Paid collaboration with Working Wales
I was really nervous about pressing publish on my recent post about how, now that my children are all at school, I want to get my career back on track and was off to see a Working Wales careers adviser.
It’s really hard to put yourself out there and admit you don’t quite know where you’re headed in life.
But the amazing responses on all my social media channels, including lots of private messages and questions from friends, made me realise that I’m not the only 40-something mum feeling a little lost professionally.
Although Cardiff Mummy Says isn’t going anywhere anytime soon (I love it too much), now that all three of my children are in school and I have more time to work, I’ve been thinking about re-entering the workforce as a ‘proper’ employee. I haven’t been employed since 2007, and the idea of going back to the workplace is terrifying.
For a start, I have no idea what I want to do any more. I don’t know if I want to step back into journalism or PR (which is what I did previously), something connected with social media, or whether I want to do something else entirely. I worry my skills and workplace experience are out of date. I worry about childcare issues and employers being sensitive to the needs of working parents. I don’t even know where to look for jobs these days. Plus, with advances in modern technology, there are so many jobs that didn’t even exist five years ago, I feel I don’t even know what’s out there anymore.
All of this means my confidence about being in a workplace is at an all-time low and, although I want to embark on this next stage of my career, I’m finding it all a little overwhelming.
But then Working Wales invited me to meet one of their advisers. I must admit, I thought careers advisers were purely for school and university leavers. It never once occurred to me that they could help a mum in her 40s who already has a good few years of her professional life behind her.
But, it turns out, I am the kind of person they want to support.
Launched by the Welsh Government last year, Working Wales is an employment support service delivered by Careers Wales, and backed by the European Social Fund.
Their priorities are to help people find meaningful employment, and to help them navigate any barriers that might be preventing them from doing so. That barrier could be long-term unemployment, a health problem or disability, redundancy, or, as in my case, returning to the workplace after time out and working out childcare, building confidence and updating skills.
Although Working Wales only launched in May 2019, by December they had already supported 23,326 adults and 5,135 young people.
By the end of March 2020, they want to up that figure to 42,000 individuals, plus a further 8,000 via digital support.
As well as having more than 30 centres across Wales and operating out of JobCentre Plus, community venues and hwbs, Working Wales can also be accessed over the phone, via web chat, on social media and by visiting a centre. Advisers can also meet customers in locations suitable to them, such as local coffee shops or community centres.
They assured me that one of their advisers would be able to help provide me with all of the tailored advice and support I need – from helping me work through what, exactly, I want to do, to CV writing and interview techniques, to advice on funding for training.
And so a week and a half ago, I spent close to two hours talking to Bethan, a Working Wales adviser, when I visited Careers Wales’s office in Cardiff city centre.
I found the meeting really emotional. At one point I cried. I think this is the first time since I was a teenager that I’ve thought properly about my career, never mind spoken about it.
I was worried Bethan wouldn’t be able to help me because I have no idea what I want to do next. But she was genuinely interested in helping me figure that out during our free, confidential and impartial session. We talked about my career history so far and the kinds of skills I enjoy using (communication and writing, helping and inspiring people, social media, building communities), and looked at the range of careers where my existing skills would be transferable. We talked about confidence building and Bethan assured me that I have lots of skills desirable to employers and plenty to offer in the workplace.
I really value the flexible nature of freelance life, which makes a real difference when you are a working parent without much regular support. I wasn’t sure whether flexible part-time roles in fulfilling professional roles really exist, but Bethan has shown me that they do (in fact, as a part-time working mum herself she is proof of that) and I also got some lovely comments on my social media pages from mums working in flexible roles, which has given me plenty to think about and to look into further.
Bethan introduced me to several websites where jobs are advertised – I know it’s an embarrassingly basic point, but the last time I applied for a proper job was back in 2006, when you didn’t need to look much further than the Western Mail on a Thursday.
One of my worries was that I don’t have enough of the skills employers are looking for. I left the workforce right before the digital and social media explosion of the last 10 years and I worry I don’t have enough formal experience of certain job requirements (in fact, this has been an issue with a couple of freelance jobs I haven’t quite been suited to) so we talked a lot about training options and developing my skills.
As I’m not sure what I want to do, Bethan directed me to some online tools to help give me some fresh ideas to explore.
We also looked at job adverts within fields I’ve worked in, and related professions, to see what appealed and what didn’t and to help give me an idea of what jobs exist, salary bands, and job specification requirements.
Some of this is pretty basic stuff, I know, but having been self-employed for so long, I haven’t followed the natural career progression I might have, had I remained in employment, so a huge part of me going back to work is figuring out where I might fit in now. Bethan never once made me feel stupid for not knowing what I want to do or for any of the questions I asked. In fact, I found her approach so kind and caring and she was so thoughtful in her responses and suggestions.
At the end of the meeting we outlined some action points for me to take, and Bethan sent me some links for job sites, training courses and other information we had discussed. She said it’s quite common for people to need a few sessions of support and that’s definitely true of me. We’ve booked a follow-up appointment for a fortnight’s time.
I haven’t walked away from the meeting with a magic solution and I’m still not 100% sure what I want to do. But I have definitely made some positive steps, found answers to some of the questions I had been asking, and I already feel more confident that I would be an asset to the right company.
As I said to Bethan, it might take me a few months to work out what I want to do and to find the right job, and I’m okay with that. Our meeting has made me feel like things are a little less overwhelming than they were and that I’m one step closer to finding out where I want to be.
Those of you who have returned to the workplace after having a childcare break, or after having been working in a home-based flexible role, what advice would you give me? And those of you who are looking to return to work, what are your worries, and what barriers are you facing? I’d love to hear your experiences.
If you’d like to find out more about Working Wales, call 0800 028 4844, visit a Careers Wales centre or visit the website workingwales.gov.wales
Your questions answered:
Who exactly can access support from Working Wales?
Anyone aged 16 and over, living in Wales can access free, impartial careers advice and guidance through Working Wales. Whether someone is unemployed, has health problems, has been made redundant, or just wants some advice on their next steps, Working Wales advisers can provide them with a tailored solution to find meaningful employment.
Working Wales can be accessed via telephone, webchat, email, or by dropping into a Careers Wales centre across Wales. Appointments can be booked in advance, or on the day.
Is it free?
Yes, Working Wales is a completely free service, delivered by Careers Wales and funded by the Welsh Government with ongoing support from the European Social Fund.
Will the service be affected by leaving the EU?
No. Working Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with the support of the European Social Fund.
I thought it was just for school leavers. Can you help a mum of three who has been out of the workplace for 10+ years?
Yes, Working Wales can give free, confidential advice to anyone who needs support to find the job that’s right for them. This might include options for re-training or upskilling, confidence building, interview techniques, CV writing, job searching, as well as impartial guidance from a Working Wales adviser who is on hand to listen to your queries and help you to plan your next steps.
What childcare support is available to parents in education or training?
Working Wales offers support on the different barriers people face when looking to find or change employment. These barriers could include childcare, health issues, transport, redundancy, lack of confidence and many more.
Welsh Government’s Childcare Offer for Wales helps many parents depending on their personal circumstances. This is currently being reviewed to consider whether it should be extended to parents in education or training. Any queries relating specifically to the Welsh Government’s Childcare Offer for Wales should be directed to email@example.com.
Where are the best places to find part-time, term-time job opportunities, other than in schools?
There are a number of websites that are useful when searching for jobs. Both of the following sites allow you to filter and search term-time only jobs in various sectors.
Other jobsites such as Total Jobs, Reed, Jobsite etc also have similar search facilities.
Additionally, once you are employed you have the right to apply to work flexibly (after 26 weeks). Employers will consider each application and must give a business reason if it is turned down. More information here.
Another option could be to consider self-employment and arranging hours to suit your circumstances.
If you’re unsure, contact a Working Wales adviser to find out more about your options.
Is it only for low-skilled/low-paid jobs?
Not at all. Working Wales is there to help people overcome whatever is stopping them from finding a job or progressing further in their career. Support is available to help you understand where to find jobs, and what future skills employers will be looking for.
Visit the Working Wales website here.