Ambassador Profile: Charlie Welch
As an independent facilitator and coach, I am lucky enough to have found a career which is all about helping people to be their best selves. That happens in a variety of ways; from supporting sixth formers to grow their employability, informally helping wives to start doing what they love, to coaching senior managers to develop themselves as leaders, no two days are the same!
I served in the Army for six years, which thankfully gave me a great insight into military life before taking the plunge as a spouse. The choice to work as a freelancer has served me well, with over 18 moves under our belts, it has enabled me to keep my career and experience current, no matter where we are based. During those 23 years, we have also been blessed with 3 lovely children, and being independent workwise has meant that I could, (with the help of my incredible mum), as the need arose, work part-time and therefore be there for them.
I hadn’t appreciated just how important my work was to me, until I took more of a career break with my third child. As I had seen others around me experience, I lost my confidence. I no longer believed myself capable of doing what I had once thought to be a really straightforward job. I had minor panic attacks and lost many nights of sleep each time I ventured back for a day here and there. Of course I ended those days thinking, “don’t be ridiculous, of course you can do it!” but when the next opportunity arose, a couple of months later, I was back at square one.
I can happily say that I am now ‘back on the bus’ of self-confidence and self-belief. And the solution? Well, a bit of mindfulness (the app Headspace is brilliant!), some positive self-talk and gratefulness and then zipping up my ‘woman-suit’, finding my ‘steely core’ and being brave enough to put myself in stretch workwise, a little at a time, until I believed the feedback I was getting and started once again to value my own skills – and I was loving it, which of course helped!
For the very reason that I have experienced, as a spouse, just how challenging it is to break into the workplace. My children will always come first, but I knew, especially when they started school, that I also needed more mental stimulation and purpose, outside of as well as within my family.
That RfS are an organisation founded to meet that very need, understanding the community they serve so clearly and not only connecting a stunningly-talented group of spouses with quality employers, but also representing those spouses within the Ministry of Defence and to parliamentary groups means that our voice is heard, far and wide. The services they provide; everything from helping with CV’s to running courses in digital skills are entirely practical and focussed on giving spouses all the support they could possibly need in finding the right employment for them. That’s a wonderful thing and I am proud to be an RfS ambassador.
Ambassador Profile: Sarah Stone
Championing the work done by Recruit for Spouses (RfS) north of the border is former Downing Street advisor Sarah Stone, a military spouse with a diverse professional background who has just set up a co-working hub in Leuchars, Scotland. Alongside offering office facilities to other military spouses, Sarah runs her own company, Samtaler, that forges social as well as economic benefits between businesses and the community.
“My new company advises business on ways to create value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. My background is marketing, politics, and stakeholder engagement: now, my clients are companies who have won public sector contracts in Scotland that require them to create a community benefit as part of that contract.
“I look at what their business does, what resources it has available, and at the community it seeks to benefit; I consider the things it can offer. Then, I connect that company with relevant charities, community groups, social enterprises and individuals it can help.”
“A few years ago, we got a posting where I couldn’t work. It’s such a cliché but it made me realise that what I do defines me: I took having a job for granted before and without it I really struggled. I tried all sorts to keep busy but I realised I need the structure of a job – I like working in a team with other people with a shared goal, I like having something difficult to do, and then the feeling of success when I achieve it.
“I also hated the fact that when I didn’t work my whole life revolved around my husband’s unit and what he was doing. He loves his job and I have the utmost respect for the military (I served myself a long time ago) but it’s his role, not mine. Having my own work and identity is important to me and I’ve worked really hard to get where I am. I want to spend my time doing something I love and being happy; not working doesn’t make me happy.”
Why is the work of RfS important?
“It’s of immeasurable importance because I’m not unique – I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who said ‘I’m happy just being an extension of my partner.’ Unfortunately, there are a lot of unhappy military spouses out there who are in that place and just need a hand. I was lucky: I had a good network of professional contacts which meant I could restart my career when we moved again, but not everyone has that, so they need something like RfS.
“I know so many people whose lives it has changed – not necessarily because it got them a job directly, but maybe it gave them the confidence to go out and apply for something, or start a training course, or got them on a coaching programme. I love the fact that with RfS we have a professional support network which is run by spouses, who get what our lives are like, and who really understand the challenges we face.
“Your average military spouse is amazing with an array of talents and skills that often go to waste, and it’s so important that organisations like RfS are out there, educating businesses and changing the way that military spouses are perceived in general.
“Lots of people helped me when I was down, so now I take any opportunity I can to ‘pay it forward’ and help others in the way that people helped me. That’s why I agreed to become an ambassador for RfS, and why I’m honoured and delighted to be involved.”