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Melissa’s Story: Returning to Reinsurance with Gallagher Re

Melissa for Success Story

Melissa Schofield, Account Executive at Gallagher Re (18 year break)

Taking the plunge was the hardest step, but once I had decided I was ready to return to workplace I didn’t look back.

The time had come when I felt my family were able to cope without me. I have 4 children with a 13-year gap from the oldest to the youngest. My eldest two children needed a lot of support and input from me for many years for various reasons. My younger two were much easier and therefore as soon as they were both old enough for school I felt it was time for me to think about returning to work.

As I’m based in a market town in the Midlands, I looked for local jobs, but there wasn’t much that would utilise my skills and experience. I spoke to a friend who told me about Career Returners and the opportunities they offer to people who are looking to restart their careers. I started to look at the Career Returners website and joined Webinars, then attended online sessions with recruiters. I found the Career Returners sessions on creating a skills-based CV to be very helpful. I also found the sessions on creating a professional identity an essential start to ‘rebranding’ myself as a professional.

However, what really made me decide to aim for a return to a professional career was seeing one of the speakers at the Women Returners Conference who had returned to a career after a break of about 18 years. Not only that, but she also had a large family and I discovered she was an ex-colleague I’d worked with many years ago. Seeing this confident, professional returner gave me confidence that it was possible to resume a career despite a lengthy break.

I began my return to work through applying for jobs, both locally and through Career Returners. I had passed the initial interview stage, and been given offers, for some of those roles. Whilst waiting for my second interviews I attended a Launch Event with Gallagher Re and Career Returners, and that was where I heard about the role I’m in now. When the recruiters talked about what they were looking for and what the opportunity involved, I felt I had found my match! I quickly applied and progressed through the interview stages and was offered the job. I was therefore in the enviable position of having a choice of roles, and I took the role with Gallagher Re, on a 6-month returnship.

There were a few things that really helped. About 10 days before I started work, I had a lunch with my new team at Gallagher Re, so that meant I didn’t feel as though I was starting work with complete strangers. I also had time in my diary on day 1 with my Career Returners coach, so I knew there would be someone there who understood how it felt to be back in the workplace after a break. Finally, my manager was well prepared and very supportive. He had created a high-level plan for me and had things ready for me to read, as well as all my IT equipment, so I was able to work from a plan and start learning from day 1.

Career Returners opened up the door and presented me with opportunities within organisations that were prepared to take people back from career breaks and ease them with support. I don’t think I would have dared to look for the professional role I’m in now without their support. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply for roles, and I would have been too nervous about hitting the ground running. My colleagues at Gallagher Re were incredibly supportive and my manager was proactive in helping me take the time to build up my confidence. Knowing that I would also be receiving coaching sessions throughout my first few months in the role really helped.

During my career break I juggled a household of 8, and home-schooled 4 of them. This was alongside ten years of specialist fostering, and making significant changes to various processes and procedures within the fostering team. I also qualified as a primary school teacher and later studied for a technical Master’s degree.

I think my career break experiences showed that I had the ability to try my hand at anything, balance several responsibilities at the same time, and spot needs for change and action them.

I look back now and recall how nervous I was on my first day – having been out of the professional world for so long I felt it would be really obvious that I was the new person who hadn’t a clue what she was doing! To all of you out there who have had a career break, I really want to encourage you to go for it. If I can do it, so can you. There will be opportunities out there that suit your skills and experience and the more of us that return the easier it will become for it to be an acceptable thing to do.