Q And A
Out of the workplace for two years: ask the expert
I left work in 2010 to raise my child who is now in nursery school. I recently have been looking for jobs for about a year now and I am finding it hard to get back into work. I worked as an administration assistant for three years. I know I have the experience and the ability to do this work, but think that my confidence is lacking and I'm finding it daunting and also scary that I might not get anywhere after two years of not working. I have recently started some courses to help. Is there any advice?
Answer by Linda Whittern
It’s usually daunting to re-start something you haven’t done for a while, especially when that “something” has important consequences (eg you might worry about family finances if you can’t get paid work).
The trick is to divide up your project (feeling more confident about getting back to work) into small, manageable chunks, then polish off each of them in turn. Remind yourself of all the tasks you dealt with confidently and competently when you were working as an administration assistant.
Look through your Job Description – if you kept a copy – or put together your own list of everything you did and the responsibilities you looked after. Remind yourself of all the successes you achieved while you were working in these roles (perhaps you had to learn a new computer system or needed to “manage” an unusually difficult colleague or boss). Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for ALL your past achievements. Then look at the Job Descriptions for similar administration assistant roles. Are the job tasks really so much more difficult or different from those which you ’ve already handled successfully in your previous jobs?
Invite round friends / family members who ’re currently working in administration assistant roles and ask them to give you a “warts and all” explanation of what they do and what the real challenges are. You can learn useful tips from their explanations about how they solved the various work problems they met.
You can learn today’s jargon / buzz words (not being able to understand what workmates are talking about is often the main problem for someone who’s been out of the workforce for a couple of years!). Tell them about your work experience and ask them for tips on where you’d fit in today’s workplace. It’s possible they’ll be able to suggest temp and permanent job vacancies that you’d be suitable for.
Consider doing a short administration project (no more than 6 weeks) as a volunteer or “temp” to get some practical and relevant work experience. Sort out what type of experience will best help you market yourself to your next employer, then find some organisation (search online or via your local library) that needs you to fulfil these duties. There are always local campaigns and local groups needing administrative input. Put in writing your experience / learning requirements for the project and get the organisation’s written commitment to providing that experience and a mentor before you undertake any work that you ’re not paid for.
You’ve only been out of the jobs marketplace for 2 years– that ’s not a long time. You want the type of work you did perfectly well until fairly recently. You’ve even taken on extra training. I think you’ve as good a chance of getting back into the workforce quickly as anyone else. Good luck and may you get that job offer soon!
Linda Whittern is Director of Careers Partnership (UK), a careers consultancy for women and men at all stages of their careers.