My return to work journey – Aisling Perez

I always had it in my head that I would return to work once my little boy started school. I had been made redundant from BlackBerry when I was almost 7 months pregnant with him, so it seemed like a natural milestone for us both to venture on a new journey in our lives. I had also since had my youngest daughter, but I felt like my mind had been made up and she would be fine at nursery once I went back. The “mummy guilt”, did kick in but in my mind, I think girls are more resilient to changes and in my experience, not as clingy. So the decision was made… what!

I started to get my CV back in order. Something I had done a couple of years prior due to an “I NEED to go back to work”, episode. I quickly got over that and decided to stick with the plan, with the added bonus that I had started to get my CV up to date and had made a good contact in the world of work returners.  Once I felt my CV was updated, by no means tailored, I started to look at available jobs online. To say I was shocked is an understatement. In my mind, I wanted to work part-time (4 days preferable), but when I started to look for “part time”, there was nothing related to my previous roles or my skillset. It all seemed to be aimed towards admin, accounting or retail. I felt so deflated. Was this my fate?

So I then reached out to some of the returners companies that are out there who specialise in people who’d like to return to work after a career break or who are looking for part time work. Again, I felt that they were not a good fit for my experience. I spoke to a woman named Stephanie Dillon from Inclusivity and she was a different level of wonderful. Her business focuses on getting career returners back into a suitable career, no matter their back ground. She tried to get me to apply for positions in London, but for me, that just wouldn’t work. Also, the big unknown ‘Flexibility’, was not something that company advertised. Then she mentioned O2 and how they had a Career Returners programme and given my background, she encouraged me to look into it.

I found the web page (thank you Google!) and started to understand more about the returnship and what they had to offer someone like me. I was bowled over. The stories of previous returners, the flexibility they had received and their current success was something I dreamed of. That could be me! I was impressed by their work with the NSPCC and other anti-bullying campaigns that they had going on too, but most of all I was impressed by the technology. The excitement built inside me that there was a chance that I could almost pick up where I had left off, but with the added bonus of learning more about how it had moved on in my 5 years out of the business.

I wrote my cover letter and tailored my CV and off it went. I was scared, nervous and so excited.

A couple of weeks later I got a call to say I had been shortlisted to speak to HR and a date and time were arranged. The call went really well and Melanie was so lovely. She explained the next steps, should I be selected and that was that.

A short while later I got an email to say that I had successfully been selected for the assessment day and that there would be a workshop and that I should prepare for an interview. The fear started. I hadn’t had an interview in almost 11 years! It made me feel very anxious, a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. But it also made me realise how much I wanted it.

I prepared as best I could, roping my husband in to help with the competency based questions I thought they might ask. I decided on an outfit for the day and I was ready.

I arrived as per the timings advised on the day and walked into the Atruim at O2. What a wonderful feeling and a fabulous building! There were a lot of other people there for the assessment day (24 I believe in total, including two men).  We were all pretty nervous, but there was also a great air of excitement between us. We were met and warmly welcomed by Andrea and Angelica and brought to a large room where we took part in a Women Returners workshop, delivered by the lovely Kate. This was a great way for us to be reminded who we were before we’d taken our break and what our professional identity now looked like. We were each then taken off to our interviews at different points of the day, the camaraderie already building with us wishing each other good luck! A tour of the office to entice us even more, a Q&A session and we were done. I can honestly say I was mentally exhausted but invigorated after the day. It felt like such a long time since I’d been in that environment and been my work self if that makes sense. Also, saying good-bye to the lovely people I’d met, knowing that if I did make it, I wouldn’t see them all again given that there were only 12 places to be awarded.

I got home and couldn’t wait to tell my husband all about it. By the time we got the kids to bed and had dinner, I was completed shattered and snoozing on the couch by 8.30. He told me he was proud of me and that he could tell I was very excited about the prospect of working at O2. It would be a couple of weeks before I would hear whether I’d made the cut or not.

And now the wait……..

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