Returning to work

What will you do when your youngest child has just started or returned to school? Or, what’s the next step if you’ve recently been hit by redundancy? Although, there may be initial feelings of uncertainty this is also a time of great opportunity and a time when significant change can really be made. Who knows what the future holds. Short of peering into a crystal ball and hoping for the best, there are plenty of different paths to follow that will lead you literally in different directions.

So what’s next?
A great place to start is to evaluate your current lifestyle and ask yourself lots of honest questions. Realistically, how many hours can you manage? How are you prepared to adapt your existing lifestyle to accommodate work? What is your maximum earning capacity? What childcare options are available? It’s quite a list but an honest account of your flexibility will save you time further down the road. This is also a good time for you to follow a dream. Have you always wanted to pursue a particular career but drifted along with a less than exciting job? If so, this really is a great time to grasp at the chance to go back into further or higher education and retrain. The opportunities are plentiful.

Return to Study…
Returning to full time or even part time study requires much fore-thought as it will inevitably have a major impact on your lifestyle. Finances may temporarily be constrained but this can be weighed up against the investment in you and your future earning capability. So it’s worth researching the projected demand for your future profession now. If you seek higher education, do remember many universities favour mature students. The Aimhigher programme exists to encourage people to consider the higher education option. Take a look at www.aimhigher.ac.uk as a starting point.

In addition to the higher education route, there are plenty of other ways to re-educate and learn valuable new skills. Learndirect offers free taster courses in literacy, numeracy and computer skills and the BBC website has free courses in computers and the internet, literacy, numeracy and languages. Go to www.learndirect.co.uk and www.bbc.co.uk/learning. Building a healthy portfolio of skills will only add to the CV and improve future employment chances. Aside from traditional qualifications, many employers look very favourably upon the number of transferable skills a potential candidate may have. These are skills you may have built up during any job or activity that you can apply to other jobs. You can develop new skills in a variety of ways such as doing voluntary work, attending a training course or taking part in a hobby, committee or group. For instance, if you’re wondering whether you’d like to teach then you could be a volunteer reader or parent assistant at your local school. Return to Work… Most parents will be seeking a job that will allow time to meet the family’s needs. So, a good place to start the job search is to get free, personalised, careers advice and guidance from a government supported learning and careers advisor. They will be able to assist you whether you’re trying to get a new job, a promotion or change your career completely. You can ring them on 0800 100 900. All calls are free, and lines are open seven days a week. Alternatively, if you know the type of work you want to do then take some time to write or update your CV. For examples of CV’s take a look at www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Jobseekers/Helpapplyingforajob or go to the Jobcentre Plus website at www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk.

Then begin to research the job market – the internet, job centre, employment agencies, personal contacts, local and regional press and specialist publications are all good places to start your search. You could also join a recruitment agency as a temp or on a permanent basis. Remember to consider the options and benefits of term-time working, flexible working and job-sharing.

Another option available to you is to become self-employed. There are an estimated 167,353 self-employed mums working from home in the UK, who have clearly decided on this route as it can fit better with family commitments. You may have an idea or passion that has possible money spinning opportunities, or you may wish to consider becoming a franchisee or joint-venture partner of an already established business. You may have a skill that enables you to go freelance or you can become a virtual assistant offering secretarial skills from home. At its best self employment can be self-fulfilling, rewarding and challenging, but you will definitely need self-discipline and ambition. Before you start you would be wise to seek free help and advice from business experts.

Business Link in England (www.businesslink.gov.uk) , Business Gateway in Scotland (www.bgateway.com) , Flexible Support for Business in Wales (www.business-support-wales.gov.uk) and Enterprise Ireland (www.enterprise-ireland.com) provide a really useful insight into starting a small business. Many of these government agencies also run free or subsidised training courses and valuable networking opportunities in many areas

Once you’ve decided what path you’re going to take, organise your life ready for this new experience. You will be able to find suitable childcare by visiting www.childcarelink.gov.uk or by going to www.familyinformationservices.org.uk or by calling your local Families Information Service on 0800 234 6346. You may get financial assistance towards childcare. Again, staff at the Job Centre can advise you with this or you can call the tax credits helpline on 0845 300 3900.

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