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.”
Ambassador Profile: Seriema Tawake
I work in Facilities Management (FM) for Aramark Defence Services (Side by Side), a relatively new field but by far the most exciting industry I have worked with. Every day in this field brings about different challenges, in addition to performing an admin support role to our department, I also had to ensure that the waste management initiatives are correctly adhered to, property maintenance, logistics support allocating accommodation, postal services, laundry management, dealing with internal and external work service contractors to making sure the Rugby football pitches are fully compliant in regards to health and safety regulations and ready for large tournaments. The role is diverse and each day has its unique set of facility requirements. In line with my role, I recently enrolled in a Level 5 BIFM course in Facilities Management with Leeds Beckett University to further strengthen my knowledge base in FM and support establishing myself as a FM professional in the near future.
Prior to leaving Fiji in December of 2009 to join my spouse in the UK, I had worked consistently throughout, from a multinational food and beverage company to an International Governmental organisation, a career span of almost eight years. Leaving all that to start a new life in a country foreign to me, with absolutely no idea of what lies ahead can bring about feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty. Before I started my career in 2013, I volunteered with North Yorkshire County Council –Caterers Division for two weeks. The idea behind this short stint was to help me get back into the workforce after three solid years raising a family and to gain a reference before I start applying for jobs. It was not easy finding a job with the particular skill set I had, scheduled around my child care needs in remote settings such as an army camp in rural North Yorkshire. That did not deter me from applying for whatever was available on site. So In June of 2013, I landed my first job as a housekeeper, this fitted well with my child care needs and a stepping stone to build upon. I spent six months doing Housekeeping and another nine months thereafter, ordering supplies and maintaining the account for the camp’s main kitchen. When the opportunity arose to move to the Quartermaster’s Department and work in FM, I seized the opening instantly. Work for me has always been a part and parcel of most of my adult life. It gives me meaning and an opportunity to contribute whatever skills and knowledge I have acquired over the years to the organisation that I work for. I find that ‘Love and work is the cornerstone of our humanness’ (Sigmund Freud).
I heard about Recruit for Spouses from a fellow wife, who was also a close friend back in 2012. She managed to secure a job through an advert via the RFS website. I did not explore further what RFS has to offer until recently, when I read its vision, mission statement and goals. It was a notion I deeply identified with and unconsciously have been doing these past years. The work RFS is doing is important because first and foremost it “empowers” and “motivates” fellow spouses to become what they want to be in a demanding work force where gaps in our career, limited skills set and constant relocation, limits our employability. In most instances most of these factors are beyond our control due to the nature of our husband’s work “but” if we do not let it define us, then we eventually create versions of ourselves positively in tuned to adapt to any changing circumstance.