Job-hunting tips

If you need or want to return to work, but your 'professional' self feels like squashed sediment under the daily round of Domestos, where do you start? Right here!

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Get volunteering

Mumsnetters agree that one route back into paid work is through unpaid work. Sorry, yes, yet more unpaid work. But at least volunteering counts towards your finding-a-job masterplan.

  • "I can heartily recommend volunteer work for someone (like me) who is lacking confidence, has forgotten (or didn't know) what an office looks like, who is unconfident about IT skills, who doesn't know what she wants to do, or simply wants to do something that isn't child-related. And you get thanked a lot, which is nice." 
  • "Get on the committee of the local mother and toddler group, help at a charity shop, set up a local residents' association, PTA, help at Scout Group, meals on wheels etc. Anything to make you look like a motivated self-starter."
  • "It looks better on your CV if you've done something voluntarily if there's a big time gap. It shows personal commitment, especially if it's doing something different to before. It may also provide a recent reference, which would be a big boost for a job application." 
  • "I was offered a job that hadn't even been advertised, on the strength of some volunteering I did to keep me sane, three years ago. Never underestimate how good volunteering can be when you get it right." 
  • "I have just returned to work after eight years off. I volunteered at a Citizen Advice Bureau and it was invaluable, both to give me something to waffle on about in competence-based interviews and also as a trial run to get childcare sorted." 



Finding and applying for jobs

Want to dust off your CV and hone your interview technique? Here's how Mumsnetters got started:

  • "I recently returned to work after 3.5 years at home. I didn't want to return to what I was doing before having children. As I wasn't claiming benefits, the Job Centre wouldn't help/advise me, so I made an appointment to see a Next Steps Careers Adviser. They gave me loads and loads of advice on my CV and gave me a booklet with different styles of CV and where else to find tips."
  • "Can I second the signpost to Next Step? This is free careers, courses and training advice, including help with CVs, job applications, interviews etc. You can get phone advice and/or face-to-face appointments. Their number is 0800 100 900."
  • "I took five years out, then contacted my old employer to ask them whether they would be willing to provide me a reference. They offered me a maternity leave cover, and two years later I have been made permanent and promoted twice."
  • "The Daphne Jackson Trust is a wonderful resource for scientists, engineers and IT specialists women returning to work."
  • "Don't be afraid to drop a level or two. If you are good you can climb back up quickly."
  • "If you have to do psychometric personality tests as part of a job application process, the best way to approach them is to think about what you're like on a really good day. There are questions designed to spot if you're trying to create an overly favourable impression, so you need to feel like your response is the truth at least some of the time."

Family matters

If you're raring to get back to work, don't forget to check that your partner (if you have one) is as enthusiastic about your plans as you are.

  • "Before committing to anything (including voluntary work) check it out with your partner to see what their true views are, and how you would divide the labour between you both. If you get rubbish commitment, they probably haven't really thought it through, and you could end up doing all the housework. How many threads have we read on MN about this? Avoid that scenario if possible."

And finally...

  • "Don't undersell yourself (although don't exaggerate either); just this once, put aside your lowly, humble, self-deprecating side."
  • "Get two bottles of wine in, if it's your thing. One to have when you pass the interview, the other to open after you've done your first day! It's a whole job in itself just to land a job these days." 

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Last updated: about 2 years ago