I want to return to work – where do I start?

If you’ve taken a break from your career and are looking to get back to work, it can be hard to know what you need to do, what you might have missed and even where to look.

There are many reasons why people choose to take some time away from their careers. Looking after children is perhaps the most obvious; caring for ageing parents is something that’s on the increase.

The good news is, none of these should hold you back; with a bit of planning and preparation, you’ll be workplace ready before you know it. Here are some of the key things you should think about.

1. Be Clear About Your Career Goals

Start with clarifying your motivations to go back to work. Do you want to be a good role model for your children; do you want the status of a high-powered job; do you want or need to earn your own money?  Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to consider what you really want to do, so think about what makes work enjoyable and fulfilling for you. If you are looking for flexibility to fit with your family life, think of all the different forms this could take rather than thinking part-time work is the only option.

2. Boost Your Confidence

Your self-confidence usually gets a knock during a long career break. Remind yourself of your strengths and achievements, before and during your break. Recognise and tackle your fears and doubts about returning to work. Remember that confidence comes from doing not thinking, so look for practical opportunities to regain your professional self, such as project work, or strategic volunteering if you’ve had a long break.

3. Refresh Your Skills and Knowledge

Get yourself back up-to-speed on your old industry (or learn about a new one) by completing professional courses through industry associations, attending workshops/seminars, signing up to relevant newsletters and meeting ex-colleagues. Stop worrying about your IT skills – take a course before you get back to work.

4. Be Strategic in your Job Search

Don’t fall into the trap of endlessly trawling online job boards looking for the right job and firing off scattergun CVs. If you’re looking for flexible work, look at social media, this is becoming a growing area for recruitment.

5. Grow and Use Your Network

Networking isn’t about approaching people and asking for a job. Networking is about making contact with people and is part of life – you do it at the school gates and in your local communities all the time. Take time to prepare a convincing and credible professional introduction first.

6. Hone Your CV

It’s likely that your CV needs updating, in terms of format and content. The point of a CV is to show others what you are capable of. So, highlight the headlines of your life, focusing on what you achieved in your roles not on your responsibilities.

7. Prepare for Interviews

Read books and articles, research the organisation and most importantly, practise. Don’t undersell yourself, this is not the time to be modest; take credit for your achievements and let your prospective employer see the best of you.

Source/Author: Caroline Cotterell, Director, HR Solutions Team

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Bereavement and Work – A Personal Journey

Bereavement is a personal journey that effects everyone at some point in their life. How are we geared to deal with it both personally and within our working lives?

A year ago, my life changed completely, my dad a spritely 77-year-old who looked and seemed young for his age (good genes apparently) suddenly became ill. Tests and a stay in hospital gave us the diagnosis of terminal cancer. He had a month to live. Armed with this knowledge I had a dilemma. Did I carry on working full time, I didn’t have the benefit of sick pay. Did I try to do a hybrid and work around my dads needs or did I just take the time out and care for him, knowing I had no income for however long it took to be there for him.

Those choices may seem simple, but the working environment in this current age has deadlines, workloads, our organisations are pretty lean, and we don’t have the luxury of offloading work to others. The pressure to maintain and continue in the work place is huge. But hang on where is this pressure coming from? Is it our beliefs that we can do it all, is it that we believe that we will look weak and unable to cope if we do ask for that time out?

As an HR professional I have seen many of my peers at senior level struggle with the dilemma above. We are getting to that age when our parents are becoming more frail and may need additional support and even care. We have a care system that is not fit for purpose, but it’s the best we have. To have one or both (in my case) of our parents ill or dying is something that we will at one time face.

I am in a position to influence others in how we deal with bereavement, whether it is to ensure effective counselling is in place, offering a sabbatical or just being flexible and supportive around the individual, knowing that day by day things may change and it’s out of their control. With this scenario on the increase, is it time for us all to review how we deal with bereavement and the workplace? If you find yourself in that place as I did, what would you do, what coping strategy do you put into place. The old adage about putting your own oxygen mask to enable you to save others is definitely true here. As HR professionals or senior managers what can we do, I needed someone to see I was in distress, I was so in the moment I hadn’t realised how distressed I was, I needed someone to come and talk to me and talk through the options. I had a fear that I would look weak. I truly believed I could do it all. I needed someone to work on a plan with me, to ensure that we reviewed the plan and make sure I was delivering against it, or if it didn’t it was adjusted. I am sure I am preaching to the converted with my fellow HR professionals, but how can we ensure that across our organisations we touch those that need it. No one mentions bereavement until we need to. Is it time to change that?

What did I do, I tried really unsuccessfully to be everything for everyone…….. I failed. So I made the decision to step back from work and spend all of my time with my dad. Those final 28 days I spent with him was the best investment of time I have ever made. I have no regrets. What would you do?

Source/Author: Caroline Cotterell, Director, HR Solutions Team

Get in touch to find out how HR Solutions Team can help your business.
Please contact us at info@hrsolutionsteam.co.uk or 01284 848230

Conflict Resolution

Problems in the workplace have existed since the Roman times.  Julius Caesar is a good example of somebody whose dictatorial managerial style upset and alienated some of his senior management colleagues, to the extent that they brought his employment to an end in a somewhat drastic manner.

Unfortunately for the conspirators, a distinct lack of risk management, business planning and foresight meant that the consequence of their action resulted in chaos for the Roman Republic, with a hostile takeover bid by an outside organisation.  To add insult to injury to this misogynist organisation, (who had yet to implement the Equality Act) the bid was led by a female entrepreneur from Egypt who entered into a management buyout agreement (with fringe benefits) with a leading member of the Republics senior management team.

Had such a series of events happened in the 21st century and with the advent of modern management processes then there is a distinct possibility that these problems could have been nipped in the bud.

hr solutions team bury st edmunds

Through the auspices of the HR Department, a disgruntled Brutus would have been able to use the grievance procedure at the informal stage, whereby over a glass or two of Chianti (not that we are advocating drinking in the workplace) he could have explored his complaints with Caesar.  The alienation felt by fellow work colleagues brought about by a dictatorial management and decision-making style would have provided Caesar the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings with Brutus and the Senate.  Secondly, with the assistance of HR or a mentor, Caesar would have been able to reflect upon and better understand the impact of his personality upon the organisation and put in place a personal development plan.

However, if Brutus was not satisfied that his complaints had been resolved, rather than resign and take the matter to the Employment Tribunal, by use of the Grievance Procedure he could either continue and seek external assistance in the form of ACAS, HR or use a clean pair of hands to resolve the matter at the informal level, or proceed to stage 1 of the Grievance Procedure.

Although the Grievance procedure provides a structure to manage the problem this has to be handled sensitively in that the “process” can lead to unexpected consequences.

The moral of the story is that if problems can be resolved at an early stage it is all to the good; if however, you progress into the formal grievance procedure, then careful thought must be given towards the end game.

In common with all grievances Brutus must know what he wants to achieve as a successful outcome and whether it is realistic.

The complexity as to how this problem can escalate becomes apparent if Caesar will not or cannot change his behaviour, or indeed has in fact breached the disciplinary procedure, (such as the odd extra judicial murder) in which event the organisation (i.e. the Senate) and not Brutus has to consider:

  • If the allegations are of a disciplinary nature do we suspend Caesar?
  • Will the disciplinary procedure now take precedence over the grievance procedure?
  • What if Caesar gets a bit upset and takes out a grievance against Brutus alleging that he is disabled by reason of his epilepsy and that Brutus is acting in bad faith and should be disciplined?

  • What if the grievance procedure runs its course and is not upheld and it is evident that Caesar and Brutus cannot work together? Do we move Brutus to another role such as governing Britannia or would that be regarded as a punishment posting and run the risk of constructive dismissal?
  • If the investigatory report recommends disciplinary action against Caesar, do we consider a settlement agreement? Bearing in mind the recent changes from the Inland Revenue about payment in lieu of notice being considered within the £30K tax free provisions, does this make any without prejudice offer less attractive?

Resolving conflict in the workplace as early as possible is vitally important to the individual working relationships and the well-being of the organisation. It is never easy for anybody when problems do occur, but not addressing them early, promptly and in a fair or consistent manner is a recipe for disaster.  Had Brutus the benefit of a grievance procedure, then the problems with Caesar could have been resolved, leading to a long term successful business and personal relationship: history would have taken a different course!

As for Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, we shall cover this in our next blog when we focus upon relationships in the workplace and parental / paternity leave.

Source/Author: Kieran Conroy, HR Professional, HR Solutions Team

Get in touch to find out how HR Solutions Team can help your business.
Please contact us at info@hrsolutionsteam.co.uk or 01284 848230

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