Mentoring and the return to work


Lots of people need to take periods of time off work to care for their children or, increasingly, a vulnerable parent. In some cases, this can be a significant career break. When someone has had a lengthy break from work it can be more difficult than you might think to restart a career.

Yet, people returning to work can have a significant impact on the economy. PWC recently reported that the UK losses £1.7bn per annum by failing to address some of the issues returners face restarting their careers.

Returners to work offer companies huge benefits in terms of the skills and expertise they possess, particularly during a time when the labour market is tight, and these skills and expertise are in short supply.

So, what are we doing to help make the transition back into work as smooth as possible and provide support in overcoming some of the barriers faced in resuming a career? Our mentoring programme is a valuable tool that can be used to help smooth the return to work, ensuring returners can get to grips with their new roles faster and provide that all important support for returners.

There are a few barriers that people returning to work after a career break can face, here are some of the most significant.

Career navigation – as a returner to work, receiving the support of a career mentor can be invaluable. A career mentor will help a mentee reflect on what they are good at and the skills they possess.

Career mentors will have a good insight into the careers and career paths available in their organisation or sector and help a returner navigate appropriate careers and help them plan from application to interview. Having a career mentor can help bolster a returning mentee’s morale, especially during any setbacks that may occur in the early stages of returning to their career.

Low confidence – it’s amazing how quickly we can get out of the swing of things and how daunting it can be to think about returning to performing at the same level at which we left our career.

Mentoring is a great way to support an employee in gaining or increasing their confidence. Mentors can help mentees raise self-esteem and develop a more positive outlook on life by championing the mentee and reinforcing the positive examples they have seen in the mentee’s skills and behaviour. Mentors can challenge any limitations the mentee feels they have returning to the workforce and help a mentee to increase their self-belief.

Skills gap – when returning to the workplace it can be the case that things have moved on with regards to work processes and technology. As such, a returner may face a gap in their skills and competencies.

Mentors can work with mentees to identify their skills, including skills they may have gained whilst on their career break and profile these against the skills required in the role. Mentors can then plan with their mentee how they will aim to close any gaps that are identified and to capitalise on any new skills.

Work life balance – if someone is returning the workplace following a break where they were caring for a child or relative, they may still have out of work commitments that put pressure on their time and availability. A mentor can help a returning mentee understand the flexibility their workplace can afford them, as well as support a mentee should they feel under pressure in terms of their workload or guilty due to the limited hours they may be able to work.

With the support of a mentor the mentee can lay out their concerns allowing the mentor to impart some guidance on how the mentee can work with their line management to align expectations on when the mentee can work and what they can realistically achieve. This process can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety the returning mentee may be facing and subsequently enhance their performance.

Finally, mentors can help returning mentees broaden their network by making introductions and connecting mentees with other individuals who can help the mentee adjust to their return to work.

If you could benefit from some support in returning to your role or if you feel you could support someone returning to the workplace, then why not sign up to our mentoring programme.


NAHT’s Mentoring Scheme

A leader’s career can be a long, winding road, so we want to support this community the best way we can. One such way is by facilitating contact between leaders at various stages of their career allowing them to share best practice and invaluable guidance. By working together and tapping into all this knowledge we can make education the best it can be.

This platform provides a space for school leaders to share and gain knowledge that will benefit those starting their leadership journey as well as seasoned leaders.

For mentees, it’s a great way to build on areas that you’re less familiar with or that are completely new to you, and in turn build a strong working mentor relationship that’ll inspire you. For mentors, it’s a chance to give back and help strengthen the profession by sharing your experience and knowledge.

Click here to find out more or register