Return to Work Programme
My Return to Work story
Everyone’s career break is different. Last year, seventeen women returned to professional services with the help of our Return to Work programme. Here are some of their stories.
“You can acknowledge your career break; rather than apologise for it”
Strategy & Operations Manager, Consulting
Deloitte understands and values this untapped pool of talent
I took seven years out to focus on family. During this time I was busy – I wanted to still gave an impact and grow while having the flexibility to prioritise my family. I served as an NHS Foundation Trust Governor, taught a Marketing & Finance course for the Open University, wrote a book, invested and dabbled as a social entrepreneur. All things I could do in a flexible way, as well as spending time on the home front. I developed skills on this “sabbatical” that inevitably are valuable, but there is a disconnect with the professional world that largely still views career breaks as negative.
Coming back to work can be nearly impossible. You can’t get through recruitment website filters, as you can’t enter a ‘current salary’ or don’t have continuous employment –you’re an unknown entity. There’s a group of talented people that the Return to Work programme is designed for. It builds the bridge and creates a path back into the professional workforce.
Deloitte believes that what you have done is valuable, that you’ve grown through your experience. And the programme is clearly designed with us in mind. There’s a named HR person; it’s four days a week; it starts after the school year in September; the support; the coaching; the profile raising; the lunch and learns... It’s not just shoehorned into the regular recruitment cycle. I feel I can grow with Deloitte and build my career here. Return to Work is a huge door opener.
“The programme reassured me that taking a career break was a great choice”
Senior Consultant, Consulting
I really enjoyed the Return to Work programme
When I came back to work after having my first son in 2009, it seemed difficult to manage a career and child. But things have changed. There is now fierce competition for the best talent. Once my third son started school, I found plenty of return to work programmes on offer.
I chose Deloitte because it’s a place that welcomes women and others from diverse backgrounds. The firm is heavily involved in initiatives such as women in technology and women in leadership. The learning and development is excellent too; there are clearly identified career pathways and you can lead your own development. Deloitte is more meritocratic than other organisations. It’s also a very stimulating work environment, with opportunities to learn from inspiring people.
The progamme itself offers plenty of support. I was assigned a buddy to introduce me to the firm: a great person who shared valuable advice on how to move my career forward. I met an amazing network of women too; a fabulous tribe of women with different backgrounds and stories, who have become true supportive friends.
“I was so keen to be on the programme, I put off returning to work for a year”
The right decision for me
I wanted flexibility when I decided to get my career back on track. At four days a week, Deloitte’s Return to Work was the best thought out programme on offer. I was also attracted by the ethos of what Deloitte is trying to achieve.
My time on the programme completely confirmed that coming back to work was the right decision for me. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed the corporate environment and using my brain in this way. Of course, I wasn’t idle while I was off; I set up my own blog, ran craft classes and sold crafts. But it wasn’t challenging me in the same way as work. The programme allowed me to test the water, without pressure. I discovered I really wanted to come back on a permanent basis.
Being able to have a career path and work in an agile way are both incredibly important to me. Deloitte is putting people and processes in place to support that and I know the senior management team is totally committed.
My background is in IT project management. I now work for Deloitte four days a week, often from home.
“You can grow. You never stop learning”
Senior Planner, Real Estate Planning and Development
A 100% positive experience
The Deloitte Return to Work programme can make someone more employable and address a career gap in two ways. Firstly, the Deloitte brand: it’s a highly regarded firm and people think, “If Deloitte wants you, we’d definitely have you too”. Secondly, it ends the gap. So you become more attractive and competitive. Even if I hadn’t gone on to a permanent job here, I would have felt well esteemed. It’s a highly competitive programme and I got on it; I was elated and grateful for the opportunity. If I hadn’t, I’d still have the issue of my employment gap – always explaining how and why.
I took a career break to look after my father when he had a stroke. I’d been made redundant, and the job market was at its lowest. I was the support my parents needed, but I didn’t want to give up my career. Which meant I had to keep my professional accreditation alive by doing planning work at least occasionally. No one was open to part time work back then. I had to find my own solution. Had I not found informal ways to work, through friends, family and networking – had I not kept up with professional best practice and legislative changes – I would have lost it all. Once my dad started to get better, I began to look for a job, but it was really hard to explain why I’d become “semi-retired” at my age, and to explain the unusual way I was working. I was competing with people better connected and with no career gaps. Finding Deloitte’s Return to Work programme was a lightbulb moment. It was the solution to my problem.
“My permanent contract is 4 days a week. That’s the norm, not the exception.”
Senior Manager, Risk Advisory
It’s about your priorities
When I had my daughter, I was a senior director at another consulting company. I expected to be able to just come back. But I wanted to work part time and it was not looked upon favourably. Unless I was prepared to do full time my career was dead in the water. The only thing I could do was become a contractor, so that’s what I did. But that’s treading water; there’s no career development. The only other option: wait until my daughter started school and go five days. It seems you have to be full time before they trust you, they let you in and then after about three years you can ask for a different working pattern. But by then it’s too late.
The key thing was to figure out my priorities. I knew I wanted to stay in the field, so I did a part time Masters. When I passed the first year I began researching what was out there. Deloitte Return to Work just popped up as a window online. At the insight day I thought: it sounds too good to be true – 4 days a week, agile working, flexible to your childcare needs… and you still have an interesting career.
One of the best things about the programme is the coaching sessions, they are brilliant. They make this a longer-term opportunity, because they focus your thoughts on your values, what you want out of it, what your priorities are. And there’s a genuine career path for me. It’s exciting knowing I can have my career back again and have something to aim for; and that I can carry on working four days a week.
“Working on a project that fitted my skills raised my self-esteem”
Manager, Human Capital, Consulting
A safe way to return
Mine is not the usual story career break story. After working in tax for seven years, I left for Brussels and the European Commission. Then I travelled the world, thinking I might retrain as a teacher. I landed in a community project in South Africa. It was only supposed to be a temporary option, helping to manage a children’s home in a township outside Cape Town, which also looked after people with HIV/AIDS. I stayed for nine years! Eventually I decided to do an MBA, then moved back to the UK.
I chanced upon Deloitte Return to Work in a magazine ad. It sounded like the ideal way to come back to a professional career in a safe way. It was such a leap from where I was. Coming from a project where there was often no electricity, to the UK and even a normal job would have been tough. But to come back into professional services… I was miles behind. Here there was every kind of new technology; in South Africa we sometimes didn’t even have a pen!
Coming back meant getting to grips with new software and a smartphone (my first one). Ways of working had completely changed. Particularly the multiple different ways people now communicate. On the programme, we were expected not to be on top form. To excel in areas where we do have the knowledge and talent, and get up to speed in weaker areas, like IT. It is a learning curve, but working on a project that fitted my skills was a great way to raise my self-esteem. For me, Return to Work was an exciting opportunity to come back to the professional environment, but with a safety net. I had the skills, but not the guts at that point, to rejoin professional services. Now it feels like home again.
“I believe I can be a Director; it’s just a question of getting there”
Associate Director, Tax Consulting
If you want it, and you deliver, you can progress as far as you like.
Just go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. That’s what I’d say to anyone thinking about restarting their career after a break. We’ve all been there and thought ‘I can’t do it’. But you can. I was considering taking a part time management job at a pre-school, until I heard about the Deloitte Return to Work programme. I’d lost confidence; my world had narrowed and I’d lowered my expectations. A friend who’s a career coach told me I shouldn’t limit myself, that there are opportunities out there. She was right. I was one of the eight Deloitte alumni asked to join the pilot scheme in 2015. I came back in as a Senior Manager, was offered a permanent role, and am now an Associate Director in Tax Management Consulting. I believe I can be a Director; it’s just a question of getting there.
This is a fantastic opportunity to get back on the career ladder. Even just applying and going to the insight day builds your confidence. I got so much out of it, even before I was offered a role. The programme gives you a chance to get back up to speed. You still have to deliver, but in a more supportive environment.