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The coach: ‘I stopped work to have kids, but now I want to return’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect wanting to return to the profession in a part-time, salaried role

I want to return to a salaried three-day-a-week role now my kids are bigger, both for myself and financially for our family. I used to be a project architect, but for the past six years, since I had children, I have not been in paid employment. I had built up pretty good experience as a project architect, but I don’t feel like returning to job-running; it is too all-consuming and I really can’t do a full-time job on part-time hours. I could go back to the last place I worked, though equally I wouldn’t mind moving on. But such jobs aren’t advertised.

Matthew turner

There are more and more practices out there that are recognising that offering flexibility can be a great way to hire, and retain loyal staff. However, it remains true that balancing a fulfilling career and a fulfilling family life is one of the hardest work issues to manage, made even harder in our profession, which is notoriously poor on employee conditions, and work-life balance.

While people with children under 16 have the legal right to request part-time work, this doesn’t help a returnee like you, and the fact remains that many employers are extremely nervous of part timers. You are being admirably flexible in that you don’t necessarily want to return to exactly what you did before, so I think there are lots of interesting roles you can carve out. 

Some options are completely compatible with flexible working. For example, I know of someone in your position who is in charge of quality control and co-ordination in a busy office, meaning she checks and marks up the offices’ drawings for others to carry out the changes. 

This is one moment in your career when using your network is vital

Some may balk at this work, but for her it is especially suitable as she has a keen attention to detail and is naturally thorough. Being organised with how she makes comments, she can work flexibly and work from home 50 per cent of the time, which really suits her childcare requirements. She also likes the fact that her bosses respect her track record and experience, and give her  a degree of autonomy. 

So when embarking on a conversation about what you would be good for, identify and concentrate on your standout skills and competencies, and put as much effort into understanding and answering your potential employer’s needs. Communication is important, so showing you are willing to think from the employer’s perspective rather than only your own will give you more of a chance.

You are right to think that the kind of role you would be suited to is not going to be advertised. This is one moment in your career when using your network is vital. I would suggest the most effective way is to make it known to everyone (including past colleagues you worked well with) that you are on the look out, and that you are flexible.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I've been there too and found I was penalised by larger firms when I took a career break, no matter how short! However I have since found the perfect solution.... I work in the domestic sector with normal clients...(not footballers wives) and love what I do. By systemising everything, I find I can have the right work life balance. And spend the majority of my time designing infront of clients!
    I have since set up Pride Road, a supportive network to help architects in a similar situation.

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