Published on Mon, 28/08/2017 - 15:17
Sarah Bucher-Jones
Leaving the Civil Service to Bake & Mentor Young People

It was the end of 2016 and I’d just finished as evidence lead on an inspection by the Independent Chief Inspector for Immigration and Borders for our business area. My manager had gone on maternity leave and I was starting to think that I needed to do something different. I’d been in the Civil Service for 23 years and needed help to find a new direction, which I thought at the time would still be in the Civil Service.

I’d heard colleagues talking about Crossing Thresholds and how good it was so I thought I’d find out more. Luckily senior managers in my directorate were keen for women to attend so I got the ok to apply.

Attending the first module was the beginning of the turning point.

We were asked to visualise where we wanted to be in the next few years – unexpectedly what came into my head was a move away from London – to the Chichester area, working from home and mentoring young people. While I had always thought about moving away from London at some point, and since I’d experienced navigating my two girls through the ups and downs of family trauma, exams and career paths I hadn’t realised how strongly I felt about doing this.

My plan was originally for five years but things have sped up quite considerably.

Step One

The starting point was to get my husband on board. I enthusiastically told him about the visualisation exercise – after some scepticism and putting up barriers on his part I got him to set out what he would like – although a full time Civil Servant he too wanted to do something different and become a full time professional writer (something he dabbled in in his spare time). Our plans weren’t mutually exclusive. 

Step Two

Where were we?

  • We had a house with equity but didn’t know how much so we had it valued and were pleasantly surprised.

  • We had one daughter at university but she was doing a compressed degree (in two years) and so was hardly home anyway, so as long as we could help her financially we didn’t need to live where we were.
  • We had one daughter at home but she was keen to move out. She was doing an apprenticeship in engineering, so being paid, and wanted to keep doing that to degree level – so no fees or student loans!

Step Three

 Developing the plan

  • I started looking at houses around Chichester and in searching came across houses in the Isle of Wight where we could get more for our money and even afford a second property for holiday lets to provide an income

  • We visited the island, to get a feel for the different areas and immediately loved it
  • I’ve become obsessed with looking at the latest houses for sale and we’ll be visiting again later in the year to discuss our needs with estate agents
  • I contacted a local voluntary mentoring scheme which helps young people having difficulty in school, in care or coming out of care and attended their training days. I’ve been matched with a young person and will start mentoring in October.
  • I’ve also been looking at starting a Swedish cake baking business. I love baking for relaxation and it’s something I considered a few years ago. A colleague reignited this idea – she bakes for a farmer’s market once a month and it’s been very lucrative for her. I’ve been investigating local markets to me to try this out with a view to doing something similar when I move away. I’ve completed my first Food Safety Certificate so I’m on my way!

Step Four

Leaving the Civil Service

  • Three weeks ago I took the plunge and handed in my notice. My last day will be 30 September. While I occasionally get butterflies in my stomach I definitely don’t regret the decision. So many people have come up to me to congratulate me on making this “brave” move – it doesn’t feel brave, just “right”.

  • My husband and I will be spending the next few months developing and refining our plan further and hope to move next Spring.

Throughout this process I was supported by my CT mentor. At our initial meeting I talked about finding something in the Civil Service which gave me more satisfaction, when I told her of my change in plans she was more than happy to continue to support me – and in fact her enthusiasm encouraged me further.

This is my journey. I know I’ve been fortunate that we have a house with equity and our children are at an age when they have left/are leaving home but I feel proud that I have taken those opportunities to re-evaluate my life and make changes that will be for the better. Crossing Thresholds has had a lot to do with building my confidence to do it – Thank you.

Next steps

Our move in 2018 – watch this space

Blog written by Sarah Bucher-Jones

Find out more about the Crossing Thresholds programme here

Read about what you can do to kick-start your career after Module 1 of Crossing Thresholds here

Read more participant testimonials here