Military spouse and mum-of-two Sarah Walker attended Manpower's employability sessions with the Army Families Federation at Bulford Camp, and has since successfully returned to work, after securing a role with a leading financial services group.
When my now-husband and I first started dating, he was a Private in the Army. At the time, his career didn't affect me all that much. Like everyone in a new relationship, we were just dating, seeing each other at weekends, and not really thinking about the future too much. Before long though, we'd married and had two children. His role in the Army and childcare costs meant it was hard for me to juggle work and home life. So, when I was made redundant, we decided that I wouldn't look for a new job and I'd focus on raising and supporting our young family instead.
After a couple of years, our son was due to start school, and the time felt right for me to start working again. My husband's job - now as a Staff Sargent in the Yeoman of Signals, based out of Bulford Camp - means he often has responsibilities elsewhere. So I wanted to find a part-time role that meant I could still be there for the children when they needed me. By that point though, my CV was out of date and I wasn't quite sure where to start in finding a new job.
Standing Out from the Crowd
I first found out about Manpower through the Army Families Federation website. They were running employability sessions at Bulford Camp, designed to give military spouses employability advice and support. At first, I was a bit nervous about attending the sessions. But I thought I might as well go along and see what they had to offer. When I arrived, I was pleased that everyone else was in a similar situation to me. They had all been out of work for a bit and trying to get back into it. Everyone was in the same boat, so there was a real understanding there.
The process of getting a job can be quite overwhelming - even more so if you've been out of work for a while. But the Manpower team really understood that, which helped to put us all at ease.
When you're applying for a job, there might be another 200 people all applying for it at the same time. Summarising yourself in one or two sheets of paper can be really difficult, but you really need to stand out from the crowd. That's what these weekly sessions were all about. Every week, we would cover a different aspect of the job searching process. They explained the structure of a good CV and showed examples; they demonstrated how to write personal statements; and they helped us to improve our interview skills too, by practising tricky questions like 'what are your weaknesses?'. We were even joined by representatives from the NHS, the Police and other organisations, so we could find out more about the different roles that are available out there.
After attending a few sessions, I decided to start applying for some jobs. I picked roles that I thought I'd enjoy, but I wouldn't feel too disappointed about if I didn't get them. More than anything, I wanted to get rid of my nerves and put everything I'd learnt during the employability sessions into practice. After attending an interview, it was great that I could go back to Manpower and talk to them about how it had gone. They would give me tips and advice on what I could improve next time, which was really useful.
One Step at a Time
At first, I wasn't too bothered about getting a new job right away. That would've been great, but it wasn't my main focus. I just wanted to dip my toe in, update my CV and gradually build my skill set. In time, I hoped to get a part-time role somewhere, but not necessarily right away.
When I was offered my current role as a Customer Service Advisor at a large financial group, it all happened really quickly. I was offered the job on the Friday and started the following Monday. I was happy and quite excited, but nervous at the same time. I knew I was capable of doing the job, as I'd had similar customer service roles in the past. But it was a full-time position, rather than the part-time role I'd originally been looking for. I was a bit worried about how I would manage childcare and get everyone used to the new routine. It was hard and really tiring at first, but everything is settled now and we're all happy.
With a military partner, things can change so quickly. We never know when we might be told we have to move somewhere else, so I try not to think too far ahead. At the moment, I'm focused on getting back into work, earning a bit of money, and seeing where things can go. I love being more independent and providing for my family. I also enjoy looking for gaps in the way my company operates and suggesting ways we could make things better.
I'd definitely encourage other people who are in a similar situation to me to get in touch with Manpower. They really understand the barriers you face in getting back into work, and they're there to help you. The sessions I attended were a great way to meet people and ease myself back in to the world of work. The end goal - getting a job - can be quite an overwhelming prospect. But they really helped me to take it one step at a time, and get to where I wanted to be.