Getting back into work

By at home

backtoworkWith the UK facing an employment crisis, we reveal what to consider when getting back into work and how to go about it.

Getting back into work can prove a very difficult and emotionally trying situation. Whether you are seeking employment following redundancy, maternity or paternity leave or an extended break for health reasons, attempting to re-enter the workforce is often a daunting experience to say the least. The most crucial step is to decide exactly what it is that you are looking for: a full-time or part-time position; what industry you wish to become involved in; and your salary expectations.

The circumstances of your unemployment
In the current economic climate, redundancy is becoming a more common occurrence, meaning there are more people out of employment. For those in a very comfortable financial situation, this may be an opportunity for a well-earned break from the world of work – but for most finding a new job, and quick, is on the agenda. Being made redundant can be a traumatic event: it can knock your confidence and leave you feeling lost. However, it is important to look at it as an opportunity to re-assess your career, to decide what you want to do, whether this is to continue in the same direction as your previous profession or to drastically change your choice of career. With both of these options, research is essential to ensure that you are making the correct next move.  If you are looking to continue in your current profession, then you will need to find out what other companies offer suitable positions; if not, then you will need to thoroughly explore which new career path you wish to embark upon.

If you are making the return to work after a period of looking after your children, then there are a plethora of considerations – other than personal preference – that need to be factored in when finding work. The main issue that parents find is achieving a feasible balance between employment and family life. Understanding the effect that going back to work may have on your family is necessary, as is deciding whether a part-time or temporary position is better suited to your situation. Another option available to those in certain industries may be freelancing, or even working at home which provides you with appropriate flexibility. It may also be worthwhile considering Child Tax Credit if you do not already receive it, as it can be highly beneficial both in terms of general expenditure on your children whilst working but additionally if you are paying for registered or approved childcare. The cost of childcare can frequently be off-putting for parents hoping to get back into work, so Child Tax Credit can be a real help. Some employers do offer childcare – but more commonly you will need to arrange your own, and this can prove more expensive than many imagine. Clearly this is another factor that needs to be considered when going back to work.

Alternatively, setting up your own business might be the route you choose in order to get back into work. For example, there has been a recent surge in mothers running their own businesses motivated by the need for flexibility with family life. However to do this, you need to be certain you have the requisite specialised knowledge combined with sturdy finances as a platform from which to establish your own company. According to a study of working mothers released by the Yellow Pages, business mums are making a turnover of £4.4 billion, which demonstrates the potential success of such ventures.

Deciding to return to employment following mental illness – particularly depression – can also prove very complicated in terms of you feeling well enough to deal with the pressures of a working environment. A lack of confidence, which affects the majority of those looking to get back into work, is likely to be exaggerated in someone who has suffered or continues to suffer from depression and needs to be addressed immediately. Although it will never be a straightforward transition, one of your best options may be to accept work even if it is not your ideal role, as once you have made the initial step into employment, it should prove easier. Also returning to employment does not mean that you necessarily have to resume or look for a full-time position, which may be too much to deal with when first re-entering work. Flexible hours within a part-time or temporary job or even a job share may be more appropriate for your first post after illness to ease you in.

If you are older and attempting to get back into work, the key is not to be daunted by the challenge. Many employers value older employees as they often boast qualities, such as loyalty and experience, that are perhaps less likely to be found in younger applicants. You must remember that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on grounds of age according to the Age Equality Regulations of 2006; your age is not a legitimate reason for being turned down for a job (however this is not to say that this doesn’t happen, so remember not to put your date of birth on your CV). If you are over the age of 50 then it may be useful to look into the Jobcentre Plus programme called New Deal 50 that offers information and support when you are seeking work.

gettingbacktoworkPreparing for employment
Regardless of how you find yourself needing or wanting to get back into work, the process that you need to go through to ensure that you are able to secure your choice position remains the same. It is about being prepared for applications, interviews and the role itself. The first move when job hunting is to create some form of action plan which will document your short- and long-term aims and help you keep on track whilst looking for work. The publicly funded service Next Step offer a variety of advice for adults in this situation, both in person and online, such as an online action plan or a skills health check assessment which allows you to understand how your abilities can help you get a job. To create a plan of action, you will need to thoroughly research career possibilities and the roles that you are interested in pursuing and what you will need to do to achieve your goals.

You may find that you need to retrain or gain a specific qualification for the area you are focussed on and some employers do offer the opportunity to train whilst you work.  If this is not the case and you want information on how you can afford the education you are interested in, then learndirect centres can provide guidance on possibly funding, as bursaries and loans may be available to you whilst you study.

Once you have decided on the type of work you are wishing to apply for, then it is imperative that you formulate or edit your CV in order to maximise your opportunities to get your dream job. Although you may find it involves extra time and preparation, it can be also advantageous to tailor your CV to individual applications. Your CV should detail your work experience, particularly that which is relative to the role, in order of the most recent first.  You should cover both academic and work place skills as well as personal and social attributes in order to present yourself as a well-rounded applicant.  If you are changing career quite dramatically, it is of particular importance to include a profile at the top of your CV that outlines your career objective to potential employers. To accompany your CV it is essential that you respond to the skills demanded in the job advertisement in your covering letter. You need to convey that your experience and abilities are suitable to the employer in a concise manner and tailor each covering letter to the individual position and company. If you feel you need more involved guidance when it comes to organising your CV and covering letters or preparing for an interview then Directgov provides an array of helpful services.  For example, Employment Zones is a government-run programme that offers CV advice and ­interview training for people on Jobseeker’s Allowance and Pension Credit and lone parents.

The application process
Once you have refined your CV, you need to begin applying for jobs. There is a huge span of places in which to look for work, especially Jobcentre Plus – a national government organisation – and of course local newspapers and job websites. The internet will largely expand the amount of jobs available to you; if you do not have the internet at home, then local libraries or job centres will provide this service free of charge. You may also wish to join a recruitment agency that will aim to find jobs suitable to you and your skills.  Another undervalued opportunity to find employment is through friends or word of mouth; letting your friends and family know that you are actively job-hunting could be beneficial.

If finding immediate employment in a dream role is difficult, you may want to consider voluntary or temporary work or even work experience as a way of training in an industry whilst looking for permanent work.  This will also help to improve your CV and prove that you are keen to learn new skills and ready to re-enter the work place.

Once you have secured an interview, it is then imperative that you are fully prepared.  You should have already researched the company for your application or covering letter, but further information will be necessary when getting ready for an interview.  If you have been out of work, you may be asked what you did in that time, so make sure you are prepared to explain your reasons for absence and any skills that you have gained during that period, for example if you volunteered.

The rule of thumb then for anybody seeking to get back into work is to be fully aware of your commitments and how flexible you can be with regards to availability. With this understanding, locating the type of job that you want (full-time, part-time) and in the industry you are interested in working in will become far more straightforward. Following this, revising and improving your CV, covering letter and interviewing skills, will ensure gaining access to potential jobs becomes a less intimidating experience.

This article was first published in Careers with Hayley Taylor in August 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

 Images: Getty

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