Career Management

Learn How To Pan for Gold

My friends’ son was recently completing some research about gold. He had found an article on the internet and was showing us instructions on how to Pan for gold. Whilst it may sound rather obtuse, I thought it was a great metaphor for the how the recruitment process could work for candidates who are returning to work from a career break. Traditional recruitment does not cope well with non-linear CVs and the system is set up in a way that does not “pan” accurately or broadly enough and these “nuggets”, this pool of talent, are often altogether overlooked.

When I set up The Return Hub, I wanted to create the opportunity to demonstrate the incredible value that this talent pool can offer to businesses. There is no shortage of evidence showing the impact that diversity can have on the bottom line: McKinsey’s recently updated research, “Diversity Matters” showed that firms in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to have above national industry financial returns and PWC’s research uncovered a potential £1.7bn potential boost to GDP from addressing the Career Break. There are now 205 firms signed up to HM Treasury’s Women In Finance Charter as recommended by Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s review. This Charter commits signatories to key actions to increase their organisation’s gender balance across financial services. This, together with other pressures such as the gender pay gap reporting has done a lot to help make positive changes regarding how companies are viewing their culture and recruitment strategies.

But let’s not kid ourselves that things will change overnight. I recall 15 years ago, attending my first Diversity seminar hosted at Lehman Brothers. It was an exciting prospect – the idea that firms were going to take seriously the make-up of their organisations and ensure they could better mirror the reality of society. Following countless other similar diversity seminars, the truth was, very little changed. The needle did not move. I am heartened now, to see this latest wave of change appearing less transient and instead a more evolutionary move towards a more inclusive and healthier future for business.

For our part at The Return Hub, we want to help organisations realise this bright future. I often say that there is no silver bullet to achieve a more balanced workforce but creating a structure and culture that supports women is crucial to success. This is about change at the top filtering through to the rest of the organisation as much as it is about changes to traditional processes and reviewing “how things are done” through a different lens.

Take the interview process for example. It can take nothing short of a miracle for a non-linear CV to make it through the hurdles that traditional recruitment and search have designed to fill “square holes with square pegs”. Hurdles that include, for example the automated “applicant tracking systems” which are designed to filter candidates and use algorithms that often discard a gap in dates or an incorrectly formatted CV. For someone who has a non-linear CV, making it to the interview stage is challenging to say the least. Once there, though, these candidates can present a stumbling block for key decision makers. Managers can often hesitate, not knowing how to tackle a career-break during a meeting and even avoid it, rather than exploring it for its potential.

Clear vision is vital – you don’t want to wash away a big nugget!

What is a career break?

There are ‘official’ meanings of career breaks, but taken quite literally it is a ‘break from a career’: We see candidates leaving the sector for a wide variety of reasons and not solely for caring reasons. Whilst this is true for some, leaving to have children does not always present the whole picture of an individual’s motivations and there are often other pinch points underlying a decision to withdraw. I sometimes hear of frustrations - women who could not see a future in an organisation where there were no clear pathways to realise their ambitions. In such cases they will search for other means of fulfilment. Many have set up their own businesses, travelled, undertaken good works, joined non-executive boards, retrained, taken an MBA….a myriad of experiences. The time out can also vary widely – 37% of our candidates have 0 – 2 years out, 29% have 2-5 and 34% have 5 years +.

Organisations sometimes shy away from scrutinising the detail of a career break – perhaps they fail to see the relevance; or are concerned that they may say the wrong thing. I believe they are missing a trick if that is the case and at The Return Hub, we always encourage our clients to use the interview as an opportunity to explore this time out. Individuals who interrupt their career in this way, have a story to tell and undoubtedly have learned and developed along the way and given the right opportunity and environment, are keen to impart what they have learned and demonstrate how it can be successfully transferred into a business setting.

These candidates are an all-too-often overlooked source of high potential talent. During their time away, they have often mixed with a diverse range of people, broadened their networks, acquired a plethora of new transferable skills enriching a wealth of previous experience and qualifications, and with their renewed energy for the workplace and a fresh take on the world they present a truly valuable proposition to any insightful organisation.

As with any credible gold prospector setting up their operation we encourage our clients to pan carefully and deeply to uncover the best.

Case Study – Uncovering Transferable Skills

Amy had worked in European equity research as a specialist sales person for an investment bank. She decided to leave banking to have a family and whilst she was on a career break, she established an art advisory business, providing advice to high net worth individuals.

After 15 years out from her City career, she was eager to return to the City and be part of a team once more. She embarked on her search via The Return Hub and attended one of their breakfast groups which allowed her to network with like-minded individuals and included a session to help her with her “elevator pitch”. Following this session, her conviction for returning was heightened and she was soon put forward for an opportunity to interview with a boutique equity research firm. This company required a candidate who understood their product area, had sales skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. In partnership with The Return Hub, the interview process was designed to draw the best from Amy’s time-out and to play to her strengths and display her business applicable skill set.

In the final stages of interview, Amy was tasked with presenting to the client on a specialist subject which helpfully also gave her the ability to demonstrate an array of her transferable skills.

She presented to the decision makers on “Art as an asset class” and thanks to subject matter with which she felt comfortable and the skills she had acquired, she was able to demonstrate her flair for entrepreneurialism, sales and communication and an ability to deal with senior individuals.

Amy secured the role, soon retook her exams and has loved being back at work.

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