Meet the Returners
Here’s where you can find out what some of our current Returners have to say about the Civil Service Returners Programme.
“I don’t want to over-state the case but I thought all my Christmases had come at once when I discovered this scheme. I was looking for something that appeared to be impossible. I wanted to return to a senior role after a 14-year career break, work part-time so that I could continue being there for my kids, switch sectors so that I could make a greater contribution to society and switch business areas – moving into HR – despite having no previous experience in this area. The Civil Service Returners Scheme allowed me to do all this!
“Before I left to start a family, I was a Marketing Director in the telecoms sector. I enjoyed having a career, and giving up work was a difficult decision. So, once I felt my children were old enough and settled enough, I wanted to come back. But returner schemes aren’t ten-a-penny, especially if you want to take on a different professional challenge, as I did. I felt that with the increased emotional intelligence I’d gained through life experience, HR was a more natural fit.
“The Civil Service was prepared to take a punt on me and I now lead early talent recruitment for the Home Office. It’s my job to challenge the false perceptions of the Service (Oxbridge, white male, privileged) and engage with audiences who might not feel they’d fit in here. We actually have healthy female and ethnic minority representation here. Where we struggle is in attracting talented people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
“So, among lots of other things, I visit primary schools, secondary schools and colleges and explain to pupils what the Civil Service does. I also guide pupils through employability skills training and how to navigate the application processes. Hopefully what I’m doing is humanising the Service in their eyes.
“The biggest issue for returners, right across the board, is confidence. You’ve got to be brave enough to take the leap. But once you do, you’ll find you’ve still got it! The biggest characteristic of the Civil Service is that it values your softer skills. Even ones you didn’t realise you had. If, like me, your career break was to have children, then think of things that come as second nature: managing budgets, dealing with different personalities, problem-solving, multi-tasking… the list goes on and on. Essentially what the Civil Service is saying to you is ‘don’t worry about the other stuff here – the systems, the tech, the processes etc – we can teach you that. Show us your innate skills’.
“So my advice to anyone thinking of applying is go for it. You’ll be properly supported (by peers, managers and networks), you’ll work three days a week (because those kids are still there!) and you’ll quickly realise you’re no imposter. You deserve to be here. You can do this.”
“There are lots of reasons to choose this scheme, but the biggest is the flexibility. I really value my time away from work. I’m a qualified beauty/aromatherapist, a real arty type and I volunteer every second weekend helping people with dementia to live independently. So, work has to fit into my life – and it does!
“My story is a little different to other returners (who mostly had career breaks to start families). My return was to HR. I spent 15 years in Human Resources across Europe and Turkey before I took some time out and then moved on to do something very different – building software for a sales company. In short, I hated it and wanted to move back into HR. But with two-and-a-half years out, it was difficult to make the transition. Until I discovered the Civil Service.
“I’m Senior Executive Officer for Learning Leadership Capability & Talent, which is quite a mouthful. What it boils down to is this. There’s lots and lots of training available for Civil Servants, but at present, there’s no one system to record it all. I’m leading a project to introduce a one-stop learning management platform that will allow the Civil Service to understand the who/what/where of all courses being delivered. This will make a big difference.
“I’d never worked in the public sector before, and it’s definitely different. There are different considerations that have to be factored into decision-making that simply aren’t there in the private sector. So the pace is slower. That said, this is still an environment where people will value your expertise and give you ownership of the important stuff.
“When coming back to work after a break, it’s totally normal to find it daunting. You worry that you’re out-of-date or that you’re too old or that you can’t cope with something so different. But it’s not true. With the Civil Service, you’ll be supported, understood and encouraged. And most important of all, the substantial skills you have – but might have forgotten about – will come flooding back out. You’ll feel part of it all in no time.”