Life After A Public Service Career: Scribes Share Their Stories

You’ve worked hard your whole life, and sense that it might be time to explore something new. Perhaps you’re not entirely ready to step out of the workforce, but are craving a lifestyle that offers the perfect balance between a foot in the door, extra income, and more personal time.

This is a situation we know many of our scribes faced after enjoying a successful career in the public service. They no longer wished to work every day, yet they weren’t ready to retire and wanted to put their skills to good use.

Scribes are an important part of the APS recruitment process – providing support to the selection committee with comprehensive notetaking and reporting, while acting an independent panel member and being available for shortlisting and reference checking.

A wide range of public service skills come in handy for scribing; be it report writing, tender evaluations, HR or project management. These skills make for a seamless transition because ex-public servants also understand the:

  • APS merit principle
  • Role of the delegate and panel
  • Selection criteria
  • Recruitment process

For us, it means our scribes always know what our clients expect and can deliver great results.

To hear more about what it’s like to transition from the public service to scribing, we asked Max and Joanne to share their stories…

Why did you choose scribing?

I used HorizonOne when I was in the APS for several of my bulk round recruitments and found the scribes accurate, helpful and friendly. As a client, the support from the HorizonOne office was professional and efficient, and they broke down the costs so I could budget accordingly.

When I retired after 35 years in Federal Public Service, I found myself at a loose end after about 18 months. So, I decided to contact HorizonOne to see what they could offer me. I also remembered their work motto which resonated with my quality management background: “Innovative solutions with traditional service”.

How did you find the transition?

Surprisingly easier than I thought. HorizonOne provided a step-by-step personalised induction with a mini folder of clear procedures, process and expected work ethic. My first tasking was an easy one to get me established, and they increased in size and complexity over time. It was brilliant…well planned and I felt very supported in the first few months.

35 years in the APS helped with understanding acronyms, APS terminology, and writing styles. It also helped that I quickly became preferred by particular agencies that aligned with my law enforcement, HR and project management experience.

What’s the scribing lifestyle like?

The lifestyle is what you want to make it. HorizonOne are very accommodating with your preferred days and timings. I’m very flexible, so am happy for the scribing management team to choose the tasking for me and I plan my family time and hobbies in between jobs. I’ve found regular communication with the scribing team is important so they always know my availability.

What’s your advice to anyone thinking of becoming a scribe?

The world talks about chasing the perfect work/life balance. There are heaps of books and podcasts on the subject, but they have missed the best kept secret: scribing!

To be a scribe, you must be well organised with good time management. You predominantly work alone, so the ability to be productive and work autonomously is important. It’s very easy to say “I’ll put off writing the reports till tomorrow” but you should complete the work quickly and enjoy the lifestyle later.

There is also an element of professionalism and pride to be understood when working for HorizonOne. I have been in the foyer of large office buildings waiting to be signed in, and I overhear scribes from other agencies acting unprofessionally and bad mouthing their agency or the government department. This is never the case with my HorizonOne colleagues. That’s another reason I enjoy working here. The fellow scribes I have met all have similar work ethics and values. The greater HorizonOne recruitment team are also super friendly, committed and professional. In my 35 years of working in 3 Australian states and several overseas placements, I have only once before met such a cohesive and collaborative team of people in a friendly workplace.

Why did you choose scribing?

I chose scribing as an avenue back into the workforce after taking time out from the public service to raise my family. At the time, I felt it was a role that made great use of my skills and experience in human resource management and was an ideal opportunity to work flexibly, have autonomy, and take advantage of my love of wordsmithing.

How did you find the transition?

Prior to scribing I worked mainly in the public sector in both state and federal government. I was always in a corporate/HR area and considered myself a generalist HR practitioner. I had experience in end-to-end recruitment management, provided advice on a range of staffing matters, and really enjoyed the client focus of HR management. So, working as a scribing consultant seemed to be a natural progression.

I found the transition to scribing relatively easy. I was used to taking responsibility and having autonomy. Scribing was also a great opportunity to share my HR knowledge with clients as I assisted them with their recruitment activities. Having a degree of self-discipline is a key attribute for successful scribing, as are professionalism, tact and discretion.

As a scribing consultant I have worked on entry level processes through to appointment of agency heads, as well as minute taking, tender evaluations, and chairing selection panels – not to forget developing assessment methodologies, shortlisting and referee checking. While in essence scribing is the same process each time, having the exposure to so many agencies and clients through HorizonOne makes every process unique.

What’s the scribing lifestyle like?

The lifestyle is ideal for having a great work-life balance – no matter what stage of life someone is at. I found it ideal with a young family, being able to work around school hours and holidays. As I now transition towards retirement it’s also great as there is plenty of time to enjoy pastimes, family life, and (pre-covid) a bit of travel!

Ideally, we would like our scribes to be available exclusively and we know that the flexibility the role offers is its key attraction. The lifestyle suits those who are transitioning from government well, as it allows them to draw from their government knowledge. The role also suits people who have great writing and client engagement skills. As Max mentions, scribing really is the best kept secret for a fulfilling work-life balance!

What’s your advice to anyone thinking of becoming a scribe?

It’s important to be mindful that there is no guarantee of hours or assignments. I always took the approach that I would accept any assignment offered. Being flexible and adaptable is also important because a scribe can find themselves waiting for information or advice from a panel, then everything comes at once. So, you have to learn to go with the flow, use your judgment and be professional – and things usually work out well in the end.

You recently joined the Scribing and Campaigns team in the HorizonOne office…what prompted the move?

I had been scribing since 2005 and with HorizonOne for 5 years. HorizonOne have a great support team in the office and being asked to join that team was an opportunity I could not refuse. The team are incredibly supportive and freely share their knowledge, being always ready to lend a listening ear.

My new role sees me support our wonderful team of scribes, recruit new scribing consultants, and work with clients and scribes to ensure a great HorizonOne experience for all. Learning all the office systems and processes has been eye opening and at times challenging. I have really enjoyed seeing the in-house side of the business and being able to share my scribing knowledge with the team and our clients.

How to become a scribe with HorizonOne

We prefer our scribes to work exclusively with us because we often have a huge volume of work and find it’s easier for scribes when they live and breathe our style and process.

For all scribes, we provide:

  • Induction
  • Ongoing training
  • Report examples
  • On-demand support from our highly experienced team

Each fortnight or so we run online briefing sessions so anyone interested in becoming a scribe can learn more about who we are, what scribing is, and what our scribes do. It’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions so you can decide if scribing is for you.

If you want to move forward after the briefing session, let us know and we’ll invite you in for a one-on-one interview. It’s that simple!

To register your interest for our next briefing session, please send your CV to or apply here.


Melissa Frazer
Principal Consultant, People Solutions
HorizonOne Recruitment

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