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Returning to work: Philippa Deane

Case Study: Philippa Deane, Executive Search Manager, M&G Investments

What was the reason for your career break, and how long was your break?

I left full time employment with a City based executive search firm in 2006, in order to set up my own recruitment business. It was a now or never decision which fortunately provided the necessary flexibility following the arrival of children in 2007 and 2008.

Although contracting through my business, I made the decision to return to permanent employment in 2013. We’d moved out of London by then. I missed the buzz of the City, was looking for a new challenge and the opportunity to take my career forward. I subsequently joined M&G Investments to establish an in-house executive search function.

Returning from a career break, what was important to you when considering a new role / company?

My husband works long hours and we had no family support network in the locality. I set about looking for a role that would enable me to work flexibly, and therefore achieve some work-life balance for the children. Although only four years ago, at the time, it felt like a big ask.

What attracted you to M&G Investments / the investment management industry?

I’d spent the best part of fifteen years recruiting for investment management companies. I understood the industry and had a network and track record there. With companies increasingly moving more towards a direct hiring model, I was keen to explore the possibility of using my skills in-house.

I’d recruited for M&G previously, and can clearly recall walking into the offices for the first time. I had an immediate sense of the company culture, and knew that I would enjoy working there.

How did you search for a new role, and how would you describe this experience?

I was fortunate with M&G. I expressed an interest in joining them and spent the next few months scoping out a role that I felt I could fulfil for them.

During this time I also applied for some roles on-line and contacted recruitment companies. The most difficult aspect was making the initial contact. There were occasions when I didn’t receive a response to my applications which was both frustrating and disheartening.

How would you describe the support you received when you returned?

Incredibly supportive and forward thinking.

They were amenable to me working a four day week with the opportunity to work from home on occasions.

I was up and running very quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed being in a corporate environment and could feel my old confidence return within weeks. I was actively encouraged to attend personal development training courses.

Has your career developed since?

The in-house search function has evolved over the past three years, and I’m responsible for direct hiring of senior level individuals across all areas of the business.

Of course, diversity is a key consideration in all hiring, although I’m particularly passionate about encouraging returners back to the industry.

While men and women take career breaks for any number of reasons, I recall reading a report from the IOD in 2015 stating that “40% of senior women who take leave to have children, never return”.

I was appalled at the thought of wasting such talent, and put a proposition to M&G that we actively encourage returners back to the industry. M&G Career Returners was born.

What advice would you give to individuals considering returning to work?

Have faith in your ability and value to prospective employers. It’s all too easy to lose confidence during a career break. This will return very quickly.

If you’re looking for flexibility in a new role, be open with prospective employers about this upfront. To take on more than you feel comfortable doing at the outset, is likely to make both parties unhappy.

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