Comeback kings and queens

By J&C Team

Have you taken a career break and are you finding it hard to get back into the workforce?

The financial services organisation Morgan Stanley is among a growing number of employers launching initiatives aimed at returners in recognition that there is a big talent pool of people who have left the workforce for various reasons who could be encouraged back.

They held their first Return to Work Workshop on 20 May for people who have had at least two years out of the workplace and have previous experience in financial services or related fields such as legal or technology support work for financial services organ. Hope you get a good sleep tonightisations.

The workshop was for people who are thinking of going back to work, but need basic advice about things like networking, how to follow up on contacts, how to explain a career gap on their cvs and interview skills.

It is part of a growing number of initiatives around returners. Earlier this year Credit Suisse launched a returnship programme – short-term paid positions, project-based, typically with training and mentoring support – and Bank of America has just held its third Returning Talent programme. In addition, the consulting and coaching organisation Women Returners is working with organisations to develop return-to-work programmes.

Katerina Gould, a co-founder of Women Returners, says: “Returnship programmes are a win-win: businesses are able to refill the leaky talent pipeline and bring forward more senior female leaders; returners benefit from a supported pathway back to work, gaining valuable work experience and rebuilding their professional confidence.”


Returnships were pioneered by Goldman Sachs in the US and the company has hired around 50% of its 120 programme participants since 2008.

Since late 2013, five new similar return-to-work programmes have been launched by major US companies including JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and MetLife.

A recent US study found returning professional internships are quietly emerging as one of the most effective vehicles for US professionals seeking to resume their careers after extended breaks for childcare, eldercare, or other reasons.

Julianne Miles, another co-founder of Women Returners, says: “A returnship offers the opportunity for employers to access a largely untapped pool of high-calibre experienced and motivated women and gets over the concerns of some hiring managers about their lack of recent experience.”

While the big financial services organisations are leading the way on returnships because they recognise the need not just to retain female talent but to attract lost talent back, organisations in other sectors are also seeing the benefits of hiring returners.

One such firm is Obelisk Support which has been built on the premise of tapping into an underutilised talent pool of top ex-City lawyers, mostly women, who have left the profession because of family commitments.

The firm was set up in 2010 and since then has grown rapidly. It now has over 500 legal consultants and plans to increase this number to 10,000 across the world in the next three years through building local clusters of lawyers who can support local businesses. It is also looking at the potential for broadening its model to other professions.

Eve King, the company’s talent director, says: “The calibre of our consultants is amazing and what makes our business’ reputation. Not all are women, but women do tend to be the ones who take career breaks.” Male consultants include a man who is trying to get his band signed to a record label; another is an author. Eve believes more men will come on board in the next few years as shared parenting becomes more commonplace. “People should be able to have a career and not follow one career path,” she says. “They should be able to be a partner if they take a career break or work flexibly or be considered a success even if they work 10 hours for ever. It’s about using their skills in ways that are right for them.”

Eve herself left a City law career when she became pregnant. She could see what was ahead – part-time hours to fit around her family but a full-time workload. She took a nine-year career break and felt no-one would be interested in her skills and that her previous legal experience would go to waste. She understands how women who have taken career breaks feel deskilled and lacking in confidence, but she says “your basic skills do not go anywhere”. She speaks about another lawyer – one of Obelisk’s consultants – who took a five-year break after working at a City law firm. Eve says: “She was worried that she couldn’t do the work again. She thanked us for telling her she could.”