Getting my career off the ground: ask the expert

I am 20 years old.  I am a single mother.  My daughter is now 13 months old and I have been trying for about 2 months now to find some part-time work, but am having little luck. I would describe my career as being at entry level I have between 1 to 2 years experience; I worked as a customer advisor in retail for a just over a year upon leaving school and then I later took a voluntary position doing admin duties for a charity. This role lasted about 6 months before I left to have my daughter. I’ve applied for lots of jobs and if I ever get a follow up from my application I can never seem to get past the interview stage. This started to take its toll a bit and so I’ve decided to resume to the voluntary work I had done before I had my baby. However, I would still like to be bringing in a little extra income so I’m carrying on the job search. I’m now starting to wonder if work from home is an option and I have childcare back-up, but as my career isn’t greatly established is this really an option for me?  And if so, what sort of work should I be looking for and where do I look and what should I expect? And if not what are my options?  I’m starting to feel as if I’m running out.

Hand putting wooden cube block on blue background with word CAREER


I can understand how eight weeks of job hunting feels like forever and you can’t see any successful end to it!  It’s psychologically hard to live with uncertainty, knowing your next job offer may come through today …tomorrow … next week … or possibly not for weeks.  You may also be very short of money, adding to your stress levels.

I think you might have imagined from press and TV reports that the jobs market is now more buoyant than it actually is.  Like many other candidates you need to stay as patient and determined as you can be and remember that job search often does take 6 months or more.  You want a part-time job with hours that suit you and your daughter … which means you’re probably looking only at local jobs or at jobs that can be done from home.  You’re looking in a fairly small jobs “pool” and there’ll be plenty of other candidates in competition with you for the same restricted number of opportunities.

Having depressed you with advice on what you’re up against in the jobs market, can I offer a lot of encouragement?

Firstly, you’ve relatively recent customer service / sales experience of the type needed by very many employers large and small.

You’re also in the early stages of your career … as there are more entry-level jobs than promotion spots, you’ve more vacancies to apply for (though competition will be fierce).

You’ve been successful in getting to interview stage already, even though you’ve only been job hunting for two months.  That really isn’t bad going!
Getting to the interview stage is usually much harder than getting from the interview stage to a job offer.  Give yourself a pat on the back every time you make it through to the interview stage, you’ll deserve it!

Think of yourself as a retail / customer service “sales product” for some employer and work out which “customers” should want to buy your time, where they’re located and why they might want you rather than an alternative. Work up your “sales pitch”.  Then start networking with family, friends, your past employer and your colleagues in the voluntary organisations to track down as many suitable vacancies as you can.  Good luck!

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