ReStart 2023: supporting people over 50 into employment

Read Time
6 mins
Published Date
Nov 30, 2023
In 2017 Allen & Overy launched the first ReStart programme to support over 50s on their journey back to employment. By 2023, seven programmes later, nearly 200 participants who had been unemployed for up to a year have benefited from the holistic support offer of workshops, coaching, and mentoring from A&O employees. Applications for ReStart 2024 are now closed.  ReStart is an annual programme so information about the next  programme will be shared here in December 2024.

ReStart galvanises the talent of the over 50s, an overlooked talent pool numbering 375,000 potential workers in the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics.

The programme provides tailored support to realign and re-energise participants on their career path and helps them to overcome barriers they may face in their return to work.

In this article, we outline the ReStart programme, how we measure its impact, and we hear from some of the people involved in the programme in 2023.

How does ReStart work?

Programme participants are aged over 50 and, on average, are unemployed for a period of six to 12 months.

The ReStart programme is comprised of 10 practical workshops, including:

  • Setting programme objectives per participant
  • Guest speaker on personal resilience and wellbeing
  • Action planning
  • Working styles and the importance of building your personal brand and network
  • Planning your job search
  • Employability clinic
  • LinkedIn
  • Positioning yourself in the new business environment
  • Maintaining momentum with scenario planning
  • Taking stock and planning for success

The programme supports participants holistically by providing a range of personalised support interventions and considering the specific barriers that individuals face to gaining employment. 

ReStart improves participants’ resourcefulness to help them re-join the workforce. Three months after the programme finishes, participants regroup to share their successes and experiences with each other.

The projected impact of the ReStart programme is to improve participants’ resourcefulness regarding re-joining the workforce. This is measured by collecting data relating to the participants’ change in ‘Mindset & Momentum’, ‘Skill Set’ and ‘Career Readiness & Planning’, before and after the programme.

Key impact headlines

The 2023 ReStart programme enabled 27 participants to better understand their strengths and transferable skills, alongside developing their confidence, motivation and self belief. Participants shared that the peer support they received from other participants was invaluable for fostering a safe space to share their challenges and celebrate their experiences.

It’s with great delight that we announce that all 27 completed the ReStart programme.

The following participant data was also recorded as part of the programme's impact assessment:

  • 100% said they would recommend ReStart to someone else in a similar situation
  • 96% felt confident about their job search after completing the programme versus 17% beforehand
  • 92% felt it would be "Unlikely" or "Very Unlikely" they would find work if they hadn't taken part in the programme

Measuring the impact of ReStart

The Good Business Initiative partnered with A&O to evaluate the impact of ReStart for this report. This evaluation seeks to measure the improvement gained across critical areas to track each participant’s progress throughout and beyond the programme. It also explores the participants’ opinions on what worked well and what can be improved. Participants complete before-and-after questionnaires.

Data points are compared from surveys that participants completed prior to starting the programme and surveys that participants took three months after completing the programme. Data is also collected at the immediate post-programme stage; however, the post-three-month data has been used throughout this report to provide a picture of the lasting impact of the ReStart programme. 

Additionally, six case studies of participants following interviews point to the impact of the programme on their professional development.

Sheila's journey

Sheila joined ReStart visualising her career in one industry – and finished the programme with a job in another! By reconsidering her work non-negotiables, she found new avenues opened up. From understanding her strengths and personal brand, and honing her application skills, to the supportive community of participants, ReStart exceeded her expectations. She’s thriving in her new role and embracing the opportunity to learn and develop professionally.

"One of the things that the programme made me realise is that it’s important to consider all options. I’m now working for a very kind company. I’m delighted. It’s a career change, but I thought – it gets me back into the job market, it’s a really reputable company and nearby, so it ticks lots of boxes. I’m still learning, it’s making me much better at dealing with situations and I’ve acquired way more knowledge.

"I saw the ReStart advert, and I thought, do you know what, I could do with some help. I had been out of employment for a year and I was having more difficulty than I thought finding work.

"The programme itself exceeded my expectations in terms of the depth it went into. I realised how much you do have to tailor your CVs, I think this helped me get my new job, and how to give as much information to the employer as possible so they can employ you. I wouldn’t have typically done that previously, so I am delighted with that advice.

"I found the strengths identifier useful; it gave me a way to describe in interviews what I’m strong at, my strengths and my skills. Thinking about that was quite insightful, and not something I’d thought of before.

"Listening to everyone else on the programme I realised there were common themes in our experiences, so that was hugely beneficial. I think for a lot of people, especially those of us who were lacking confidence, it came at the right time. I thought the support network was lovely, it’s a very positive group and we all try and help each other still. Some people are sending jobs over to each other and we’ve created a really lovely community since completing the programme.

"My coach and mentor were really good, I was delighted with both of them. I liked bouncing ideas off them and they went with what I wanted as opposed to dictating the content or the structure. I loved the focused approach; they gave me honest and personalised feedback which was really quite helpful!

"I’m thinking now about what my career will look like over the next few years – it's really exciting!"

You can read more stories like Sheila's by downloading the full Restart Programme Impact Report.

Dean's story

Following ReStart, Dean has developed a critical approach to the job hunt and embraced how the market has changed in the last few decades. He’s now armed with the tools to leverage those changes to his advantage, and thinking deeply about how his passions and professional experience can intersect to ensure he has a fulfilling career.

"I had been in the same organisation for over 20 years and hadn’t applied for a job since 1996 so this course really opened my eyes to how much the world has changed. It’s completely different. I suddenly realised why I wasn’t getting anywhere.

"The coaching gave me a lot of confidence, it really shook me up. The coach said “Think about your strengths. What would you really like to do? What motivates you?” They really gave me a whole new confidence to believe I could do something more meaningful, something I would enjoy.

"That’s the new skillset I’ve got now: how to introduce myself, how to sell myself on a CV and use online tools like LinkedIn, how to promote myself. Every time I do an application or a cover letter, I feel I’m improving, getting the angle I need, building more confidence.

"Now because I know what I want to achieve, I have a totally different motivation and so the setbacks don’t hit me as hard because I still feel that I’ve moved a step forward. I’d almost say I’m kind of enjoying the applications now, whereas before it was just a process.

"I now want to move from what I was doing into green technology and environmental projects. I’ve been looking at lots of organisations, joining networks, attending online seminars, just to build my knowledge in that area and get myself known. That’s a thing I wasn’t doing before – it hadn’t even occurred to me to do that! Even though I haven’t got a job yet, I feel a lot more confident. I’ve got a change in attitude and self-motivation.

"One of my big fears was how to explain why I had been out of the paid workforce for quite a few years (though I had been active as a local environmental volunteer). My ReStart mentor helped me formulate how I explain that as a positive, how to own it and not shy away from it. And that was really useful, I didn’t have that before I went in.

"I’m amazed at the people who delivered the course. It was way beyond anything I ever imagined. It’s hard to explain the quality of the course. If you’ve ever been on any other course – they’re pretty bog-standard. This was a completely different world, it really was."

You can read more stories like Dean's by downloading the full Restart Programme Impact Report.

Juliette's story

Juliette was ReStart’s furthest-travelling participant, but this didn’t hamper her efforts to engage with the programme. She progressed in leaps and bounds, and now has an environmentally impactful new role. Juliette attributes the confidence ReStart helped her to build and the realisation of her strengths and drivers as what tipped the balance at her
interview, reflecting on these moments being “pivotal” and “life-changing”.

"Before ReStart I was feeling completely ready for the scrap heap. I was really desperate to find a job post-Covid, which had ravaged my sector. I became aware of the programme, and with the Allen & Overy name I thought wow, maybe this could help. It’s so unusual to find resources for people who are over 50 and looking for work. You know, it really is rare.

"ReStart helped right from the first day – being in a room full of people of the same age group, all without jobs and all at different stages really helps. You feel that you’re not alone.

"When work evaporates and you find yourself without the opportunity to socialise – or ‘workalise’ – communicating with colleagues and other people, it’s a massive shock, especially if you travelled a lot pre-Covid. You lose that almost unconscious confidence you had. During the ReStart programme, I sometimes found it challenging to be in the room, but I do think the in-person aspect is really important for things like motivation and connection. The balance of hybrid sessions was perfect and complementary.

"The strengths profile and the values exercise were pivotal moments for me. In the interview process for my current role, it was incredible to realise “actually, this job really corresponds to me”. And I’d never really thought about me in the job hunt process before. I would say it was life-changing.

"I also found the mentor and the coach incredibly helpful, and again, so complementary to the group sessions. I think ReStart is a perfect mix as a whole, with varied methods of delivery, and exercises outside the course.

"If I was faced with a job hunt again, instead of thinking “oh my goodness what am I going to do?”, I would think “OK, let’s get my folder out, maybe contact one of the cohort, or more, and ask for help and just get on with using all the various tools we have been given.” I definitely feel better equipped. I now have resources I can draw upon.

"It’s great that after all this time – 25 years or more – I’m now doing something that’s beneficial for the world and corresponds to my values. ReStart has helped me find a job – and better still, one which is perfect for me!"

You can read more stories like Juliette's by downloading the full Restart Programme Impact Report.

Content Disclaimer
This content was originally published by Allen & Overy before the A&O Shearman merger