While it can be challenging for partners of Service personnel to return to work after a career gap, we meet the women proving that breaks in employment are not necessarily a bad thing…

Emma Horseman

Name: Emma Horseman
Previous career: Occupational therapist
Length of career break: Ten years
Career now: Occupational therapist in acute medical and surgical

“I took time out to have two children and, with my husband moving in between, it wasn’t easy to just go back to work.

“I had to follow guidelines from the Health Professional Council, so I enrolled onto a 12-week returnee-to-practice course with Derby University that involved studying and attending a placement at Salisbury Hospital in the spinal unit and orthopaedics. It enabled me to refresh my skills and re-register and now I’m working there.

“I have found Salisbury Hospital supportive and I wish that I’d completed this earlier. I was apprehensive because of childcare constraints and my husband’s job but they were flexible with my hours to enable me to complete my returner.”

Top tip: Don’t hesitate to refresh your skills. It’s the best thing I have done and my job is so rewarding. Seeing a patient regain independence makes my return to work feel worthwhile.

Linda Cassidy

Name: Linda Cassidy
Previous career: Soldier
Length of career break: Two years
Career now: Swim school owner and Army Reservist

“I served for 17 years then fell pregnant aged 33, and with my husband also serving, decided that I would need to leave. Being suddenly out of the Army and a full-time mummy was both exciting and scary. I wanted to take part in lots of baby activities, swimming being an important one, but I found it hard to find a class in Germany.

“I decided to train to be a baby swim teacher so I felt confident teaching our daughter Lilly myself. Before I knew it, I’d hired the local pool and was teaching 80 babies and toddlers each week – I loved it! We moved to Catterick and I managed to secure a pool to set up my own swim school.

“I called it LillyPads after my daughter and I now employ five other instructors. We teach more than 300 swimmers a week, from newborns to adults.

“I wish I had sought out guidance when I started – the journey would have been smoother if I’d better understood what’s involved with running a business. I joined the Army Reserves last year and feel lucky to have two jobs that I love and can balance around my family.”

Top tip: Don’t underestimate where the journey can take you. Just go with the flow and you could end up with a new career you never dreamed of.

Collette Musgrave

Name: Collette Musgrave
Previous career: Ministry of Defence civil servant
Length of career break: Three years
Career now: AFF UK & Overseas Director

“We were posted to Italy and the Civil Service was not offering career breaks at that time – so I had to weigh up the needs of my husband’s career against mine. It was difficult as we’d worked hard to make both careers work – with long commutes and even maintaining two homes – but it was unsustainable, so I made the decision to step off the career ladder.

“I felt uncertain about what I had to offer after being away from the workplace for three years, but I re-evaluated what I wanted from work and job satisfaction took much higher priority over career aspirations.

“The biggest effect of the break was to knock my confidence. I think that’s common, even if you’ve previously had a successful career, but I was lucky to have a supportive husband and friends who kept reminding me that I’d managed to be perfectly competent for the previous 20 years.”

Top tip: Talk to as many people as you can. I had some very fixed ideas about where I could use my skills. It was only after speaking to others that I was able to see that I had something to offer elsewhere.

In the job market? Here are some things to consider:

  • Create a functional CV rather than a traditional chronological version. This helps employers to focus on your abilities and experience rather than exact dates.
  • Highlight the skills you’ve gained as a military partner that are relevant to the role. For example, dealing with the family finances.
  • Remember to include any volunteer work – an excellent way to show your commitment.
  • Consider temporary employment – an opportunity to gain confidence and help you to adjust to returning to work.
  • Be honest and explain the gaps – perhaps there were times you were not allowed to work in specific countries or you were holding the family home together.
  • Refresh your skills – take a course, training or returner programme.

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