In the second of our series of Return to Work reflections, FlexCareers talks to Libby Low, a mother of two who joined the Deloitte Return to Work Program after a five-year career break.
In an Australian first, Deloitte went to market looking for potential senior leaders that had been out of the workforce for at least two years, with the vision to re-launch their careers in the exciting and fast-paced world of management consulting. FlexCareers was delighted to support the program, which offered returners a 20-week internship, working across multiple business areas within Deloitte’s consulting business, with the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.
Libby gives us an insight into what what Returning to Work with Deloitte has meant to her.
So Libby, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a degree in Commerce (Marketing), and I had 15 years experience in business development and strategic management. I’ve also spent time as a voluntary member of the board for a Not For Profit in the children’s disability sector.
What prompted you to apply?
After having my first child, there were some complicated circumstances that prevented me from returning to work as planned, and it wasn’t until my second child turned one that I was able to start thinking about going back to work. At that point, I had been out of work for five years. I had no idea what my options would be, or how to go about finding the right role, so it was pretty daunting.
The program sounded really exciting – I’d not seen or heard of anything like it before and it looked like an amazing opportunity. I assumed it would have a massive response, and I wasn’t expecting to get the call to come in for an interview, I was so surprised that I did!
Tell us a bit about the team, and life at Deloitte.
The first week was very structured, with lots of training and contact with the partners from various areas of the business. It was great to be able to develop relationships with senior leaders, and for them to talk openly to us about work-life balance.
Once the training was over, our cohort moved into different areas of the business and we started working business developments or projects. We were each assigned a coach and a partner as a mentor, and we also had an external careers coach, as well as support from the people and performance team.
It was a difficult transition at first. There is a lot of ambiguity, as things change and move quickly in management consulting – you have to get used to that! The people here are all so smart and helpful – so be prepared to ask for help and seek out support. It’s a busy team and you need to be open-minded, resilient, and most of all proactive in developing the networks and skills to be successful.
What area of the business have you been working in?
I was in business development for the first 6-7 weeks and was involved in a couple of sizeable Government tenders, so it was a great experience. After that, I moved onto a digital transformation project, and once my work has been completed on this project I’ll work with my coach to figure out what I’d like to focus on next.
When I started here, I didn’t know that I wanted to do or where in the business I wanted to go, as there are so many streams and business areas to choose from. My coach has helped me to figure out where I need to focus, and to have that personal guidance and support has been amazing.
How flexible is the role?
I work 4-days a week, and my boundaries have not been encroached upon at all – it works really well for me. I’ve been able to swap days around when I’ve needed to and my managers have been very happy to do that. I think you need to manage people’s expectations to help you achieve the flexibility that you want. When I’ve joined a new team, I tell them the hours that I work, and everyone has been very respectful of that. Deloitte support agility, flexibility and diversity, and so far it’s worked well for me.
Has the program been everything that you’ve hoped for?
Yes, definitely. It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the work and the people at Deloitte, and it’s fitted well around my family. It was a big change for me, leaving the girls after five years. I thought I would really miss them, but I was dying to get back to work and be around adults, and the kids have coped really well with it. I do really look forward to seeing them at the end of the day though!
What advice would you give applicants for this year’s program?
My advice would be to just put forward an authentic version of who you are, and what your experience is. Take time with your application – it is competitive and opportunities like this don’t come along every day.
I think that you need to come in with an open mind and be equally prepared for highs, lows, challenges, and wins. You will have hard days. It is definitely a rollercoaster, both from a work and home perspective, so lean on the resources that have been put in place to support you and try not to be too hard on yourself – it’s a big change when you have been out of work for a long time.
It’s an amazing opportunity, but it’s also challenging. What has been brilliant is that the 6 of us that started the program together in Sydney have been a huge support to each other, with day to day counselling….and after work drinks!
What are your hopes for the future?
I definitely hope to stay at Deloitte after the 20weeks. It’s been a difficult transition to come back after such a long time out of the workforce, but I am absolutely committed to my career and to working in digital. We have a great culture here at Deloitte and I’m really excited for what the future might hold.
We’ll be sharing more stories from our successful Returners in the coming weeks.
FlexCareers will also be supporting Deloitte with their next Return to Work program – to make sure you are notified when the program goes live, please create your job seeker profile with FlexCareers here.