Back in April I was scouting through LinkedIn when I saw Lisa Unwin put up a post about her up coming book with Deb Khan ‘She’s Back – your guide to returning to work’. I messaged her to (cheekily) ask for one of the early copies she had – they were in high demand from people wanting to review but I managed to get my hands on one. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to read it, for reasons I’ll explain shortly, but I’m done now and I think there are a few people that will need to read this (and the book!)…
The book is written in three sections. Section one positions the ‘why’ both for the book and the case for women in the workplace, alongside a detailed snap shot of what’s going on today. Section two is all very practical with hints, tips, exercises and a pragmatic look at flexible working. Section three rounds the book off with a message of hope and a reminder that progress is a foot.
Now, you know I’m an honest and to the point kinda gal so here goes…section one didn’t do it for me. It took me a while to get into it but I couldn’t put my finger on why. When I was planning this post I think I figured out the main reason – Deb and Lisa clearly want to acknowledge that returning to work and flexible working aren’t things that only women experience, and they call that out early on. However, section one just didn’t scream diversity at me and that unconsciously swayed how I was reading the book. I have been upfront with Lisa that I’ve put that in – I want to mention without detracting from the rest of the book which I think is ace, but if you find yourself reading it and not quite getting into it from page one my advice would be hold on in there…it’s coming.
Section two was absolutely brilliant. It was bursting with incredibly practical and relevant pieces of advice that would equip anybody returning to work after some time out. There was absolutely no sugar coating what you need to face into and figure out when you’re planning your return. There was advice on your CV, LinkedIn and interviewing – right down to what you can say to keep the conversation focused if you feel out of your comfort zone having had time out. There were also activities to do with a partner which sounded like a great idea – it would definitely get you into a mindset before an interview and I’ll definitely be using them with coaching clients.
The pages on flexible working need a paragraph all to themselves. Flexible working is something I talk about a lot – all aspects of it from the pros, cons, where it has worked well, why it gets a bad rep, who’s smashing it and all the shapes and sizes it comes in. The discussion Lisa and Deb bring to this topic is great and even for this seasoned chatter I took fresh thinking away from it and found myself getting fired up reading it. If you’re at the stage of talking to your employer about the art of the possible, this is the section for you.
Section three was a really great way to close the book. It was a bright reminder of what has been and the art of the possible. Whilst heading back to work or putting in that all important flexible working request might feel like a David and Goliath moment, it’s a moment in time and times are changing. Companies are changing – not always quickly but everybody needs an early adopter – Lisa and Deb have shown throughout the book where actual real life humans have been able to challenge to status quo without the world imploding.
Throughout the book you’ll find lots of signposting to additional resources which is always a bonus if you like a good read but are struggling to know where to go next, as well as loads of real life case studies of very honest accounts from women who have been through the returning process – the flexible working ones were my favourite and I think would give loads of ideas and encouragement to anybody going through this particular adventure!
If you’re returning to work after a chunk of time out and you want a reminder that your career history isn’t a distant memory I have no doubt that ‘She’s Back’ will help you. If you like practical tips, advice and giving it a go, you’ve found your next read but also employers take note – if you want to understand ‘the other side’ get flicking through now, there are learnings for everybody.