A welcome return!

Fenella Lowden, assistant bid manager, tells us how she joined our team through our Welcome Back returners programme after a 9 year career break...

I heard about the Welcome Back programme from a friend who had been successful in returning to work via a returner scheme. After taking a 9 year career break to concentrate on my family, I was ready to re-launch my career and set myself the goal of getting onto a suitable programme with a company where I could make the most of my previous experience.

When I saw the advert for Willmott Dixon offering regional returnerships, I jumped at the chance! The Welcome Back scheme is a 20-week programme on a fixed-term contract basis that offers work experience along with a coaching programme that includes refresher training and new skills. For the right candidates, it leads to the opportunity for a permanent role.

After completing the programme I joined the new business department full time within the bid management team and have been (and am still!) learning the bid management process which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Making the most of my experience

My early career was spent working in the hotel industry; with the majority of that period spent at The Dorchester Hotel in London, where I became the youngest ever female head of department in the history of the hotel. Following this, I moved in to facilities management and was lucky enough to work for some well know blue chip companies. It was during this time that I wrote a business case for an £80m refurbishment project for one of the company’s old buildings but shortly after this I went on maternity leave. Returning to my previous role in a part time capacity was not an option, however my customer requested that I come back in the role of communications manager dedicated to the refurbishment project – this experience has been invaluable in my new role.

It was when the project reached completion that I decided to take a career break to concentrate on my family and personal life. In all, I took 9 years out of the corporate environment although I volunteered for charities for many years during this time.

Support through the Welcome Back programme

The Welcome Back programme was a huge help to me finding my feet again in the workplace. From learning to introduce myself as a business professional again, networking, managing my time at home and work, negotiating a permanent role, saying ‘no’ when needed and remembering that it is a marathon not a sprint; the support has been incredible!

I am now employed as an assistant bid manager, which plays to my previous experience in communications and construction industry knowledge. I have also negotiated a four day week ensuring that I get some valuable time with my family at times that suit them – getting the balance right!

I would absolutely recommend the Welcome Back programme to anyone that wants to get back into work after a career break; it is such a support and allows you to test the water in a ‘safe’ environment at the same time as being able to develop yourself and your skillset. At the very least you get 20 weeks of invaluable experience, at the best a new career!