Out of work and feeling worthless: ask the expert

I have worked in the care industry for 10 years and completed my NVQs 2 and 3 in Care. I had my daugter in 2006 and returned to work after my six months’ maternity leave. My boss gave me set shifts of working 18 hours a week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). Then I fell pregnant again in 2008 and had my baby boy in 2009. I returned back to work after 10 months’ maternity leave and cut my hours to 12 hours a week, working Monday and Tuesday. After working these shifts for almost two years with new owners and new management taking over they weren’t at all happy with me doing these shifts any more as I worked in a care home that ran 24 hours seven days a week. Due to this I had to hand in my resignation as I couldn’t work any other shifts due to childcare arrangements. I have been for four interviews since I’ve been out of work from May 2011 and haven’t been lucky at all. I think it’s due to flexibility as I’m not at all flexible. This is getting me really down, we only have one income coming into the house, we have high weekly rent, council tax, all household bills etc gas, electric, weekly shopping for four. We are now strugggling to cope financially and we’re not entitled to any benefits apart from child benefit and child tax credits. I’m thinking of doing a work from home job (but are these kind of jobs safe to do?) – at least then we might get a little bit of money coming into the household. It’s causing a lot of family problems at the moment because I haven’t got a job and can’t help out. Please help me with some guidance. I just feel so worthless now and really low.

Job hunting today is awful for most people, it’s not surprising you feel so down. You need to keep on reminding yourself it’s not your fault you can’t find work – blame the government for mishandling the UK economy. You know you’re good at your job because you’ve held down care jobs successfully for 10 years before starting your family. Your care qualifications are better than those of many people applying for care jobs. All you need now is the right opportunity – then this time out of work will seem like a bad dream.

Ask yourself whether you feel so generally down it would be sensible to see your GP. If you’re sleeping very badly, don’t have any energy and can’t see an end to your troubles (or the rows with your partner) then arranging an appointment with your GP should be the first thing you do. Many GP surgeries offer counselling services as well as medical care.

I don’t think you should give up on your care career at this stage. You’ll need to put lots more effort into finding out about the local market for care jobs to track down a suitable job for yourself, though.

Make a list of every organisation and individual who employs carers in your locality – the care homes, Social Services (and agencies working with their clients) and private individuals who’ve advertised in the past for caring help. The easiest way of tracking down potential employers is to Google search (eg “care homes”, Wiltshire) but you’ll also find leads in the telephone directory and local free paper and on shop noticeboards. Also speak to any friends you have in the care profession – they can alert you to job opportunities coming up (eg “X does the hours you want to work and she’s just put in her notice – why don’t you ring my boss and say you’re looking for a new care job?”).

Once you’ve got your list of potential employers, ring each of them up. Say you’re an experienced and qualified care worker, you realise many care jobs become available at short notice and you’d like them to keep your details on file for any bank, temp or permanent jobs that come up … may you send in your CV? They’re likely to say yes. Try to avoid being too specific about the hours you can work – you want to leave that discussion until the employers ring you needing a CRB vetted care worker for the next fortnight …

You might be lucky and find temp or permanent jobs immediately. More likely, you’ll need to stay in touch with all these potential employers, ringing them once every 6 weeks or so to ask whether they’re likely to have any vacancies in the immediate future. Good luck!

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