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Home » Career Transformation » How to revive your career on a dynamic return-to-work programme

Elaine Diver

Consultant, Deloitte Ireland

Sinead Gogan

Chief Human Resources Officer, Deloitte Ireland

Return to work programmes benefit employees and employers. They give returners the chance to re-energise their careers — and firms access to varied experiences.

Elaine Diver didn’t plan on taking an extended career break after having children. But life — and a global pandemic — got in the way. “I was a business analyst for a bank when I had my first child,” she explains.

Career break and return to work decision

“After my maternity leave, I quickly found a creche place and was able to return to work. In 2018, when I had my second child, there were no creche spaces available, so I needed extra time off to look after my new son.”

Diver finally secured a second creche — but before she could use it and start job-hunting, Covid-19 struck, lockdown began and her plans were scuppered. “All of a sudden, it was 2023, my son was five years old and about to start school … and I still hadn’t been back to work,” she remembers. Initially, Diver wasn’t concerned about going back into the workplace. However, as her career break grew longer, she admits that she began to lose her confidence.

Placements help returners re-energise their careers

A friend alerted Diver to a Return to Work programme run by Deloitte, the professional services network. Launched in 2022, it offers individuals who have taken a career break of 18 months or more (including career breaks of 10-plus years) the chance to join the firm on a fully paid, structured and supportive six-month placement.

This type of initiative is good for the employee and the employer, stresses Diver. Successful candidates get the chance to re-energise and develop their careers in a dynamic work environment; while Deloitte builds a pipeline of talented returners from a variety of backgrounds who are valued for their skills and knowledge.

Returners are given a salary and a role commensurate with their experience and, when they have finished the placement, it’s hoped that they will be offered a permanent role within the firm. Diver applied, completed two online interviews and started on the Return to Work programme in September 2023.  

Diver explains: “First, we attended coaching sessions (delivered by an external career coaching organisation), which were designed to help us regain our self-belief. Then, we were given individual placements. I was assigned to the Cloud and Engineering department, working full-time as a consultant on a project with a client.”

Successful candidates get the chance to
re-energise and develop their careers
in a dynamic work environment.

Taking advantage of mentoring and learning opportunities

During the placement, participants can take advantage of the firm’s buddy system, mentoring and learning opportunities — and, importantly, its hybrid working policy. “When I work from home, I can take my children to school in the morning,” says Diver.

It’s vital for employees to feel supported by their company, notes Diver, particularly if they have caring or family responsibilities. “Before my interviews, I remember thinking: ‘I’m going to have to say that I’m a mum of two.’ Sometimes, women feel as though they have to pretend that their children don’t exist and that they can soldier on with their work commitments regardless. So, it was reassuring when one of the partners said: ‘Elaine: we’re aware you have a family. That’s important to you — and it’s important to us.’”

Balanced team ambition and inclusivity

Diver has now been offered a permanent role and has enjoyed settling back into work. “I’m still getting used to juggling aspects of my personal and professional lives,” she says. “The whole experience has been a great way to challenge myself — and restart my career.”

Sinead Gogan, CHRO at Deloitte Ireland adds how the organisation strives for balanced teams throughout: “We continuously aim to eliminate barriers that prevent people from returning to the workforce — our Return to Work programme is at the heart of this ethos. We also have a suite of enhanced leave policies and hybrid and part-time work offerings, which go a long way in supporting our employees and, in particular, our returners.”

Applications are now open for the 2024 Return to Work programme. We encourage anyone interested (who has had a career break of 18+ months and has the right to work in Ireland) to scan the QR and apply today.

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