fit around childcare arrangements, which is typically key for those looking to return to the workplace. Some employers can wrongly perceive requests for later starts or earlier finishes as a lack of commitment, when really aptitude and output is far more valuable than presenteeism. Another significant challenge is being able to demonstrate up-to-date skills when workplaces and industries are constantly evolving. This continual change can also mean that well-networked people can suddenly find themselves disengaged from the professional communities they were once part of.  For some returners, their personal confidence can also be affected because they feel that they are out of practice and worry that they’ll struggle to pick up where they left off.

Overcoming the hurdles

One thing for any returning professional to have in mind is that experience and maturity are invaluable and can be added to the list of skills that you had before you took a break, not taken away. Refreshing those skills, for example by taking a short course to familiarise yourself with key new technology, is a great way to overcome any sense of being out of the loop. If networks have dwindled, re-engage with some of the key people and find out if there are any events that you can attend in order to get yourself up to speed with developments and rekindle those professional relationships. Note too, that many large firms have woken up to the potential of returners: a number have schemes designed to ease professionals back into the workplace, such as Fidelity Investment’s Women Returners Programme and ‘Real Returns’ which is run by Credit Suisse. Organisations such as Women Returners are also a valuable source of information and support.

Sometimes, it might seem to returners that the long gap in their CVs means they are routinely overlooked unless they know the right people in the right places who can help them get a foot back through the door. At AnyGood? we actively look for ways to address workplace barriers and our platform, which enables professionals to recommend people they’ve previously worked with for roles, has resulted in a number of returners being put forward for positions that they might not necessarily have had the confidence to go for. Because fellow professionals who know their historical achievements are vouching for them, it can be a really powerful way for them to be reminded of their capabilities and potential. It’s also a great way for us to bring those skilled individuals into our own network, putting them into contact with employers who might not have found them using the usual channels.

It’s time for professionals to come together in a way that disrupts the current norm. The act of recommending someone for a role that you believe they are perfect for encourages others to have confidence in their own capabilities and achievements. Creating a network of individuals who recognise and highlight the abilities of other professionals is a positive step forward when it comes to helping skilled returners find work commensurate with their abilities. So what are you waiting for? Join us today.

Want to find out how AnyGood? can help you restart your career? Contact us today.