Getting back to work after 14 years: ask the expert

I have worked since I left school also going to college.  I have mainly worked as a receptionist – my last job was doing that at a health spa.  I left work in 2001 to have a family.  I am now looking to return to work, but don’t know where to start. I am unsure of how to put my cv together as I am unsure of dates of places I have worked. Any advice please?  I am used to the telephone, computers etc. Ideally working from home would be fantastic due to school runs though I would also be open to evening work. As my partner is home from work by 3pm he would be able to take over childcare. I also have a NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration.

Welcome Note with Hand Sanitizer and Mask on Work Keyboard, Return to Workplace Pandemic


Your return to work may well be easier if you look for a job not too different from your previous role.  Although your work experience may be rather “old”, recruiters will be inclined to think you may remember enough about reception and clerical tasks to be a good bet in a new job.  You’ll feel more confident too – after all, you did this kind of job well in the past and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t perform even better, thanks to the continuing development of your life skills during your time at home.

Given the length of time you’ve had out of the workplace, though, some preparation would be useful before you launch yourself on the jobs market.  Have you any friends or family members who are currently working in the types of posts that appeal to you?  Would they explain their jobs (anything non-confidential) to you in detail (showing you any documentation they have to use, taking you through the procedures, etc)?  Is there anyone who’d allow you to “shadow” them for a few hours as they do the job?  You’d only be able to “shadow” someone if their senior managers permitted this; the kind of workplaces most likely to provide “shadowing” opportunities would include voluntary organisations, training companies, educational establishments (eg schools) etc.  If you were very lucky some of the organisations where you did your “shadowing” might even be able to help you find a “temp” or permanent job.

“Temp” jobs generally are easier to get than permanent jobs. They’re helpful in updating your experience and may lead to a permanent job (either because you’re asked to stay on or you see a job ad on your temporary employer’s intranet.

As regards your CV, employers won’t be bothered about the precise dates of your employment in 2001 and before then.  What they will want to know about is any job-relevant tasks or development you’ve done fairly recently.  Have you, for example, done clerical, managerial or communications work on behalf of voluntary organisations like the Scouts, Parent Teachers Association, etc?  Have you done any updating training on computers (eg the online courses leading to the European Computer Driving Licence)?

You can get ideas on how to write your CV and advice on the different formats in common use from the web.  Before you start to write your CV, run through at least 20 job advertisements for posts you’d like and see what employers want their candidates to tell them.  Construct your CV accordingly!  Good luck!

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