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I have been at home full time for the past six years, but am now starting to think about returning to work. I am doing some voluntary work for the NSPCC to gain some experience, but would you also recommend taking any courses to update my skills etc? If so what kind of courses should I be considering. I worked in publishing as an account manager before, but this isn’t what I want to return to. I am currently volunteering with the NSPCC as part of their schools service going into schools to run workshops and assemblies.
Returning to work after six years of being at home looking after your children can feel daunting and you are doing the right thing in getting some voluntary work experience. Your role volunteering with the NSPCC as part of their schools service sounds really interesting and very different from the work you were doing previously as an Account Manager within publishing. This experience will be a great way for your to build up your confidence in you as a working mum as well as provide you with new skills and networks to tap into.
Although you are looking to work in another type of role now it is important not to forget or diminish the transferable skills that you will have gained from the time you worked in Account Management. Whilst you may not necessarily be looking for a job which is a match in terms of the skills and experience required for the role, there will be many cross over skills, especially in terms of communication skills, team work skills and organising your time. I would really urge you to do a thorough audit of the skills and achievements you have gained so far so that when you do come to apply for a new role you ensure that you market yourself confidently. Just because you have not used some of these skills for 6 years does not make them lose their relevance!! Have a look at the section on skills on the Open University Careers site which will help you think about the skills you have an how to market them
You have asked in particular about courses to update your employability skills, particularly in IT. This is a really good idea and certainly in terms of areas like IT where technological advances move at such a rate that we all need to be constantly revisiting training in this area to ensure that we are up to date.
The report Future Work Skills 2020 is well worth a look for anyone who is thinking about future employability and trying to ensure that they are future proofed. It makes the point that whilst HR departments might currently be looking for applicants who are familiar with basic computer applications like using Microsoft Office Suite, this is unlikely to be sufficient for the future. By 2020 it is estimated that 75% of jobs will require some type of technical training. This has a message for us all not just people returning to work after some time out of the workplace!
So what does this mean in terms of the IT literacy skills we need to ensure we are confident using?
Job applicants are increasingly going to need to be able to assess and develop content for new media and use these to communicate. Videos, blogs and podcasts which are currently dominating social media are increasing going to be felt in the workplace in the next decade. Confidence with using these tools and also understanding professional etiquette involved in business use is going to be vital.
Programmes like PowerPoint which communicate in a non-static way are going to be more prominent so be expected to be able to use these tools as well as the use of infographics to communicate key facts.
Whereas paper based and print resources are the mainstay of how we access information expect to see an increasing use of video in the workplace and with it the ability to assess information in this format and create and present your own information in this format. User friendly editing tools will be common in the workplace and an understanding of terms like ‘frame’ and ‘depth of field’ will be important.
With an increase in virtual collaboration employers are going to be looking out for people who understand strategies to engage dispersed groups. Understanding of how gaming works and what engages a dispersed group as well as driving participation and motivation will be vital.
Micro-blogging and social networking sites will be increasingly important for building teams and establishing a sense of comraderie as will use of networking sites like Yammer which is a twitter-like micro blogging service focused on business.
You may find that some of these skills you are already able to develop in your work experience as it sounds like the job you are doing for the NSPCC may involve use of media like PowerPoint. But what other ways can you develop these skills?
Check out courses at your local Further Education College or Adult Education Centre. They may well be running courses specifically for women returning to the work place and these courses are likely to take place when your children are at school or in the evening.
Learn Direct offer both courses on line and in local centres. The advantage of these courses is that they do not have a start date and you can study when it suits you. Find out more about courses on offer and the nearest Learn Direct centre in your area at
Good luck with this – I am just about to sign up for a free course with Alison on Video Editing and Publishing which should keep me busy over the Christmas period.