Could flexible working be right for you?

If you’re returning to the workforce after a career break, fractional – the new name for part-time work – or flexible work might be exactly what you need to get you back in the swing of things. With the competition for STEM talent heating up, more and more companies are offering flexible working schedules.

“Returners often need to balance their return into the workforce with a decreasing caring workload, eg as children go to school,” says Caroline Plumb, founder of Fluidly, cash flow management software.

People are attracted to fractional and flexible working arrangements for many reasons, not least of which is balancing work with caring responsibilities, which still rest predominantly on women’s shoulders.

A ‘fractional’ job is a part-time role where the employee works for a specified fraction of a full-time equivalent (FTE) role, for example a 0.5FTE role would be for half of a standard 35-40 hour working week. Flexible roles allow employees to choose when they work, often including hours outside the standard work day. They may also include the option to work from home. Both fractional and full-time roles can be worked flexibly.

Flexible working offered as standard

In the UK, anyone who has been employed for six months may request flexible or fractional working, and companies are increasingly offering fractional and flexible roles as standard.

Inga Rudzitis, Operations Manager from Float, a cash flow forecasting app, says, “Our founder, Colin Hewitt, has always been keen for Float to be a family-friendly place to work, so we’ve always been flexible about things like school runs and making it to sports day.”

“I think it’s important for employers to think about this intentionally and build this into their values so that there’s trust and employees feel comfortable managing their work and personal lives. If you lay this foundation, you can adapt to people’s changing circumstances and have open conversations about what needs to change and what will work for all parties,” she says.

Exactly how these roles are managed can vary not just from company to company, but from employee to employee.

“As someone who’s personally taken three periods of maternity, my experience is that there is no one-size-fits-all process for any returning process,” says Plumb. “Employers need to support not just with a variety of potential working arrangements, but easing the transitions around returning – from building confidence, ensuring there are no limits on potential and being willing to flex arrangements over time as needs change and children grow up.”

Rudzitis agrees: “By its very nature, flexible working can mean so many different things! There are some structured methods, such as specifying core hours, but for us at Float it’s more of an attitude. We know that people have lives outside of work, so being flexible means being adaptive to people’s circumstances. Sometimes people will leave early to do the school run and work from home for the rest of the afternoon, others prefer to stay a bit later in the office and have more of the morning to themselves.”

Flexible working is not just for carers

Not all flexible workers choose that model because of caring commitments. It’s also valuable for those who want to get more qualifications, or for students who are transitioning from a higher degree into the workforce.  

“I started working part time on four days a week to give me time to finish my post-graduate degree,” says Rudzitis, “and decided to continue working this way after graduating. So flexible working for us includes some remote and fractional working.”

When we talk about remote working, where staff work from a location that’s not the office, we often think about jobs such as software development where workers need to spend a lot of time focused on specific tasks. But the very nature of flexible working is, itself, flexible.

“I think any kind of role can be flexible,” says Rudzitis, “you’ve just got to be intentional about how you set it up. You’ve got to know what’s important to you, and how that can work with different types of working patterns. If team meetings are important, make sure any remote workers can join via video call, and make sure they get a chance to speak. Make sure that your part time workers can join by scheduling them at the right time.”

Communication is key

A lot of employers now use communications software that makes flexible working even easier. Tools like Slack, video calling, Google Drive, Dropbox and even project wikis are often used by teams even when they are sitting next to one another at the office, so extending that to provide a communications platform for remote workers is easy.

“We use Slack to communicate a lot,” says Rudzitis, “even when we’re in the office, so people who are working from home don’t miss out on the important things that are being discussed. Having said that, as a company we’re looking ahead to the future and are considering whether we might want to set up an international office in a year or two, so we’ve already started to talk about how we’d manage that.”

Fractional and flexible roles are becoming more common as the technology improves, and as attitudes become more accepting. Some industries, such as engineering, are so short of skilled employees that companies are radically rethinking how they work and how they can tempt women back into the workforce.

If you’re finishing off a doctorate, caring for elderly relatives, or would like to work alongside caring for your children, then fractional and flexible working could be for you.

 

Xero logoThe Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

Five ways to highlight your skills in your STEM job search

When applying for jobs, whether you’re a recent graduate, more experienced, or a returner, it can be difficult to know how to get your your CV into tip-top condition. Don’t worry. You’re not alone!

We’ve distilled some of the best advice on how to create a great STEM resume that highlights your skills and packages your work and life experiences in a way that shows off both your technical expertise and personal strengths that employers are looking for. These tips will help you stand out from the crowd when you’re writing your CV as well as when you are speaking to recruiters during the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM.

Make sure to tick the basic boxes

In your CV, and also discussions with recruiters, don’t get so nervous that you forget to include basic information. List your technical skills and experience right at the top or early on in the conversation with the recruiter. If you’re a recent graduate, include all your relevant coursework and projects, plus any placements or internships you’ve had.

“An effective resume must convince prospective employers that hiring you benefits their business,” says Leslie Toth, a professional resume writing coach, who has posted a guide to writing a STEM CV on Slideshare. Your CV must be concise, no more than two pages long, but not boring. Don’t just list the jobs you’ve had, talk about your responsibilities in each position, and skills you’ve developed.

Choose skills that are relevant to the position

When applying for jobs, think in terms of quality not quantity. It is tempting to want to increase your chances by spamming employers with an identikit CV, but this is self-defeating. Don’t apply for positions that you really want just for the sake of it — that’s a waste of your time and the recruiters’ time.  

You want to be happy in the job that you do, and you’ll have a better chance of landing your dream job if you focus on high-quality jobs that stretch you a little bit.

Read the job description carefully, make a list of the experience, skills and knowledge that the employer is asking for, and highlight the parts of your CV that are relevant. Do not be put off if you find that a job is asking for a bit more than you think you have to offer. Job descriptions often include shopping lists of qualities which include every single thing the recruiter can think of. That doesn’t mean they expect you to tick every box and, indeed, research shows that your male peers will be applying for jobs even when they don’t meet all the criteria. So take a chance and let the recruiter decide if you have sufficient experience.

When you speak with recruiters during the job fair, highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the roles and company that you are speaking with. Remember, one of the fastest ways to make a great impression is to show that you’ve done your homework and researched the company as well as their products and services. It is a great way to demonstrate that you see yourself as meeting their needs.

Look at the CVs of researchers you admire or want to work with

If you run into writer’s block while you are working on your CV, or trying to think of things to say during your chat with recruiters, Smith College in the US has a great guide to writing a STEM CV. They have this excellent piece of advice: Review the CVs of “researchers you admire or seek to work with (generally available online), as these can provide good examples to follow.”

And Prospects has a variety of sample CVs in different styles, such as chronological or skills-based, and for for different types of job, such as academic, teaching, or technical jobs. Take a look through the examples and let them spark ideas on how to package your own skills and experience.

Transferable skills are important

One of the most important bits of job hunting advice you will ever get is that all skills are transferable.

Whether you’re a graduate with work experience opportunities through internships, in your first or second job, or are returning to work after a career break, it’s certain that you have more transferable skills than you think you do. These are skills might be specific, such as knowing how to use Microsoft Office, understanding how spreadsheets work, take minutes in a meeting, or organising a schedule, or they might be more personality-related, like being able to communicate clearly, work in a team, take direction and respond well to feedback.  

CV writing service Craft Resumes gives this bit of concrete advice: “For students just starting out in their careers, adaptive skills are shown in their coursework, while transferable skills are established in their internship or any summer jobs. Some graduates may omit these skills thinking they are irrelevant, but they do carry weight in your job search efforts.”

Even temporary jobs in unrelated fields like hospitality or retail can prove that you have good transferable skills. They are worth highlighting when they fill gaps in your subject-specific experience, but keep this experience lower down in your CV, below any technical skills and directly relevant experience you have.

Pay attention to detail

Finally, one of the most important skills for any candidate is attention to detail. Entry level roles are often quite competitive, and recruiters will reject a CV with spelling or grammar mistakes, so make sure your CV is well written and free of errors. Ask a friend or colleague to proofread it and, for a final check, read it out aloud — that will highlight any mistakes or phrases that read badly.

Your CV isn’t a static document, it should change as your job search evolves, and as you learn what employers respond well to and what might be missing. Don’t just write one CV and use it for everything, rather, create a suite of CV templates for different types of job, and then tailor your CV specifically for the job you’re applying for right now. It might feel like a lot more work, but will get easier with practice, and will increase your chances of landing that all-important interview.

Your CV will make your first impression, so work hard on making it a good one.

 

Xero logoThe Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

Nominate women in STEM for an Honour

We are delighted to see several women in STEM getting recognition in the 2018 New Year Honours List for their dedication and achievements.

Credit: Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Helen Sharman OBE was made Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, Professor Pratibha Laxman Gai was made a Dame for services to chemical sciences and technology, and CBEs were awarded to Professor Caroline Dive, deputy director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, statistical epidemiologist Christl Donnelly, and engineer Professor Karen Holford, deputy vice chancellor of Cardiff University.

However, only 3 per cent of the awards went to science and technology recipients, and by our count, less than half of those went to women. Engineering was particularly poorly represented, and no one was honoured specifically for services to mathematics.

Since we know that there are plenty of excellent women doing fantastic work in STEM, we want to encourage you to nominate more women for future honours.

Credit: Intel Free Press/Isabelle Saldana

Honours are awarded to people who have made “life better for other people” or are “outstanding at what they do”. This cover activities and achievements like volunteering, making a difference to a community or area of work, innovation and improving lives for others. As well as detailing the reasons for your nomination, you should include all relevant work and volunteering they do, as well as awards they’ve received.

The Cabinet Office has helpfully provided a guide on how to write a nomination, with suggestions on the sorts of words and phrases that can help, as well as persuasive example paragraphs from previous nominations. Additionally, you should submit two supporting letters by people who know the nominee personally.

The application can include various types of evidence, such as articles about their work and photographs, to support your nomination. It can be completed online or you can print off a form and post it to them. Do note that the process differs if the person nominated lives or works outside of the UK.

There are no deadlines for submitting a nomination for an honour, but expect the process to take 12-18 months, due to the work required in considering and assessing each application. Additionally, the committee chooses the honour, so you cannot nominate for a particular award.

We hope that this inspires you to think about the women you know and put them forward for an honour!

How to prepare for an online video interview

One of the biggest challenges when you’re looking for a job, especially that first job, can be getting a conversation with a recruiter, which is why the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM is an excellent opportunity to get over that hurdle.

The fair has attracted some of the biggest names in business including semiconductor maker ARM, consulting giant Accenture, the Government Digital Service, the European Patent Office, tech company Capgemini, and specialist recruitment agency STEM Women. The IET will also be on hand to talk about ongoing professional development and accreditation for engineers. 

Make a good first impression

Making a good first impression is key to making the most of the fair, and we spoke to Dr Amanda Barnes, employability manager and cell biologist at the University of York, to get tips on preparing for the interview and also for how to navigate an online interview. (Watch the full interview with Amanda now!)

“The first thing I’d say is that although this is not a formal interview, this is your first opportunity to show yourself to that company and a way in,” she said. So you should dress formally, just as you would for an in-person interview, and make sure that you use formal, professional speech in your interview.

Key in making a really good first impression is doing your research on the companies you want to talk to, she said. Make sure that you know what products or services they offer, and what type of roles they have open that are suitable for you, such as graduate schemes or entry-level positions if you’re just leaving university, or mid-level roles if you’re early in your careers. If you’re returning to the workforce, find out if they offer specific returnships and see if they have public information about flexible or fractional (part-time) working.

Interviews are a two-way street

It’s also important to remember the interviews are a two-way street: They aren’t just about an employer getting to know you, they are also an important opportunity to find out whether they are a company you want to work for. Dr Barnes suggests that you should ask what kind of potential career paths would be available to you if you join the company, and that could include asking about future training and career development opportunities.

Another plus of the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair is that it gives “you an opportunity to find out how your values fit with that of the company”, Dr Barnes said. “What do you want your typical day to be like in your world of work? … What is the culture like at the company and will I fit in there?”

Think about what’s in view of your camera

The default interview format for the Finding Ada Online Careers Fair is video, so make sure that there isn’t anything in the background that might distract the interviewer. Most laptops have a way to test the camera, so do that before the day and move anything that’s distracting. if you’re living in a student house, make sure that your flatmates know about the interview and don’t interrupt you.

If you are using a laptop, make sure it is fully charged or plugged in. That might sound like a simple thing to remember, but if you’re nervous, you might forget.

Keep your energy up

In addition to keeping your devices charged up, be sure to keep your energy levels high during the conversation, and be prepared to drive the interview. Have a list of questions, just out of the view during the interview that you can refer to, she said, adding you can plaster sticky notes behind your screen to remind yourself to make key points, especially about your skills or key questions that you have.

As for the structure of the interview, it’s a good idea to think ahead, and plan a question to kick off the discussion based on some of the research that you’ve done. Then you can move on to specific job opportunities, before finding out about the company’s culture and the work environment.

Make sure to end your conversation on a positive note. Recap the main points that you’ve made during the interview, and thank the interviewers for their time. And don’t forget to find out about next steps such as how to follow up with the recruiter or next steps in the application process.

 

Xero logoThe Finding Ada Online Careers Fair for Women in STEM was sponsored by Xero, a beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. It has over one million subscribers in more than 180 countries, with more than 250,000 of those in the UK.

STEMmas coda

We had a lot of fun this year putting together our Twelve Days of STEMmas, although it was sometime hard to find women working on topics that tied in with the activities featured in the song! We did sometimes have to get inventive about what might count, for example, one has to think orthogonally to see eardrum research representing “twelve drummers drumming”. At other times, we found people who were spot on, such as women studying gold, geese and swans!

But there was one area where we didn’t achieve what we wanted to: We failed to find women of colour working on these sorts of topics. In some ways, that’s a reflection of the demographics in the field of ecology and STEM in general, but it’s also a problem with compiling a list like this via desk research — we’re only finding the women who pop up in Google search results.

That means we’re only finding women with a high-enough profile that Google even knows they exist. We know that women have much lower profiles than men, and that women of colour have lower profiles than white women, so we need to look beyond Google. We need our community to help us, we need you to ask your networks for recommendations.

So, we’d like your help. We have a little under one year to compile a list of women of colour from around the world working on these sorts of things:

  • Partridges, or pears, or pear trees
  • Turtle doves, other doves, or other birds. Or turtles, if we want to get a bit surrealist
  • French hens, or chickens
  • Calling birds, birdsong, mating rituals
  • Gold, whether through the lens of geology, chemistry, physics or any other discipline
  • Geese, eggs, egg-laying, mating
  • Swans, or maybe swimming
  • Milking, cows, or dairy
  • Dancing, biomechanics, kinesiology
  • Leaping, biomechanics, kinesiology, sports science
  • Piping, wind instruments, brass instruments, hollow reed instruments
  • Drums, whether musical, ear or other types

Please leave a comment with your suggestions, or email us. We’d love to do the Twelve Days of STEMmas next year and feature only amazing women of colour from around the world!