Teni Ekundare

#ReturnWell: Career break return to work
“For once, I didn’t feel like a square peg in a round hole on my job search.”

Whilst in lockdown, it’s hard to imagine when life will return to ‘normal’, whatever that may look like these days.  It’s important to celebrate when there are moments of normality, though, to remind ourselves that the world is still turning as it always did and, in this case, people are still securing new jobs. One such moment of normality happened to The Return Hub candidate Teni Ekundare when she joined the FAIRR Initiative at the end of March. We first met Teni about three years ago whilst she was on a career break from the City.   During her break, she had started a jewellery business in London’s Hatton Garden and after five years was interested in returning to financial services. Teni started her job search by attending networking events and speaking to a variety of companies about their opportunities.  We contacted her about a role at FAIRR late last year and interviewing took place in January. The FAIRR Initiative is a global institutional investor initiative with the aim of raising awareness of the ESG risks and opportunities surrounding intensive animal production and global food supply chains.  The role for which Teni was interviewing was an Investor Outreach Manager. After conversations with Maria Lettini, Executive Director at FAIRR and an assessment which involved Teni presenting, she had secured the role. This success was shortly followed by the prime minister announcing lockdown and Teni was unsure how the situation would develop at FAIRR.  Fortunately, Maria contacted her to reassure her that they still wanted her to join the team and that they were flexible about her start date. Due to these unusual circumstances (and as finding professional childcare was irrelevant), Teni was able to start immediately.  There was no new commute for Teni, though, nor smiling for the photo for her new office pass nor meeting her new team.  Teni’s first day was from her home office.  You might presume that starting a new job in such circumstances would be difficult, but it has been remarkably smooth thanks to both FAIRR’S and Teni’s approach to the situation.  Teni has demonstrated skills that we find prevalent amongst our candidate pool – adaptability, resilience and self-motivation.

  • Day one was difficult as she didn’t have a laptop and Teni laughs about joining video conferencing meetings using her mobile phone.  But once her laptop did arrive, everything she needed was installed – there were none of those login issues that some people experience on their first day!  This might sound like a minor thing but Teni says that this made her feel part of the team and not an after thought, and helped with her integration.
  • All meetings were via Zoom which allowed Teni to put faces to names and as she says, “It helped me work out people’s personalities – what they care about, what makes them laugh…” which ultimately helps shape how she communicates with them.
  • The team assistant set-up 1-1 meetings for Teni with everyone in her team via Zoom, just as they would have done had she been in the office.
  • Maria established half hour calls with Teni at the end of everyday so that she could ask any questions, discuss issues and chat through how she was coping. Teni found this “hugely helpful” and although it wouldn’t replace the ability to turn around and ask a quick question as you would in the office, it meant that Teni had a daily sounding board.
  • FAIRR employed a consultant who presented to the teams on working from home best practices and fresh ideas.  The consultant helped to address issues such as achieving some work life balance while working from home.

This may be an unusual way to start a new role but Teni is finding it helpful.  Working from home means that she can focus on learning her role.  She is getting to know people but in a different way and she knows that she will have to invest time in people when everyone returns to the office. If you are on a career break from financial services like Teni and are considering returning, please contact us.