Back to work after four years out

I am a single mother who has started over with nothing. I have no family in the UK, and my daughter’s father is not involved in our life. I would like to return to work after four years out of work. My job history has gaps due to the recession and taking care of a parent with dementia. I have a recently earned business degree, and some experience from before I had my daughter. I wanted to go into a company and progress, but now I am thinking I need to do whatever is possible to make money, or else I will be completely stuck.  My confidence is depleted to some extent. I want to approach this intelligently, so that I can seek realistic opportunities, but also so I do not underestimate my value in an economy I have not really worked in before.


It can sometimes feel like you are wading in treacle and whilst you want to progress in your career everything seems set against you and you cannot see how you are ever going to get there. It is useful in this situation to take a stepped approach and be aware that whilst they may be progressing slowly they are edging forwards. You already have a bank of relevant experience and now you have achieved a degree in Business Administration with an excellent classification. Whilst you may not immediately be able to jump in to the kind of role which you would without being a single mum to a young child, this time will pass and concentrate on what you are doing to build this jigsaw which will one day get you into the kind of role you want.

As you are looking for opportunities where you can learn and grow have you spoken to the careers team at your university about graduate opportunities there? If you no longer live near the University then you should be able to connect with them by phone or email and I would urge you to make full use of the services they offer their graduates.

It is clear from your career history that you already have a range of skills gained from working in a business environment so unlike some new graduates you are not starting from the beginning here and are what graduate recruiters would call a ‘skilled hire’. Making an audit of the skills and achievements you already have and being aware of the ones that you would ideally like to take forwards into future employment would be an excellent starting point.

You have mentioned a number of areas you are interested in moving into and my advice would be to start to have a look at jobs advertised in these roles. Whilst you may not feel ready to apply for these at this time you can gain valuable knowledge by getting a clear idea of the competencies they are looking for and matching this against your current skills and experience. Where you can identify gaps in your experience this can help you focus on the kind of experience that it would be useful to gain in the short term. The graduate prospects website can also be a good starting point to explore job profiles for these careers.

One way of increasing specific skills or competencies that you lack is by undertaking small amounts of voluntary work and this could fit in with your current situation as you may be able to fit this in around the free childcare you can access. If, for example you find that you are lacking specific skills and experience in financial management you can consider what opportunities there may be local to you where you could gain this – this could be for a small charitable organisation or possible a group like your local PTA.

A good place to search for opportunities in your area is the volunteer site You can put in your postcode and search for opportunities within a 10 mile radius for example. If you conduct an advanced search you can identify the kind of organisation you would like to work for and the kind of work you would like to do/skills you would like to gain. You may be surprised at the wealth of opportunities in your area. This can also help you gain an awareness of working in the UK and local contacts.

I would also suggest you use LinkedIn to network with organisations which may interest you. Is there someone in your alumni network who is currently working in the kind of role you are considering and if so could you make contact with them via LinkedIn and ask their advice about how they got into this work and what the reality of it is like?

I hope this provides a useful starting point for you, but do contact your University careers service to see what additional support they can offer you too.

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