Returning to work after having a family.

Starting a whole new career can be daunting at any age.

Even for younger folk, losing your job or just having a change in financial circumstances might mean that a complete change is necessary. It may be that you have worked in an industry which is dying or one which does not have the opportunity to earn you the sort of money that you need.

When you are over forty, there’s a whole other range of concerns you could be faced with.

I think lots of women perceive that they will be undervalued in the work place, especially if they have taken time out to raise a family.

The bottom line is, getting and keeping a job has to be worked at whatever age you are and whether you have experience in that particular sector or not.

With this in mind, with personal experience of ‘changing horses’ mid race, and with some knowledge of working in recruitment, I thought it worth passing on a few words of encouragement.

Your experience, whatever form it takes, is valuable. If you have been keeping the home fires burning while your children grew up, think about the tasks you’ve undertaken in doing a great job of that. Every mum needs;

  • Amazing organisational skills
  • The ability to be a negotiation ninja
  • Time management skills
  • Energy
  • Diplomacy
  • A degree in psychology from the University of Life
  • Experience in logistics
  • Quantity surveying expertise
  • Too many practical life skills to mention

Now I would say that’s quite an impressive list.

It could well be, when applying for a job, that you can answer a specific question using an example of when your skill in any of the above attributes was critical.

For example, if you are being interviewed for this job. I found it today online. It’s as a runner for a well-known TV show.

We have an exciting opportunity for an Office Runner to join our team to ensure the smooth running of the daily live show.  You will need to have a passion for Television production and your long-term ambition should lie within TV.

As our Runner you will be expected to handle a range of tasks including general administration and office duties, sourcing props and products, assisting the Production team with guest travel requests and the dayshow with anything they might need help with.

You will be able to work effectively as part of a team and have the ability to demonstrate excellent multi-tasking and communication skills. You will also be computer literate and have good administration and organisational skills. 

Now you could pick this apart and find all the things they mention that preclude you from such a job. Like you’ve never worked in TV. Like the fact that it’s cleverly worded to appeal to younger applicants (your long term ambition should lie within TV).

However, don’t let this put you off.

A quick reality check. There are an awful lot of people out there who talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. I imagine the TV company will get an avalanche of applications for this post but believe me, there will probably not be that many who are going to tick every box. So, when you see something you think maybe you can do, don’t assume you won’t get a second glance. You could well be exactly what they are looking for and if they don’t pick your CV from the pile, more fool them.

So, let’s look at the requirements.

…expected to handle a range of tasks.

Well you’ve been doing that haven’t you? The job of parenting and housekeeping you’ve been doing has been nothing but juggling a huge range of tasks, every single day!

…general administration

You’ve paid the bills, filled in about a hundred forms every term from the school, know exactly where the camping stove is, when you have to get your car MOTd, whose birthday it is this month and where you can lay your hands on the electricity bills, the spare car keys, your passport and all the children’s login details because they always forget them. You are administrating like a boss.

…sourcing props and products

How many bizarre requests do you get every week? School play and youngest is being a pirate? You got the whole outfit together even though he only remembered to tell you two days before curtain up that he needed a peg leg. Christmas – we all become highly skilled buyers at this time of year because everything has to look perfect. The other thing is, I imagine you are very adept at talking people (shopkeepers, friends, strangers) into lending/giving you things for school projects.

…guest travel requests

Really? That’s a synch. You’ve been sorting holidays, taxi rides, emergency picking-kids-up-from-school requests so often you don’t even think of it as ‘organising travel’. But you do.

…excellent multi-tasking and communication skills

See all of the above. Let’s be honest, we all have to multi-task. Everybody. Maybe not a monk or a nun, but I doubt they’d be applying for this job. As for communication skills…getting your point across quietly but firmly, making sure everyone understands what they have to do (all explained in a way each individual can understand) is quite possibly more highly developed in our personal lives that it ever can be in a business environment.

So the rest of the ad is kind of repeating what has been said previously and stating the obvious.

Administration skills was mentioned already and I’d say the ability to stay organised is pretty essential in whatever job you are doing – from CEO of a computer company, through sous chef to zoo keeper. And again, of course you are organised. You have to be.

The only other thing that may be an issue is the requirement to be computer literate.

If you are reading this post, you clearly have some knowledge of computers, even if you are just browsing the net and using social media. Now it may be that you have not used any Office packages, any CRM programmes or accountancy packages.

If you think that you are going to need some skills in such programmes, there is lots of training available and it’s more a case of understanding what you need. Whatever you are going to do, I’d recommend a basic understanding of Word and Excel. Both are used so widely that having at least some knowledge will help you.

If you are hoping to work in an accounts environment, Sage is probably the most popular system. Again, even if you have a basic understanding of it, it’s going to help. Even if you applied for a job where Sage is not the package being used for accounts, learning it will give you a good overview of how such packages work in general and there will most likely be similarities.

If you are looking for office based work in sales and marketing, there are so many set ups around that I’d hesitate to recommend you spend money learning a specific model. However, if you know someone who works with a CRM (A really well known one is ACT!) buy them a drink and ask they can spend an hour showing you how it works. Again, it will give an overview of how CRMs work and will give you a little more confidence in an interview situation.

There are many evening courses at local colleges, and there are Udemy courses – online courses which are usually very cheap and can give you at least and overview and enough to make you confident enough to go into an interview situation. Best of all, investigate MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are FREE!

Older workers are still valued for lots of reasons. If you want/need to go back to work after having a family, it’s do-able and could give you a whole new lease of life.

©2018 Linny Bartlett (Karma’s Footsteps)

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