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A Returners' Story - Verity Ballantyne-Cook

Verity Ballantyne-CookWhen I started maternity leave I had no idea when I would want to return to work. I was a Client Relationship Manager for an asset manager in the City. The moment my son was born, I just knew. I didn’t want to think about my career. I just wanted to dedicate all my time and energy, for as long as possible, to him.

Soon after I gave birth, a friend asked how long I was going to take off. I replied that I didn’t know, but right now my baby was my only focus. They replied, "You don’t want to leave it too long. Not in our industry”.

I tried to push what they said out of my mind but it kept creeping up. Are they right? If I leave it too long no one will hire me. They won’t see that I took extended maternity leave to do the most important thing in my life; raise a child. They will simply see a CV with a big gap on it and not give me a chance. I managed to get some freelance work doing investment research and writing.

This meant that I could work in the evenings when my son was asleep but still have the entire day to dedicate all my time to him. I would watch Business Live in the mornings over breakfast and have Bloomberg TV on in the evenings while I worked. This kept me up to date with everything going on in the industry. I also kept my CV up to date so it was available to be sent out at a moment’s notice.

Sooner than I had wanted to, but feeling an unspoken pressure from society, I contacted the lovely Sarah Dudney at the Buy-Side Club to talk through returning to work. She told me about a wonderful programme called The Diversity Project.

She explained the aim of the Project and The Returners Database and then gave my details to Karina Lee at LCP who is a champion for returners. Karina set up an informal meeting with one of the partners. After the meeting she said they would like to invite me to a Resume Programme day with about five other potential returners for further interviews. If successful, I could be offered a job.

As the day grew closer I started getting anxious, losing sleep. I realized that I wasn’t nervous about the interviews, I simply knew in my heart that I wasn’t ready to leave my son yet. I had to let Karina know as soon as possible. I was so nervous to call her I felt sick. I feared I was blowing the only chance I might get to return to work at this level. I told Karina my reasons and she was amazing!

She said she completely understood and this didn’t mean that the door was slammed shut for me at LCP. I was genuinely welcome to get back in touch when I felt more ready to return to work. I was shocked. She was unbelievably kind and understanding. She gave me hope that when I’m ready to go back to work, there are actually companies out there who won’t penalize me for taking time off to have a baby.

I now know that I don’t have to rush into the first job offered to me if it doesn’t suit my new life. I will take my time to find the right job that offers the flexibility that I need for my family.

I would like to say a heart-felt thank you to the Diversity Project and the Returners Database for giving hope to people who have taken time off work. Thank you to Sarah Dudney for introducing me to this wonderful project and working tirelessly to get exposure for it. And thank you, to Karina Lee for not judging me and being so understanding and supportive.

My top tips for returners:

1. Take Your Time!

If you are not under financial pressure to go back to work then don’t rush. Life is short and if you are in a position where it is possible, make the most of this precious time on your career break.

2. Don’t Let Society or The Industry Put Pressure on You.

Be safe in the knowledge that The Diversity Project is here for you and there are many wonderful companies out there who understand and support people who have had to take a break from their career.

3. Go To The Diversity Project Website!

There is a lot of really useful information and suggestions on the site. And of course, enter your details onto the Returners Database!

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