Back to work we go

By at home

Returning to employment after time out can be daunting. But if you plan well, it may fit in perfectly with your life…

 Many people stop to have a career break at some point in their lives, and for women, this usually happens when they start a family. After a few months (or years) at home, the thought of returning to the world of 9-to-5 – especially since your domestic life is probably a lot more hectic – can be a mental hurdle.

As a mum, you may realise that the job or career you were in will no longer suit your lifestyle and you may want something closer to home, with less hours, or even with less responsibility. So, you may have to consider posts in a different field.

As long as you can convey to the new employer that you have transferable skills, it’s not impossible, although it can be testing. And be open to the possibility that you may have to retrain. So, there’s no point in delaying the inevitable. If you really do need to become an earner once more, our guide will give you an idea of which careers may suit you and equip you with all the essentials you need to get started…

Teaching assistant
This profession offers a vital role in primary, secondary and special schools. You’ll support the teacher, help with classroom organisation, assist children with their work, either individually in the classroom or in small groups and carry out administrative tasks. You’ll never have a dull day at work again!

Good for mums because…

  • Hours fit in with school hours.
  • It may be possible to find work in the same school as your children.
  • Part-time posts are available.

No formal ones required, but previous experience working with children is beneficial. You’ll need to be confident at maths and English (literacy). NVQs at Levels 2 and 3 are offered by some schools.

Varies, but ranges between £12,400 and £13,900, possibly rising to £16,000+ in some areas.

Healthcare assistant
This job involves helping healthcare professionals to care for patients, either in hospitals or in patients’ homes. It’s a varied role and often involves supporting nurses’ work, performing simple medical tasks, such as taking blood and inserting needles into veins. It’s also the job of the healthcare assistant to take regular observations of the patient, such as temperature and blood pressure, throughout the day.

Good for mums because…

  • Hours can be flexible.
  • Part-time work is available.

No specific qualifications, nor a scientific background, are needed. You can study for an NVQ in Health or Health and Social Care which allows more responsibilities to be taken on.

Newly qualified healthcare assistants can earn around £13,000 to £16,000. More experienced assistants can earn around £18,000.

Mastering the basics
Secure a job by getting the initial stages right…

Curriculum vitae
This is your first point of contact with a potential employer. It’s said that the average employer spends about 30 seconds deciding whether to read or bin a candidate’s CV, so standing out from the crowd certainly counts. Use a businesslike font, such as Helvetica or Arial. Start your CV with a short summary of your key skills and experience. Be creative – if you saved your previous employer £50,000 per annum by skillfully negotiating a contract with a supplier – shout about it! Your CV should try to show off all your skills and highlight the achievements you have made to date.

List employers and jobs
in reverse chronological order – starting with your most recent position and working backwards. Keep it brief – never more than two pages in length, one if possible. And show it to your friends and family for their comments.

Application form
First, read it thoroughly. Make a photocopy and then, following the instructions, practise laying out the information so it’s easy to read before you fill in the original form. Check for mistakes, spelling and grammar. Make a copy of your completed form before you send it off, allowing enough time for it to be delivered

Covering letter
This should be relevant to each individual application, so you’ll need to write a different one each time. Find out who to send it to – preferably not Dear Sir/Madam, but an actual name (and ensure you spell that name correctly!). Send a typewritten letter on one side of good quality, white A4 paper. Explain why you want the job, what you can offer, and end by saying you look forward to a meeting to discuss matters further.

Make sure you know where you’re going and allow enough time to get there. First impressions always count, so make them work in your favour. Don’t spend a fortune on an outfit, but aim to dress smartly. A suit is more businesslike than a cardigan and skirt, or shirt and trousers. Shoes with a modest heel look more professional than boots. A smart handbag and polished shoes show attention to detail, but don’t wear too much make-up or jewellery.

Hours of work
It can be tricky when you have kids to find a job that uses your skills, pays you enough and still gives you time to look after your children. Increasingly, women returning to work are looking to work reduced hours. There are a number of working options available to you, which include: flexi-time, part-time, job-sharing, term-time (which normally just applies to the world of education), temporary work and freelancing.

Registered childminder
If you’re keen to stay at home and look after your child, but make money in the process, childminding is ideal. You can legally look after up to six children: up to three under-fives and up to three more five- to eight-year-olds. You must register with Ofsted which checks that you and your
home are suitable for childcare.

Good for mums because…

  • You work from home.
  • Your child can stay with you.

You must be over the age of 18 and will be required by law to have a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. A training and first-aid course are also required once you start.

Varies area to area, but from around £10,000 to £18,000 a year.

Fitness instructor
If you’re a keen gym-goer or fitness class addict, you may want to consider learning the trade yourself, so you can work out and earn a crust or two at the same time.

Officially referred to as an exercise for music instructor or aerobic instructor, you will need to take a training course (there are numerous courses available – search the web for one to suit you) before you can start teaching. Some courses are available through distance learning which often suits mums well.

Good for mums because…

  • It’s not a nine-to-five role – hours are flexible throughout the day and evening work is often available.
  • It keeps you fit while you work!

You have to pass a government-approved course that is recognised within the industry.

Varies, but from £20 to £30 per hour. Rates depend on popularity and how many students you attract!

Your ultimate back-to-work checklist
If you are preparing to return to the workplace, here are a few key points to help you land a job

  • Research different childcare arrangements
    The cost of childcare will vary depending on where you live.
  • Decide what you’re good at
    The experience you have can help you to figure out what kind of work you’d like to do. It’s also worth getting advice from career specialists.
  • Let your friends, family and former colleagues know
    These are the people who are most interested in your welfare and will want to help you find a suitable job. Write letters telling them that you are thinking of going back to work. Let them know that you will appreciate any leads or contacts. Include two copies of your CV for them to pass on to people they know. You’ll be surprised at how successful this form of networking can be.
  • Update your skills
    If it has been a while since you last worked, it is time to find out which skills are currently in demand in your industry. Network with people in the business and find out what is considered necessary these days. Then either teach yourself, or go on a course. Do this before you start job-hunting, so you can include these skills on your CV.
  • Think about what you’ve learned as a wife and mother
    This could add substance to your CV.
  • Research your potential market
    Explore companies that might employ you. Check if they’re family friendly and offer flexible hours.
  • Get in touch with your former boss and colleagues
    By far the easiest way to get back to work is to return to the last place you left (assuming you were happy with your job). If you were well thought of and left on good terms, you might find a position there. If there is nothing available, thank your boss anyway and ask for any useful leads and contacts he/she might have to help you in your job hunt.
  • Consider freelancing or temping
    There are many different temping and recruitment agencies that place candidates of all levels in various fields, including publishing, new media, finance, education marketing and secretarial.

‘Being a TA fits in well with family life’
Teaching assistant Michelle Bowman, 35, is a mum to Alissia, 12, Bradley, 10, and Bailey, seven

‘Being a teaching assistant when you’re a mum is great because you get all the school holidays off.
‘I work in the school where my boys go which means I start and finish at the same time as them – that’s a real bonus. I walk them to school, work, then take them home with me. I don’t have to get someone else to drop them off or pick them up – I’m still there to do all that! ‘It’s also beneficial because I really know what they’re learning – it’s helped me to help them with their work. ‘I work part-time so I have a really good home and work balance. I used to work from 4pm to 10pm as a receptionist. We never ate meals together then, but now we always do!’

Virtual assistant
Is ‘organised’ your middle name? Then being a virtual assistant or remote PA could be the job for you. You’ll need a phone, laptop, internet access – and ideally a website to set up a business.

Good for mums because…

  • You’ll generally be home-based.
  • Hours can fit in around childcare.

GCSE English and maths are essential, as are secretarial-type qualifications.

You can expect to earn around £20 to £40 an hour.

Photographs: Getty Images, Shutterstock

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