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Hit return - why a career break doesn't have to mean a career end

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: International activities, Skills

I joined Sellafield almost 20 years ago – initially as an agency worker, and then as an employee. Over this time, I have held a series of different roles.

Each helped me gain invaluable experience, but didn’t necessarily offer a career path.

I noticed this especially when I returned from maternity leave and felt my career options were limited.

I’d had a year off in which time many of my colleagues had progressed. Not only that but I think some people expected my outlook to be different or that I’d have the so-called baby-brain.

At this point in my career, I felt like I had encountered the “broken rung”. I was struggling to get that first step up the career ladder.

In actual fact, I found that having a young child gave me a new set of skills, which I was keen to use. I was less shy than was previously the case and more willing to challenge things. I am now in my forties, and I think in some people’s minds this meant I was past the point of being driven or keen to seek out new opportunities.

Here at Sellafield Ltd we have some great networks for young employees, graduates and apprentices, but there are fewer similar opportunities for those in the middle of their careers.

Realising this, I set to work on creating my own networks. I used our internal social network to connect with employees I’d worked with previously, those with shared interests and skills and others I’d not met before.

Doing this opened new doors to me and enabled me to get involved with discussions with senior leaders about our work to close the gender gap and ensure we were as inclusive a place to work as possible. In fact, I was able to raise the lack of networks for people in my position as something we should look to address.

I am not sure if any of these things happened because of my gender, but I certainly think that becoming a parent focused my mind. We often talk about the glass ceiling being a barrier to women, but the truth is the broken rung stops more women progressing.

My tips for climbing over the 'broken rung'

The power of a network

By building up a wide and diverse network of contacts, you will raise your profile and visibility. The more visible you are, more people will think of you when an opportunity arises.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

I have found people at all levels to be incredibly generous with their time when I’ve asked for advice. If there’s someone you look up to or is one step ahead of you in their career path, reach out to them.

Get to know your organisation

This is in your control and will help you with your future development. It also means you’re well placed to help transform things.

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