Start Your Next Chapter After a Career Break: How You Can Get Back to Work With a Returnship at Audible
If you've stepped back from your career to take care of a loved one, you're not alone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of individuals have left the workforce to become stay-at-home caregivers. Unfortunately, this decision doesn't only affect monthly income; it can also create a hole in your resume that makes re-entering the workforce a challenge.
However, some employers are starting to realize the importance of looking past resume gaps in order to assess the holistic experience of applicants. A CBS New York article reports that "there are a growing number of corporate programs aimed specifically for [returnees]."
These programs—returnships—are basically mid-career internships that offer training, experience, and networking opportunities to professionals who have been out of the workforce for an extended amount of time.
CNN puts it this way: "There are lots of exits off the highway of our lifetime work, but very few on-ramps. And returnships are one of those on-ramps."
In essence, the goal of these programs is to give qualified individuals a jump start to pick up their career where they left off. The returnship experience gives hiring managers a reason to look past resume gaps and hire qualified people that they would otherwise overlook. And they're working pretty well. The New York Post explains that, upon successful completion of these programs, roughly 80% of returnees get offered a permanent job.
Are you looking for a returnship?
Premium audio storytelling company Audible launched their Returnship Program, Next Chapter, in 2020 and recently announced new opportunities for applicants. The program offers experienced professionals who have taken a career break for caregiving a full-time, paid remote internship over the course of 18 weeks. It gives participants a chance to return to the workforce by revamping skills, updating their resume with new experiences, and making connections with other professionals.
"We're helping people bring the skills that they have developed in the past, and put them back to work," said Anne Erni, Chief People Officer at Audible. "This is an incredible opportunity to show women and men who choose to opt out that they can return, and they can return and have successful, highly paid careers."
Audible's returnship program is open to professionals who have:
- 2 to 5+ years of professional experience
- Been out of the paid workforce for at least one year to focus on childcare or other dependent care.
- Upon successful completion of the return ship there is a possibility of an offer for full-time employment.
If you're interested in returning to work with Audible, you can read more about the Next Chapter Returnship Program here.
Datadog's Lucy Williams-Jones' Unconventional Path through Enterprise Sales and Why She Wants You to Join Her Team
Like many of us, Lucy Williams-Jones' life has been deeply impacted by COVID-19.
Unlike many of us, that impact took the form of a four-day period of time where Lucy was so sick with COVID that she was sure she'd never recover—and a permanent career change when she somehow did.
Now healthy and resettled into a completely new role, the Regional Sales Director for cloud application monitoring platform Datadog chatted with PowerToFly from her home office in England's Cotswolds—"Where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet were in The Holiday," offers Lucy, gesturing to the idyllic countryside outside her window—to share more of her story.
The individual contributor comfort zone
When Lucy got started in sales, she was 18 and figured she'd be in the field for the length of her gap year. She then planned to go to university and pursue her goal of becoming a sports therapist for a rugby team.
"Then I found out in that first year that I could make a lot of money!" says Lucy, who ended up staying at that company, Quest, for over a decade.
During that time, Lucy was almost always an individual contributor. She liked the feeling of being in charge of her own destiny, and in pushing herself to consistently beat her goals and keep pushing for more and more success. "I was really happy smashing my number every quarter and enjoying the kind of benefits that come from that from a monetary standpoint," she explains.
Ten years in, she did transition into a leadership role and found some success there—but two things got in her way.
First, her lack of experience. "I didn't have all the tools necessary to equip my team members with," she says. "That's why I did everything rather than teach other people. I'd basically just take on their workload and change everything so that it was fit to go out."
And second, her lack of desire to keep living in Cork, Ireland.
"I wanted to come back to London and the only way to do that and earn a lot of money, which is what drives me, was to go back to an IC role," explains Lucy. She did that, and worked at a few different companies before Datadog reached out and she took an enterprise sales role with them.
"The struggle I've had with other technologies previously is that you can't demonstrate them real-time," says Lucy. "If you have an awesome platform like we have [at Datadog], when you show it to someone, you can see their eyes light up, they can see the value right away."
She was excited by the product, by the market opportunity—"it's a product everyone needs, especially as they migrate from on-prem into the cloud," she says—and by the real-life implications for clients. "When I get an Uber and the app doesn't work, I know that if they've got our software, they're going to figure out exactly where it is and it's going to mend soon, so I'm not going to get my hair wet whilst waiting for a cab—English weather, you know—while I'm waiting for the app to reboot!" she says.
Taking advantage of her second chance
When Lucy got sick with COVID in early 2021, she immediately knew it was serious. Her blood oxygen was down at 82%—the NYC health department suggests immediately going to the hospital for an oxygen level of less than 90%—but she wanted to stick it out at home. "I decided not to go to hospital because I didn't want to not come out," she says.
Lucy says that she was lying in bed, wondering what her legacy would be if she died the next day, when it hit her: she wanted a chance to pass on all she'd learned from her 22 years in enterprise sales to the next generation.
"I've learned a lot of skills that have enabled me to be successful, to have the cash to buy a forever home, go on nice holidays, explore, and travel. And when I was lying there, I realized, 'I really want to transfer these skills to young women in tech, because I think that we're an underrepresented group, and I could actually get those young women living their best lives and earning the cash that they deserve," she says.
So she reached out to her manager and told him she was ready for a leadership position. He'd been asking her to consider taking on a leadership role for a while. It wasn't until she hit her annual number at the end of the first quarter, right after recovering from COVID, and told him she was still serious about leaving behind the responsibilities she knew so well for the more complicated and less immediately gratifying world of management that he knew she was serious.
Now, three months into that transition, Lucy is sure she made the right move. "So many people have been touched by COVID this year in negative ways," she says. "For me, I feel I'm super lucky every morning when I wake up; I've taken a positive from it."
"There's been lots of learnings, but I know this is the right career choice right now. I know Datadog will support me and that I'll earn my stripes as a true enterprise leader," she says. "My focus is on passing the knowledge that I've got to other people."
To do that, Lucy has to first shore up her own knowledge. She spent her first month on the job looking closely at the business and her team and implementing changes to help everything run better, and the second month focused on measuring the impact of those changes. Additionally, she's had to get comfortable giving up control of her own accounts—"my little family," as she calls them—and managing outcomes through others.
To help her on this journey, Lucy is also brushing up on sales leadership techniques with a few favorite books, including:
- MEDDICC: The ultimate guide to staying one step ahead in the complex sale by Andy Whyte
- The Qualified Sales Leader: Proven Lessons from a Five Time CRO by John McMahon
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
3 ways she's building a positive culture
As an enterprise sales leader, Lucy has both the power and the responsibility to create a positive environment for her growing team. To do that, she's focusing on:
- Being thoughtful about why she's engaging. Lucy doesn't respond to emails immediately anymore. Instead, she thoughtfully considers a three-part framework before crafting her response: "I'm analyzing, reviewing, and then offering advice."
- Not saying "I need." Communication from Lucy to her team has absolutely no unnecessary urgency, she says, which is why she expressly doesn't use the word "need." "I try to make it really about, 'This is the reason why I'm asking for it, this is the benefit it's going to bring, let's work together to get something that's going to be amazing,'" she says.
- Mentoring ICs. When a SDR in Datadog's Dublin office reached out to Lucy for career advice, Lucy jumped on the chance to help her. "She's at that roundabout of, 'Do I want to go into leadership? Do I want to be an enterprise seller?' Coaching her to be the best she can be has been really, really lovely...she's successful now, but she could be exceptional."
The 3 things she's hiring for
Lucy is doubling her team size and is looking for the next generation of sales leaders to bring onboard. If that sounds like you, make sure you've got these three traits she's looking for:
- Coachability. "That's the number-one trait I look for in someone," explains Lucy. "It's the ability to take on advice and feedback and adapt. It's not saying that my way is always the right way, but it's making sure that you understand that there are different approaches. [One] of the toughest but most important parts of life is receiving feedback."
- High EQ. Lucy is looking for people who are self-aware. "You need to understand how people are perceiving you, to understand what kinds of playbooks work for you."
- Affinity for pipeline generation. "You've got to do cold outreach to new logos, but you've also got to do it in a creative manner. I've seen people doing videos and stuff, which I think is really cool; you've got to stick with the cadence and actually do it. If you don't like PG, enterprise sales at Datadog may not be the job for you," says Lucy.
Lucy has a simple motto that she has internalized throughout her career thanks to her first MD, Simon Perce: "Leave no stone unturned."
If you'd like to give 100% in pursuit of your goals alongside Lucy, check out Datadog's open roles! "I would love to build a team of strong, capable, amazing, female enterprise sales execs," says Lucy.
Questions to ask yourself — and your employees — to help you decide.
From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, companies of all sizes across a variety of industries are at a crossroads. Should they say goodbye to the office forever?
Before we talk about a framework that can help you answer that question, it's important to note that not every company can even ask it. If your business is in manufacturing, food service, hospitality, healthcare, or any other number of vital industries, you and your employees may not have the option to work remotely. In that case, your planning will have to be around how to protect your employees' physical safety and health while they're on the job.
But if your team's pre-pandemic day-to-day experience included commuting to an office building and sitting side-by-side in open floor plans and big conference rooms, you've probably been working remotely for a while now as one of the white-collar companies that the New York Times noted are in a "race to be last to return to the office."
That race makes sense in the short term. No company wants to put their team in jeopardy and risk an office breakout of the coronavirus, which is why companies like Google and Facebook are letting employees stay home until at least next year. But in the medium term and beyond, working remotely indefinitely isn't the only option.
It's a good option, and one that's worked for many companies that make software or provide services that can be done virtually. (PowerToFly is one of those companies—we've been all-remote since the beginning!) Working remotely means saving big on office space, having access to a global talent pool, and optimizing for results versus hours logged, giving employees the freedom to do their work when and from where they're most productive. And all of that can sound really appealing both to employers and to employees.
But working remotely isn't without its pitfalls, including challenges in building company culture (which can affect recruiting and retention) and fostering the right environment for creativity and innovation.
To decide whether your team should continue working remotely, ask these questions:
1. How have your employees been doing during this time?
Objective measurements matter, and we'll get to those in a moment. But managing through this pandemic requires an outsized amount of empathy. Start the process of answering "Should we go back to the office?" by asking the people who would be returning to that office what they think. And actually listen—there's no better source of information about the future of your workforce than that workforce themselves.
You can ask your team for their input through a survey, a meeting, or 1:1 calls. We recommend doing a wide-reaching survey first (which you can make anonymous, if you feel it'll give you better results) and following up with individuals to get more color.
Ask the following questions of your employees to understand what their preferences are about the future:
- How has your productivity been since you've been working from home?
- Have you felt connected to work and to your coworkers while working from home?
- Would you prefer to work from home instead of the office in the future? Why or why not?
- What have been the biggest pain points of working from home? The biggest opportunities?
- Does your enthusiasm about this company or position change over the long-term if we no longer have an office?
- What ideas do you have for how the company's operating model should evolve in the future?
- In your ideal world, how many days a week would you be able to work from home?
2. How has your company been performing during this time?
Now it's time to look at the numbers. Depending on how your company quantifies performance, you may have key performance indicators to look at, progress reports, financial projections, and other data to consider. Gather all of those inputs with your leadership team to review, and consider these key questions:
- Are you meeting key milestones for the development, improvement, or production of your product or offering?
- Can support departments like marketing or HR hit their milestones remotely as well?
- Are your customers or users satisfied? Can they still be serviced effectively by a remote team?
Some KPIs are vital to running a business—including financial ones like monthly revenue or customer acquisition costs—but are less relevant as you strategize the possibility of long-term remote work, since they're currently being greatly affected by the pandemic. Your goal in looking at the data is to understand whether in a normal environment, your company could function well working remotely, using this extended shelter-in-place period as a kind of unplanned experiment.
3. What's practical and safe?
Once you know what your employees want and what your business needs, it's time to overlay a level of practicality on top of your strategy.
Let's look at Austin-based software company Pinpoint as an example of how this could work.
As covered in this Marker story, Pinpoint's lease was set to end this August, and its CEO was planning on more than quadrupling the square footage of their future lease to accommodate his growing company.
But then the pandemic hit and Pinpoint's whole team started working remotely. The CEO surveyed his team and found out that half of his employees wanted to continue working from home. Considering that Pinpoint's main products—programs to help build software better and to better manage the engineers doing so—are remote-work-friendly and slated to fare well in an economic downturn, per Business Insider, Pinpoint's KPIs are probably looking good. (The articles didn't include hard data as to whether that was the case, but let's, for the sake of this example, assume that to be true.)
Now, Pinpoint's CEO is considering a hybrid model: signing a lease for less than half the space he thought he would need in a different, less expensive neighborhood (considering that fewer employees would be regularly commuting); looking for different amenities within that lease (no desks, but instead spaces for collaboration and meetings); and otherwise enabling employees to work from home.
Here are some practical realities to consider:
- Is it safe to return to the office in any capacity? If no, you have your answer for now. Listen to government officials, health organizations, and certain key stats—like whether there has been 14 days of reduced COVID-19 cases in your area—to determine when going back to the office is even an option.
- What are the conditions of your current lease? If you have a multi-year lease, can you get out of it? If not, can you rearrange the space you have to be optimized for a new working model, like by getting rid of cubicle farms and instead investing in socially-distanced hotspots for anyone who does come in?
- What can you do with the money that previously went to your lease? If you decide to get rid of the office entirely and your lease allows you to do it, can you reinvest some of that money in remote-friendly policies, like giving employees a stipend to buy technology or furniture for their home offices or making weeklong retreats a regular thing? Both of those can go a long way in smoothing out some of the bumps of remote work (such as working from an ill-equipped home office or not getting facetime with coworkers), while still helping the bottom line.
Going forward, there's no one right answer.
The future of work might look like remote employees coming together in socially-distanced ways to collaborate or connect. It might look like the complete extinction of office buildings and downtowns. Or it might look much like our pre-COVID reality, just with much more hand sanitizer. (Remember that post-9/11, some prophesied that no one would want to work in a skyscraper again. That didn't last long.)
Right now, all you can do is start gathering information and strategizing about what's right for your company in the long term. We hope the above framework and questions can help.
And if you're interested in learning more about running a remote company, check out the resources below or get in touch with our leadership team—we're happy to share our story.
3 tips from a former financial advisor.
During these wildly unsettled times, I (like so many others) have been trying to determine how to stay sane, be productive, and help.
At PowerToFly, I am part of your team of "Talent Advocates." This means that I spend most of my day advocating for our community members by directing them to resources on the PowerToFly platform and of course - connecting them with relevant opportunities matching their skill sets and interests. I love what I do because I get to interact directly with our community to help facilitate their personal and professional development. So here we are in the throes of a global pandemic and I want to step up my advocate game further and be a part of your support team.
Before I came to PowerToFly and before life did its crazy "throw-a-curveball" thing (hello, international move!), I was a financial advisor. In fact, I've done Chat & Learns with the PowerToFly community on various financial wellness topics. If you're tired of Netflix by now, feel free to rewatch them here. In the spirit of being the very best advocate for you, I think it may be helpful to dust off my old advisor cap and share some ideas for managing your finances during this period of uncertainty.
Hang in there, stay well, socially distance(!), and I hope this helps.
1. Reevaluate Your Fixed Expenses
When budgeting, I break down expenses into "fixed" and "variable." Your fixed expenses are the ones that stay the same every month. Examples could be your rent or mortgage payment, student loans, cable bill, cell phone, car insurance, gym memberships, subscriptions - you get the idea. When reworking a budget, we sometimes forget about these expenses because we think there's not much we can do to change them. Don't let your fixed costs slide by unchecked! Certain things like your mortgage can seem impossible to change (though I'll get back to that shortly), but other ones like your car insurance or cable bill are worth reviewing.
- Shop around for car insurance - is there another insurer that can give you similar coverage at a lower rate? Get a copy of your current plan and go online to check for lower rates with other insurance companies for the same coverage.
- How about your cell phone? Check out other carriers to see if they can offer the same service for a lower rate and make the switch. You can also call your current company to see if they have newer plans that offer similar service at a lower rate.
- Don't forget cable - when was the last time you checked your bill? Is the amount you're paying higher than you remembered? Get on the phone and ask your cable provider if there are promotions available or other ways to lower your bill - don't be afraid to get tough!
- Consider if you can afford to keep your memberships and subscriptions running at this time. This can be difficult - for things like a local gym membership, we all want to help support small businesses we like to patronize and we know those business owners are in a tight spot too. Do your best to navigate here how you see fit, but don't feel guilty if you need to cancel a service or membership for the time being. Remember: if your own glass is empty, there's nothing to pour into anyone else's.
- And a little good news you don't even have to take action on? If you have federal student loans through the U.S. government, your payments are automatically delayed without penalty through the end of September 2020.
2. Reduce Your Variables
Your variable expenses are those that can change considerably each month. This is also where there's a lot of "stock" financial tips like - "stop drinking a $4 coffee every day if you're short on money." I find a lot of advice like this to be worthy of a heavy eye roll. Most people who are financially strapped are not buying that pricey jolt on their way to work each day. Not to mention - while we're #SafeAtHome, we're not making those morning coffee runs anyway. That said, there are a couple of ways we could see our variable expenses creeping up right now.
- Ordering take-out and delivery food - another tough one. We want to support our local restaurants! That said, if you're worried or struggling, try to take some time to meal plan. We want to limit our trips to the grocery store, so plan ahead on what you can make during the week. Be sure to plan some meals that are exciting enough to keep you from falling into the temptation of ordering delivery too often.
- We all do it: online retail therapy. These days, we're facing an extreme strain on our mental health. "Retail therapy" exists for a reason - it offers distraction from whatever it is we don't want to think about and a healthy dose of positive reinforcement when that desired product arrives at our door. Mental health awareness and not shaming the different ways we cope with managing our stress is incredibly important, so I offer this thought with care: the stress that comes with financial uncertainty can be tremendous, be kind to yourself by trying to engage in less expensive distractions. There are so many companies offering free classes, content, activities - take advantage!
3. Get on the Phone
We all hate to do it, but you've got to call the companies that you're paying each month to see how you can reduce your bills. Even Dumbledore said that help will always come to those who ask for it - but you have to ask. I already mentioned calling your cable and cell phone companies above, but here are a few others for whom you could pick up the phone.
- Dial up your credit card companies. If you're working to pay down credit card debt, call the company and ask if you're eligible for a lower interest rate and if not, when you will become eligible. After you ask about that, ask if they have any programs available to help people who are paying down their debt or if they have resources available for people affected by the pandemic.
- Reach out to your utility companies and see if they have options to reduce your costs. Depending on where you live, you may be able to select alternative utility suppliers that could lower your monthly rates. Some utility companies are also working with people to come up with payment plans or other ways to work through the hardships of the coming weeks.
- Get in touch with your landlord or call up your mortgage company. A lot of landlords are working with their tenants if they can afford to do so, but they won't know you need help unless you talk to them. Additionally, many mortgage companies have options for deferred payments to those dealing with a change of circumstance due to the virus. If you're taking a deferred payment plan from your mortgage provider (or any other lender that offers this), make sure to ask if deferred payments accrue late fees or interest. Also be sure to check if the payments are due in a lump sum at the end of the deferment period or if your payment plan is extended at the end so that you can plan ahead.
While a lot of things feel really bad right now, there is still a strong sense of community all around us. Whether it's people singing together from their balconies, local restaurants sending food to hospital staff, or neighbors helping get essentials for the elderly or immunocompromised, we are working through these crazy times hand-in-gloved-hand. In some way, all of us will feel the financial impact of these global circumstances, but there are resources available to help you through. Aside from the tips above, you can always investigate what help may be available to you on a local, state, or federal level. And of course, should you find yourself needing to look for a new professional opportunity at this time, don't forget to reach out to your PowerToFly community. There's a whole team of Talent Advocates ready to help!