Trying to get back to work after six-year break: ask the expert

I am 38 and have 3 children. My youngest is 3 and will not start full-time school till September. I have been staying at home for the last 6 years as it was impossible to combine work and children. Childcare is so expensive in London – it would be just pointless for me to go to work. Now though I would like to return to work, part-time or flexible, something that works around the children and home. I have done some accounting courses throughout the time at home and thought I would be able to find something in this field. Unfortunately, everyone wants experience – something I don’t have so I decided to volunteer in an accounting practice – even that wasn’t easy to find. Now 8 months down the line I am still unable to find a permanent flexible job. I’ve tried job websites, checking companies online, even cold-calling – with no joy.

What you’ve done as regards updating your qualifications, skills and work experience has been extremely worthwhile and sensible; it might already have netted you a job if the jobs market were less tough.

Other things you can try:-

You’ve done 8 months of voluntary work for an accountancy practice, giving you a moral right to ask them to do something to help you in your job search.   You can also point out the marketing value to the practice of having ex-practice people working in local businesses.

I assume the practice has many relatively local clients large enough to employ at least one person in their accounts departments?  Some of those staff will leave, retire or take maternity leave and need replacing.  Explain your job search ambitions to the Partners you’ve been working for and ask them to use their contacts to find out who may need a new accounts person in the foreseeable future.  Ask the Partners to tell you about any impending vacancies so that you can “tweak” your CV to fit the job before you apply for it.  The more supportive Partners may be willing to act as your advocate with these clients and to help you rewrite your CV to suit the job vacancies.

Even the less helpful Partners may be prepared to tell you which clients are most likely to be recruiting in the future and to permit you to send your CV to the accounts managers of clients from your practice email address.  There’s more of a chance of the CV being read if it comes from a “known” business partner – though you must also say in your email that you’re applying for the job with the consent of your manager, for whom you’ve been working on a voluntary basis  in order to further develop your work skills.

You should try making more use of your own contacts (eg colleagues, friends with links to the employment world, etc) to identify a greater number of job vacancies.  These contacts might know of actual job vacancies … but more probably they’ll be able to offer titbits of information that could help you get a job (eg “Company X is setting up a new office in the town” or “Company Y is changing its recruitment consultancy – why don’t you put yourself on their books?”).  Don’t forget to speak to other Mums – they may well know which employers are more co-operative than most in offering family-friendly work and which companies keep  databanks of people wanting to work with them.  Good luck!

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