Returning to work after 16 years: ask the expert

For the past 16 years I have focused solely on raising my son, and now find myself in a situation of having to look for work. Prior to the birth of my son, I spent time working as a barmaid, and also worked at a petrol station. My interest lies in IT and the Internet, especially the more creative side. I am confident and able to navigate my way around a computer, despite a lack of formal qualifications to prove this. I haven’t a clue how to go about creating a CV that will appeal to a potential employer. I am not a member of any clubs or organisations. For the past few years I have been dealing with physical and mental health issue, and attend regularly attend health-related appointments (at least once a week). Because of my health issues, I feel that I would be better suited to a job that enabled me to work from home, and wouldn’t get in the way of my medical appointments. There are days when my health issues cause me to feel so drowsy that I am incapable of anything other than sleeping, so I know this would need to be taken into consideration too. I need some advice because I don’t know where to go from here.

The IT sector as a whole probably provides more opportunities for working from home (or “remotely”) and for working the hours you can than most others.

You’ll have to prove your IT capability to potential employers and / or customers by getting at least the basic qualifications.  Fortunately, you’ll be able to access online (and without charge) the internationally respected European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) courses.  ECDL allows you to proceed through each module at your own pace and take the tests when you are ready to do so – with your IT background, perhaps you’ll whizz through some modules quite quickly.

The ECDL course covers basic concepts of IT and computer management, internet and email, spreadsheets, databases, presentations and word processing.  Arrangements seem to vary whether students have to pay to take the ECDL tests but it’s highly likely you’d get any test fees paid for you because you’re probably on income support (or one of the other qualifying benefits).

Speak to Next Step 0800 100 900 for advice on local ECDL courses, online courses, test fees etc.

With ECDL, you’d have a chance of getting a variety of home-based admin type IT roles – eg database entry, spreadsheets work (stock control, accounts, etc).  Such jobs aren’t creative but at least they’d provide you with a salary, employment experience and perhaps access to further training.  Try and find temp or permanent employment with small organisations to build up your experience.

It seems likely you’d enjoy web design / web editing work.  What I’d suggest you do is investigate the short web design online courses with the Open University, after you’ve got your ECDL.  OU offers financial support for students (though they can’t help everyone).  Go to the the site and see what courses appeal, then use the financial support “eligibility checker” to see what financial help may be available.  After you finish the course, contact local charities, campaigning groups etc – see whether they’d employ or pay you to update / upgrade their web sites, then use that experience to help you “sell” your skills to future employers.

I’d suggest you concentrate on getting your qualifications first and don’t try to get a job until later.  As your health is rather fragile, it’s particularly important you don’t push yourself too hard.

Good luck!

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