She’s Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work – Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan

by Bushra

Having been a mum on a career break for several years, most advice around women in employment talk about women’s rights, the gender pay gap and the Equality Act. But I had yet to read a book about how to get back into work after being out of it for so many years. Ironically, I didn’t go searching for it – it was my husband who identified I needed something to help me strategise instead of stabbing in the dark looking for jobs or training to suit my background. Enter She’s Back. I can’t sing this book’s praises enough. It’s a nifty little guidebook for women returning to work after their career breaks or even for those planning to go on one. As someone who’s been on a very long one (we’re talking 7 years!), it was motivating to read that many women went back to jobs they loved and some after 5-12 years of being on a break. It was also reassuring to know that this was a relative norm among women and taking time out to raise children isn’t the enormous setback it’s perceived to be as long as there’s a strategy in place DURING the break – playing the long game is definitely one of the advised aspects of this book.

She’s Back provides excellent tips on networking, both online and offline, and how to cultivate and nurture those networks – sometimes it’s just a coffee with a mum from the school gates that could kickstart your career again. I like the idea of networking that moves away from awkward and stuffy events where no one knows each other to building your community of contacts and keeping in touch with them. Moreover, the book is evidence-based with surveys and studies – one showed that 42% of women got their jobs through their contacts compared to a recruitment service or job posting online. These are reassuring statistics for anyone who has taken an extended period of time away from work to strategise and recalibrate their approach to returning.

The tone is positive and upbeat – never at any point in this book did I feel that women should be derided for taking time out from work to look after their families and the encouragement shines through. I love that it offers strategies on how to get back in, how to build up skills when away from work, thinking about the skills acquired so far, keeping in touch with your network and, when you’re ready, how to apply and negotiate part-time work. Turns out most jobs we want will never be advertised as part-time but this book teaches you how to negotiate them down to 3-4 days a week so that you can have some semblance of balance in your life. What I really love about this book is that there’s no polarisation. It is absolutely focused on women who want to return to work and so it doesn’t offer tips on how to juggle home life with work. But it doesn’t have to because those things are unique to every individual – She’s Back is about the process of getting your career back on track and so it acknowledges the things that matter to its target audience and tackles those head on. There’s no message of “women can have it all” (what does that even mean?), scolding them for not setting their families aside in pursuit of their careers nor does it belligerently tell women to live a life of stay at home mums of a job hasn’t worked out for them. It’s about finding a solution that works for women and showing them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Practical and tangible with a dash of fun is how I’d describe the book  – there are tasks and checklists with almost every chapter, particularly around CV planning and job applications making She’s Back easy to absorb information. This is a reference book to dip in and out of, but it’s not boring at all. On the contrary, I’ve never enjoyed reading a handbook more. And the best part? There is a Facebook group to accompany this which is already proving to be fantastic with a bunch of talented women willing to help each other out.

She’s Back is about giving women hope and support without the intangible mantra of empowerment. It’s a movement of women’s journey through life and viewing them as the fabric of society with the acknowledgement that, beyond our reproductive capacity, we are talented in our fields of expertise and interests and are often overlooked due to the ‘missing years’ on our CV. This book equips women with the tools to bridge that gap.

  • I purchased my copy of  ‘She’s Back’ from Amazon.
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • ISBN: 9781911583561
  • Number of pages: 240

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