Returning to work - e.g. after a family break - is a major challenge that predominantly women have to master. As long as you are still at home, you can hardly imagine integrating a working day into your daily program; In the meantime, digitization may have progressed significantly or there may be a lack of self-confidence in the job. We address this important topic with Britta Mues-Walter, who founded the consulting company &ahead around two years ago to support people on their way back to work after a career break. Her observations and experiences are extremely interesting! Read the 2nd part of the interview here; you can find the first part here:

Many women find it difficult to get back into work. How do you support the returners at &ahead?
First of all, we offer you a protected space in which your topics and questions are taken seriously and you can address them openly. We also offer them a structure for a successful return to work. This can be done individually in 1: 1 coaching or in groups, and above all also virtually via e-coaching and videos on our platform. You get practical tools about our methodology, "the 3 C's", which I mentioned before. In addition, our Lead Together Career Relaunch Forum & Workshop takes place twice a year to get to know each other. The next forum will take place on May 28, 2021. There we present our method & tools, participants can get information, exchange their experiences and make contacts. A central and particularly valuable component of our service is our Mentor Community & Lounge, in which we match those returning to the job with mentors (there are more every day) who fit them and their desired goal and give them valuable tips from professional practice. The forum will be expanded globally for the first time in Singapore and will also start there from the timeline and then in German from 2 p.m. on May 28th. continued. Due to the Covid19 pandemic and the associated difficult conditions for those returning to work, we are offering the event once free of charge.

It is also important to us to prepare our participants for the topics of digitization, new work, etc., to introduce them to offers for further education / training that will position them even better when they return to work. The half-life of what has been learned is getting shorter and shorter. Those who are willing to continuously learn or learn something new will have the edge. You are in a position to support companies in an agile manner in their challenges. We are currently working on a digital solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and provides our members with individual recommendations for suitable training courses and jobs

Where does a returnee usually start, and how long does it take to get back to the level at which she quit?
Everyone starts with themselves, or at least we recommend it. It starts with a snapshot, a reflection on the values, passions, skills and goals that they have. To do this, we use a tool called Ikigai, among other things. It was also presented by the World Economic Forum. The strategic career return plan is derived from this. This is very important to us so that the return to work is successful and sustainable, as it is based on key issues. What am i good at? What do i love What do I stand for? What is my passion? What am I paid for? And what does the world need? Or to put it another way: How will my sector develop in the future?

The duration of the process depends on various parameters: the length of the break, the professional background and the respective situation of the returners. Has she already arranged childcare? What time horizon has she set for herself? This can take 2-3 coaching sessions up to several months.

How long does your consultation last and what does it cost?
The duration of the accompaniment varies from 1-2 months to 6 and more months. This can range from participating in our forum (€ 130 EUR onsite / € 50 digital), to targeted coaching depending on the package (between € 200/300 to € 2,000), to e-coaching / video and digital content. It is important to us that someone who goes through our re-entry coaching remains with the re-entry or afterwards as a mentor / speaker / customer or member of our community. As a result, returning to work in our community not only creates a "social impact", but also a continuous natural cycle. In the course of the second half of 2021, we will offer these services via our digital platform in connection with a membership fee of EUR 120, - which includes the forums, initial coaching, special content on our platform and the community.

Why is it better to get professional help getting back to work?
The step back into the job and into the career is a new chapter in life. You should take this step very consciously. Therefore, it should be well considered, well prepared and carried out sustainably. You want to sell well, negotiate well, and that requires confidence, a plan and a strategy. Much has changed, and here I need a partner who understands that and can prepare me accordingly. We also offer a career portal on our & ahead platform with interesting jobs at our partner companies.

How is your team composed?
We are a qualified international team of experts. For example, my partner & co-founder Carolina Yeo comes from Singapore and brings 14 years of international talent management experience with her. Other team members have experience in the areas of coaching, personnel consulting, executive search, IT / tech and marketing. With the diversity and competence of our team, our mentors and the experiences of our members, we support people on their way back to work. Our & ahead community is very important.

What advantage do companies have when they employ women returning to work?
There are many advantages to this. One is that the company has access to a pool of mostly female professional talent (5-12 years) via & ahead. A study by BCG says 85% of women with professional experience want to go back to work, 54% even immediately, that is around 3 million women in Germany alone. As a result of the diversity goals and quota regulations in supervisory boards and now also in executive boards, the need to hire professionally experienced female managers has risen sharply. This is where our model and pool of hidden talents come into play to efficiently meet this need. The immediate availability is a particularly great advantage, especially in Germany with the mostly long notice periods. We have also noticed that those returning to work are very eager to learn, eager to learn and highly motivated. They are also particularly grateful for the opportunity to get another chance after a break, and for the investment in it. Such people are usually very loyal and - unlike university graduates - usually stay with the company for a longer period of time. Returners are open to learn new things, can be used flexibly if necessary, and bring a fresh and different new perspective with them.

Do women and men who take time off gain additional qualities that can also be relevant to the job?
That's a particularly interesting question, thanks for that! We try to convey this perspective to our members and coachees. Take a look at the career break from the side, what qualities and skills you have gained during your career break! One of our mentors, himself the father of a daughter who is now a mother, said in our forum when it came to personal branding and working out our USP: “You have gained experience during your parental leave or career break that your colleagues do not have, but they do can be very valuable for the company. ”For example, I learned an incredible amount from my children: creativity and adaptability, taking on new responsibilities ... Today they help me with new digital tools; my children are now 16 and 19.

How long does it usually take for women to regain their professional self-confidence?
That is very individual and difficult to answer. But what I can say is that the community spirit in our forums is the first step in finding like-minded people. That gives you the good feeling that you are not alone. Our members exchange ideas and get tools that they can easily use. We encourage everyone to approach the project step-by-step, and each step leads to more self-confidence.

And how long does it take for women to integrate work into their daily routine?
It's a question of organization and preparation, and it usually works very well. Women in particular are good at always having a plan B. It is also important to involve the partner, because you shouldn't do it alone. If Corona has one good thing for returning to work, it is flexible working, including from home (home office). This is now accepted by everyone, at all levels of the hierarchy. This flexibility facilitates the re-entry process. The current momentum is helping a lot!

You are also booked by companies. Can you give one or two examples and explain how they used &ahead?
Yes gladly! Companies work with us in various forms because they are interested in our pool of motivated and readily available - often female - talent with 5-12 years of professional experience. For example, you have access to these talents via our career portal and network and pay a recruiting fee for them. We currently have around 30 positions on our portal and in 2021 we have already successfully supported two CEO positions, both in the field of education and in connection with a start-up. Both candidates have an academic background and each with over 12 years of professional experience in the fields of banking, education and digitization. We are particularly pleased because it also shows the quality of our pool of returnees.

We also have a strategic partnership with Fitch Rating, for example, in order to recruit newcomers to their internal “CreditPath” program. This is a full-time, paid 12-week re-entry program that Fitch launched 4 years ago in the US and is now expanding to continental Europe with our help. It is our concern to support German or continental European companies in setting up such a strategic talent development program. We are already in talks with some of them. Others use our career portal and network for vacant positions. Companies also sponsor participants so they can take part in our coaching program. Sponsoring our forums is also popular, which is often used as an employer branding measure.

Do you only advise women who are going back to work, or do you also advise men? What is the percentage breakdown?
We started around 2 years ago, and &ahead was born out of the idea of ​​supporting women in particular after a family-related career break with their return to work, because we, as founders and team, know how difficult it can be, how much potential the economy has is lost through long, often unintentional, professional breaks and how important it is to proceed consciously, in a planned manner and with professional support. More and more men and women who want or need to reorient themselves professionally are also taking part in our program. The situation on the labor market is currently very tense and the consequences of Corona are in some cases not yet foreseeable. Some of our members are looking for a way to become self-employed, others want a job that is not only exciting in terms of content, but also corresponds to their values ​​and is meaningful. It has been shown that our program is also effective here. We also hope that we can help more and more men get back into the job and that it will become more normal for women and men to take family-related career breaks. Only then will we have reached gender balance. Expressed in numbers, we now look after a little more than 90% women. However, the proportion of men is increasing steadily.

What are the 3 most important tips that you give women who are about to return to work?
1. Willingness to learn and openness. I would advise to get a Career sponsor / mentor to talk to someone confidentially and regularly about the new situation and to discuss challenges and new career goals. We as the & ahead community with our mentor network are also always there for those returning to work.
2. A good preparation to get back to work is very important and to involve the partner. The first time in particular is a major organizational change and should ideally be mastered together. A weekly plan that defines who does what and when can be very helpful here.
3. Clear positioning and agreements with the new team and boss, how much time in the office, home office, expectations of travel activities, etc., I consider extremely important. What can / want to do and what not? And where do I also need support from my employer so that my return to work is successful and sustainable?

Thank you, Britta, for the exciting interview!

Britta Mues-Walter ist Partner & Co-Founder von &ahead
My Career and Child Community

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