Using and boosting your experience

I learned lots about myself and met lots of people and got to try things that I didn’t have enough experience to get a job in. It was such a great feeling when I helped run successful fundraising events for charities I volunteered with, as well as being a great boost for my CV. My volunteer experiences gave me something I could confidently talk about in interviews, and the interviewers found my experiences interesting, which was a massive boost to my confidence.

Slowly I built the courage to apply for college, and I was so excited when I got in. At times I thought I couldn’t do it. It was a great feeling of achievement when I completed the course and got a job that I love and that fits around school hours for my daughter. I now realise it is possible to be a better version of yourself. Sometimes stepping out of your normal is what needs to be done. When you are at your lowest you really have nothing to lose, but you have everything to gain. Don’t give up!

You might be telling yourself you don’t have much to offer as you’re out of work or you’ve trained for a job that’s out of date or doesn’t fit with your family life. Even if you’re well qualified, it’s easy to undervalue yourself. The good news is that people build up skills whatever they do, not just in paid work.

There’s lots you can do to add to your CV, and to talk about at interviews or when you’re setting up for yourself. You might be surprised by how much you already have to offer if you think about the value of what you’re doing every day. 

What you already know and can do

  • Write down everything you can think of that you’ve done: education, qualifications, experience.  
  • Look at this list to see what jobs, and what level, you could go for.  
  • Re-write your CV from scratch. 
  • Include everything you’ve done and all the skills you’ve acquired.  
  • Compare it with your old CV to see how much you’ve got to offer. 
  • Ask a friend, family member or work colleague to describe you and to tell you what skills and qualities they see in you. 
  • Look at our tips and links to help you do your CV
  • Look at our tips for boosting your self-esteem. Often the difference between getting work or other opportunities is down to confidence and enthusiasm.

Transferable skills

What do you want and what are you good at? Once you know the answers to these questions, you will have a much better idea of what you want to do.

A skill is something you can do. It’s something you’re good at. It can come from any aspect of your life. You’ll have all sorts of skills and experience from raising children, and managing a household like communicating, planning and teamwork.

These are ‘transferable’ skills. Employers want these skills.

  • Write down three, five or even ten things that you do that would be useful to an employer.
  • Write down all the things you are good at. You might discover all sorts of skills you didn’t realise you had.
  • Instead of looking at how to sell yourself to potential employers, you could use these transferable skills to build your own business. Look at your skills and see if you could use them to benefit yourself and your family directly.
  • Many single parents have made successful careers using skills built up as parents: selling baby clothes, running a catering or cleaning business, running baby yoga classes. It doesn’t need to be child-focused! Working for yourself from home can be more family friendly. But, depending on the age of your children and the nature of your business, you may still need childcare.

Useful links

Going back into education and training

Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? A career that you fancied but didn’t have the chance to go for it? Is there a skill you have or something that you’re passionate about that you would like to learn more about?

Investing some time in a course, however short, could make your CV stronger and open up opportunities.

There are all sorts of possibilities. You may be able to get a grant to do it.

  • As a taster, you might want to try a short course in something you’re interested in to get used to this type of learning.
  • Think about online courses (including Open University, universities and colleges). You may be able to save on childcare costs if you can study when the children are at school. Some colleges have on-site childcare.
  • You may prefer to attend classes in person rather doing an online course if it’s a practical course or you want to meet other students. You might be someone who prefers learning in a classroom to learning online.

Useful links

Volunteering and work experience

Volunteering is a safe way to try out different roles while gaining skills and experience.

  • Get involved in volunteering for experience and a feel for what a job might be like. This can be as low key as getting involved in local clean-ups or putting out toys at a playgroup. Whatever fits with your family life.
  • Often when you try your ‘ideal’ thing out, it can turn out not to be the right thing at all.
  • Some organisations put their volunteers through accredited training programmes which help for CVs and when applying for paid work. 
  • You may find that volunteering leads to paid work in the same organisation. Get in touch with organisations that you’re interested in. Check with your nearest volunteer centre or with local groups on Facebook.

See more on volunteering in our pages on opportunities

Useful links

  • Websites such as Volunteer ScotlandGet Involved! or Volunteering Matters can tell you about opportunities in your area.
  • My World of Work has information on how volunteering could help you, and what to do if you’re claiming benefits with job seeking requirements and you want to volunteer. There are also links to opportunities.