Designed to help talent back into the workplace after an extended break, the Restart@Smiths programme proved an excellent opportunity for Anita Parris to successfully establish a new career following 12 years spent caring for her family.
“When I started looking for work, a friend steered me towards career returner opportunities and I applied to Smiths Detection. It was late 2019, Restart@Smiths had just been launched and I was part of the first group to join the programme. The idea is to spend three months regaining work experience and rebuilding confidence in your abilities, with the possibility of a permanent role should something appropriate become available.”
There were openings on the programme in sales, training, finance and project management and Anita accepted a position in sales as it seemed the best fit based on her previous experience. Assisting the Sales Analyst, Anita was responsible for tracking quotations, collecting data and handling general analysis. She was also tasked with looking into a new analytical reporting tool, learning how to use it and presenting the data in a better format. During this time, Anita had the full backing of her Sales colleagues and was also assigned a mentor to go to for help and advice.
From Sales to Finance – a flexible mindset
At the end of the Restart@Smiths three-month period, Anita’s return to work position was extended and the role included supporting production planning around major quotes.
Next, her role was split – half in Sales and half in Finance – as the existing Credit Controller wanted to move from full to part-time. By June 2020 when the pandemic kicked in, Anita was already well into the credit control training and the other half of the job share soon decided to take early retirement. This opened up a full-time permanent position in Credit Control, Anita jumped at the chance and by October 2020 had completely transitioned from Sales to Finance.
“The opportunities were there for the taking and it was up to me to be flexible – rigid ideas and expectations will only hold you back. I also think it’s important to understand an organisation, the products, the values and the culture – that way irrespective of your role or the direction your career takes, you will always feel connected. Although this is a large company and Hemel Hempstead is a big site, it is a close-knit and welcoming team of people who are extremely helpful, even though everyone is very busy.”
A valuable reintroduction to work
Despite changing departments and working from home much of the time, Anita has settled happily into the Smiths Detection culture, feels accepted as part of the team, enjoys collaborating with colleagues across the company and is delighted with her position as Credit Controller. She is a strong advocate for career returner programmes.
“I knew I wanted to get back to doing something but didn’t really know what! So, when the Restart@Smiths opportunity came up, I felt three months was a good period to try and see if it was for me. Even though from the outset there is no guarantee of a permanent job, it’s a good opportunity to experience the world of work again and decide what you might like to do – it’s a valuable chance to start again.”
The Restart@Smiths programme is currently available in the UK and India with plans to roll it out in other countries.