Keeping my skills alive while on a career break: ask the expert

I have been a stay at home mum for the past seven months and I am fortunate to have the option to remain at home for the next one or two years. However, I want to keep my skills and knowledge up to date and keep my CV alive.  I am considering doing some voluntary work and I am hoping you can suggest some relevant positions and organisations.  My background is in Banking Regulation/Consumer Protection.  I would also like to get more people management experience.

How sensible of you to plan ahead about improving and updating your skills …

I’d suggest you approach your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to train and volunteer as an advisor / case worker.    Your specialist knowledge (debt, budgeting problems, financial muddles, conflicts between consumers and suppliers, etc) will be useful at the CAB and your future career is likely to benefit from the experience, training and occasional paid managerial and specialist jobs this well-respected national organisation provides.  A spell as a CAB advisor has proved to be a career launching pad for a number of people now in senior posts within national organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors (eg see the career of Frances Harrison, now on the Financial Services Consumer Panel).

Another alternative for you might be volunteering to develop or manage local Credit Unions and Community Banks.  Voluntary work of this type will refresh your contacts within the local banking, business and charity sectors, all of which are engaged in different aspects of local economic development and the reduction of social disadvantage.  Please note, though, that it may be difficult for you to obtain good quality training for this work because many of these initiatives are very small-scale and run on a financial shoestring.  You’d be in the same position as someone starting their own small business in a highly regulated sector, using the transferable skills you’ve built up in an earlier career.

Both forms of voluntary work will give you good opportunities of building your people management skills.  They’ll involve a great deal of liaison work with external organisations (eg Local Authority staff, regulatory authorities, etc) as well as case management skills, influencing skills and so on.  Make sure your future employers realise that managing people when you’ve no formal authority over them is a lot more challenging than most boss roles; also record while you’re doing this voluntary work each CV worthy achievement as manager, case worker and business systems developer.


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