help for carers returning to work
Help for Carers

Returning to work after caring

 Carers UK asked fellow carers and I to test an e-learning platform designed to help carers wanting to return to work. Could it help you?

What happens when caring responsibilities stop? There is certainly be grief from the loss of a loved one. Ex carers can also feel completely out of the loop, unsure when or even if returning to work is an option, low in confidence.

Preparing to return to work

Returning to work after a long break means first being clear about what you want to do. Then making a plan to do it. Getting started can be hard, so the new interactive e-learning programme, Learning for Living, aims to help you do just that. It’s completely free too.

Over the course of five interactive ‘modules’, carers can explore learning, communication skills and ways to develop assertiveness and confidence. 

learning for living course by carers uk

Real carers presenting the content and an unhurried pace made this quite pleasant for a learning session ;-). There’s a good mix of audio, film and clicky interaction with encouragement to take responsibility and properly think. Nothing bad happens if you make a mistake. The ability to print out the notes you make is helpful too.

My tips for doing this e-learning are:

  • make a brew first
  • have a notepad and pen to hand, as useful things will occur to you
  • sign up with an email and password so you can log back in again
  • do one module at a time. Reflect a bit, then move on to the next one a week or so later.  Don’t try and do all the modules in one sitting (2-3 hours) as I did, it’ll do your head in
  • just do it!

Click here for the press release which contains more detail on ‘Learning for Living’, its City and Guilds association and credibility with employers.

Returning to… what exactly?

Returning to work doesn’t mean you have to be a professional carer (though that might be a great idea, you’ll be great at it). You may prefer a complete break from caring instead. The e-learning course helps you focus on what you’re passionate about, good at and how you take it from there.

Volunteering might be a good start if full time work seems daunting at first. It’s a low risk way to explore options, learn relevant skills, build your CV and confidence.

Finding the right job

The e-learning would benefit from additional practical help on finding the job you’d like to do. Help or signposting to current CV and covering letter writing techniques, where jobs are advertised and how to apply would also be useful. Government departments, recruiters and other relevant services could partner with Carers UK and the Dept of Health and Social Care to help deliver this.

Interviewing employers about the qualities they look for in recruits would help reassure those who’ve been out of the workplace for a while. Enthusiastic, positive employees who are open to learning new skills throughout their whole working life must be high up their list. Why wouldn’t that be you?

The elephant in the room

Ageism. Is it going to be a barrier? Honestly, it’s hard to know if that will affect a ‘mid life’ carer’s recruitment or not. It may depend on the role or the employer. The growing skills shortage is one increasingly overriding issue that even the most shortsighted employer will find hard to ignore. Perceived or real ageism needs to be dismantled fast, alongside other discrimination biases.

The e-learning course reminded me how many transferable skills carers have. Delivering the business’s goals is critical but employers also need compassionate leaders and team members that support others’ welfare and development. Carers have strong organisational, complex problem solving and financial management skills which make them a great hire. We can always update IT, ‘process’ or technical skills if they’re out of date.  It’s much, much harder to learn or train for ‘soft skills’, values and emotional intelligence attributes like empathy and conflict resolution.

So, remove any clues about your age from your CV. It might sound glib but it’s a good start and ‘allowed’. Clean up your social media profiles too, especially if they’re public. Always present yourself positively on social media. Then, with a trusted ally, get a new haircut and makeover. I’m talking to the gentlemen too. So good for confidence.

Then, check your mindset. You may have some unintentional ‘self-limiting beliefs’. Get other perspectives from trusted friends, a group, a self help book or a website. Tina, an ex carer, talks a bit about this at the end of the ‘You and Yours’ Radio 4 programme which aired on Thursday 13 Feb 2020, in which she reviewed the e-learning course. I’ve inserted the audio clip below, it’s a good listen and food for thought.

If you’ve any helpful tips on returning to work after caring, please share them with me and I’ll add them here.

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