Under pressure to get back to work

I have two children, my youngest in year six and I am really feeling the pressure to get a job before she gets into high school. I have been doing odd bits of acting for years which I want to carry on doing. I don’t have any qualifications and before kids I worked in retail. In an ideal world I would have a part-time job on a flexi time basis so that I can still be with my daughter going to school until next year and also to have time off for auditions and the few jobs I get per year. Am I asking too much? Does this ideal exist?

Thanks for your question as I am sure that this is something a lot of parents are thinking as their child is becoming more independent and approaching secondary school age.  In your email you say that you are ‘really feeling the pressure to get a get a job’ and I wonder where this pressure is coming from.  Are the pressures you allude to financial or from family, friends and society generally?  Is getting a paying job what you feel you ‘should’ be doing?  I get the sense in your email that if you could, you would wait until your daughter had moved school before you made this change. Is this an option for you and if so are there things you could be doing now to ease this transition when you decide the time is right?

What is great from your email is that you clearly know what would be a perfect balance for you and it sounds like much of this is already in place in terms of your acting, with just the flexible part time work to figure out. So, are you asking too much?  No, I don’t think you are!

Whilst this ideal may not come ready packaged on job sites, it is out there if you are creative about your job search.  You will need to really take time to consider what you have to offer in terms of skills and transferable experience and how this could work not only for you but for a potential employer.  If working for someone else is not the answer in the area you live what other options could you consider – is self-employment or running a franchise business an option for example?  Have a look at the information on the OU Careers site on self-employment and flexible working  and consider job boards aimed at advertising flexi work roles, such as opportunities advertised on the Working Mums site.

You mention that you don’t have any qualifications and it would be interesting to know what you mean by this. Do you mean that you don’t have any qualifications that you consider worthy or relevant to getting a job?  There are two points I would like to make in regard to this.

Firstly, it is never too late to return to learning and you may find that studying as an adult is a very different experience from when you studied at school. There is a wealth of learning opportunities out there that you could consider including part time study with your local FE College or Adult Education Centre to degrees with the Open University that could fit around your time restraints.  If you feel that lack of qualifications is holding you back then why not dip your toe back in and see what interests you.  A good starting point is a Future Learn course. Courses on this site are free and range from courses on literature to psychology

Secondly, I would like you to recognise that whilst qualifications may be important for some roles they are not the only thing employers are interested in.  In fact a recent survey by the CBI noted that employers felt school leavers and graduates were often lacking the key employability skills that they needed for their businesses to succeed. The lack of soft skills like team work; communication skills; organisation and time management skills are what prevents many of these graduates getting into work.  I would imagine that as someone who is a mother who juggles acting jobs and previously worked in retail you would rate highly in terms of your competence in these areas. The key thing is often to both recognise these skills and then to market them to an employer. Have a look at the section on the OU Careers site on skills and start making an audit of what you have to offer taking into account all areas of your working and non-working life.

Returning to work after a career break looking after children can be daunting but it does not have to be.  The key is to be confident in what you have done so far and to make a realistic appraisal of what you have to offer. It is very likely that you have a great deal to offer already and having a clear idea of what this is enables you to identify where you need to direct your work in order to build on this.  Do be patient as it won’t necessarily happen overnight, but if you build a plan to break it down into small steps you’ll soon feel like you a removing in the right direction.

Good luck.

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