Looking to return to work after eight years: ask the expert

I worked as a computer programmer for 13 years and left to look after my family. I have been at home for 8 years and now am looking to go back to work. I do not know where to start. I am interested in the data analysis side of computing and not looking to return to programming, needless to say that my skills are now mostly out of date. I would love to return to the IT industry, but do not know where to start. I was scared to get back out there which surprised me as I was a confident person when I was working. Please advise.

You’re not sure of your route back into work, the workplace now seems a bit daunting after your time at home and you’re worried your skills may be out of date … it’s hardly surprising your confidence levels are rather low at the moment. That said, you know yourself to be a generally confident and capable person. You can expect to feel much more at ease once you’ve landed your next job and have been in it for a fortnight. So how do we get you into your new job?

Probably the best way to deal with the various obstacles is to “chunk” them into manageable bits.

Firstly you need to assess your skills and experience gap. You can do this most easily by checking out the job board ads for junior and trainee data analyst jobs (eg Junior Data Analyst Retail Banking where the client asks for previous sector experience, strong data analysis skills and experience using SQL and Excel).

List your knowledge and experience gaps and think how you might bridge them. You may need training in data analysis skills, for example. If you search “free data analysis courses”, you’ll come up with a vast array of results; there’s at least a little free data analysis training out there which could be enough to get you started. You might also like to ring the National Careers Service (0800 100 900) and explain you want information about data analysis courses; you will need to speak to a trained advisor because their online database doesn’t come up with anything useful.

Many job ads (even for trainee analyst roles) ask for experience so you should use your contacts (social contacts, those from earlier employment and so on) to “shadow” data analysts doing their jobs and to find temp posts doing work (eg information gathering, data entry) that supports the data analyst roles and brings you in close contact with them. You should take whatever opportunities you have to talk over data analysis problems and techniques with your more experienced colleagues and expand your role so that you gradually take on the work of a data analyst. The IT world is generally more impressed by competence than past background – if you show yourself capable of taking on more advanced levels of work you’ll probably be offered it!

It would make sense for you to focus your job search on the sectors where your earlier jobs have given you relevant (if old) experience and you have personal contacts able and willing to update you on the key trends and changes. Good luck!

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