Back to work after a 17-year career-break: ask the expert

I am 50 yrs old with two teenagers.  I gave up working when I had the kids, almost 17 yrs ago now.  I worked as a legal secretary then.  Would like to start work again but my confidence etc is lacking big time and I feel my skills would be so out of date by now no one would want to employ a 50 yr old.  TBH I don’t really want to do secretarial again anyhow.  I absolutely adore animals.  Is there anywhere, at my age, I could start a new career within the animal world or do you have any other ideas what I might do?

Very sensibly, you’re prepared to be flexible about your future career path – you’d like to work with animals but you’re willing to consider other employment.

Your first step should be to draw up a list of your existing skills and capabilities that might be marketable to employers.  Ask your friends and family members to help you draw up this list.  As an ex-legal secretary, I bet you’re well-organised when it comes to planning and completing voluntary projects, for example.  I’d also bet you’re good at dealing with a wide range of people (people in crisis, from different backgrounds and so on).  Think about the evidence that shows how successful you are at what you do (eg “I’m a good planner  – I’ve organised our Summer Carnival for 3 years now and have been partly responsible for raising £10,000 for local charities”).  When you’ve drawn up this list, think about the types of employers and jobs that might ned someone with these skills.  Then ask friends and family to help you track down employers with vacancies – networking will work better for you than going through recruitment agencies.  Be prepared to take “temp” and short-term jobs at this stage – they’re easier to get than permanent posts and they’ll give you useful, up to date experience and references.

You adore animals – have you any personal or voluntary experience that would help you get a job within the animal world?

If you’ve had lots of pets and / or worked with an animal charity then maybe you could use that experience to get a job as a veterinary receptionist or (more difficult but possible) as a trainee veterinary nurse.  There is a work-based route to qualification as a veterinary nurse – the first step would be tofind employment in a vet practice offering such programmes.  Your own veterinary practice might be willing to talk to you about the local options.

Most animal charities rely heavily on unpaid volunteers.  There are some admin / management and care staff posts on offer, however.  With your admin experience and love of animals, you may be a suitable applicant for one of these posts.  There’s intense competition for posts with the RSPCA inspectorate(but your legal background and people management skills may give you a slight advantage over other candidates).  Competition for posts such as trainer of guide dogs for the blind is also extremely tough.

You may be able to find employment or self-employment working in one of the animal services sectors – eg paid dog-walking and pet-sitting, runninggrooming services or dog training classes, offering “problem pet”   programmes etc.  Many of these options would require you to take relevant vocational training courses (usually made available on a part-time basis).


Comments [2]

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi, I’m looking to get back into the field I originally worked in after taking a seven year break raising my children. How is the best way to communicate on my cv this gap without blatantly writing “stay at home mum”? Thank you!

  • Anonymous says:

    I have a 4 years break in my IT career as a software tester, after my 2nd child and husbands demanding job . I was not able to get back. Now I want to but I don't now how to highlight my skills and convince in my CV. As the field is quiet competitive, I don't think my CV will be consider by any recruiter. In spite of the knowledge and experience . Any one help pls

    Editor: Can you contact us via the Advice & Support/Q & A page box with a little more background information and we can put you in touch with one of our career experts.

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