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A Carer’s CV

Contemplating a return to work after a long break? Mulling over a career change? Starting on the journey of applying for your first job? Or perhaps transitioning into part-time work?

Whatever our situation, the path to securing a new job can be daunting. But in some situations, it is also the right thing for us to do. Having a job can relieve some of the financial pressures we might be experiencing, but it can also give us a space to be ourselves. Outside of our caring role.

“Even though it's hard to juggle everything, work is a little bit of me time.”

The good news is that it is possible to get a job and advance up the career ladder if caring has taken us out of the workplace or slowed our progress. In fact, caring can make us more employable, as we’ve likely learnt a whole range of useful skills.

Working around our caring role might feel impossible, but since the pandemic, more employers are offering flexible work and recognising the value that carers can bring to the table. It might be helpful to familiarise ourselves with what our rights around caring at work are, including the right to time off, unpaid leave and more. 

In this blog post, we’ve put together some top tips for carers in the process of finding a job, and ways to highlight our amazing skills and strengths. We’ve broken this down into practical steps:

How to write and structure a CV

1. Find a template

If we've not updated our CV in a long time, using a template can help with formatting our experience and skills. While every CV is different, there are some common things that most should include:

  • Length: Keep it to no more than two sides of A4 paper, typed on a computer.

  • Font: Use black text, size 10-12, in a common font like Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman.

  • Layout: Choose a clean and simple format with clear headings, formatting and spacing to structure the information and make it easy to read. Some sections we could include are a personal statement, work experience, education and skills.

The recruitment company Reed offer a handy template that we can download and use as a guide for writing or refreshing our CV. 

2. Use AI to help us write copy

AI generators, such as ChatGPT, can help us write CVs and cover letters faster and easier than ever before. This is especially useful if writing isn’t our strong point or if English isn’t our first language. 

We’ll need a phone number and email address to get started with ChatGPT. We can sign up by visiting the website in our web browser. From here, we can type detailed information about our work experience, education, skills and any other relevant details into the prompt box. 

For example, we might say,

"I need help writing my CV. I have 5 years of experience working in retail, 8 GSCEs and skills in customer service and cash handling."

ChatGPT can then use this information to draft a well-structured and professional CV for us.

If we’re new to the world of AI, it might be helpful to check out this step-by-step beginners guide for more detailed instructions on writing a great CV. We should also check through and personalise what an AI tool generates to make sure it is accurate and sounds like us. 

3. Tailor each CV to each job description

A useful tip for scoring an interview is to tweak our CV and cover letter copy for the job we’re applying for. Basically, a generic CV is less appealing to hiring managers and applicant tracking systems (ATS), a type of digital scanning software that many companies use to manage their job applications. 

When we apply for a job online, our application often goes through this system first. It scans our CV for keywords and relevant information and helps the hiring team sort through candidates more efficiently. So, if our CV doesn't match what the ATS is looking for, it might not even get seen by a human.

To make sure we rise to the top of the hiring pile, we should highlight the most relevant skills and experience from the job we’re applying for, copying the keywords used in the job description.

For instance, they might be looking for a “team player”, someone who has “social media management experience” or a candidate who has great “organisation and time management” skills. This step takes some time but it's worth it. 

4. Focus on care-related skills

It's important not to overlook our caring role when writing our CV. If we feel comfortable with doing so, we should feel confident to mention the skills we've gained as an unpaid carer. They're valuable in many other roles too!

“Since looking after my parents I have been their PA, driver, counsellor, cleaner, shopper and all the other roles fulfilled by an unpaid carer.” 

We can talk about things like being understanding and supportive, keeping calm under pressure, managing our time effectively, communicating well, handling multiple tasks at once and coping with stress. Employers really value these skills.

Here are some ideas for things we might want to include:

“I have a proven ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and handle unexpected challenges, maintaining my composure and focus under pressure.”
“I have demonstrated the ability to efficiently manage time and tasks for multiple people.”
“Through my care role, I have cultivated strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, enabling me to understand others' perspectives and build rapport quickly.”
“I’m skilled in communicating effectively with a wide range of stakeholders, both verbally and in writing, to share information clearly and achieve the results needed.”

5. Format our CV on Word

For those of us who love Canva or Photoshop templates, they might look nice but they can get overlooked by the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). We always recommend opting for a clear Word or Google Doc document, downloaded as a ‘.word’ attachment. 

6. Contact Jobcentre Plus

If we're feeling overwhelmed, rest assured that we don't have to tackle the job search alone. Jobcentre Plus has advisors who can help us for free. They can give us guidance on how to make our CV and cover letter better, so employers notice them more. It's worth reaching out to them for support, as they may also be able to help us find new job opportunities. 

7. Get a second pair of eyes

Getting someone else to look over our job application or cover letters can be really helpful. It could be a friend, family member, or someone from the Mobilise community. They can spot any mistakes we might have missed. It only takes a few minutes, but it could really improve our chances of getting an interview.

Where to find job opportunities

Carers bring a lot of valuable skills to the table, like empathy, communication, patience and problem-solving. These skills are really useful in many different jobs, especially ones that involve customer service, healthcare or social services.

Dedicated job sites like CV library allow us to upload our CV and get connected with recruiters in our field. LinkedIn is also a great resource when we are job hunting. 

1. Look for flexible and hybrid roles 

Since the pandemic more jobs are open to finding ways of working that adapt to an employee’s life. This might be flexible working, where we have some flex in our start and finish times, working from home, or a hybrid role. Hybrid working is when we can work from home on some days, and travel into the office to be with our team on others. 

We really like flexible job boards such as Flexjobs, Flexa and Working Mums. These platforms focus on job opportunities that offer flexible hours or the option to work from home. They're great resources for finding roles that fit around our caring responsibilities.

There are also increasingly options on traditional job boards such as Otta and Reed to filter by flexible or home working. On these sites we can also take a look at what previous or current employees have said about the company culture and see if flexibility is mentioned. 

2. Set up a LinkedIn profile

Depending on the type of role we want, creating a LinkedIn profile might be a smart move. It not only boosts our visibility and professionalism in the eyes of employers but also opens doors to connect with industry contacts, grow our network and apply for jobs — all from the comfort of our sofa. 

In recent years, the LinkedIn hiring community has also come to value hearing personal stories and anecdotes from their network, via profile updates. Has a recent caring challenge taught us something about our strengths? Or could we share a carer win that reminded us of the power of perseverance? 

As carers, sharing our real-life experiences, including the challenges and successes, can showcase our strengths and capabilities for various roles.

3. Consider volunteer work

If we're finding it difficult to secure interviews, short-term volunteering can be a useful way to ease ourselves back into the workplace and update our CV with new experiences. Volunteering can also be a great way to get out of the house and focus on something that can give us a sense of fulfilment. 

We can explore opportunities for volunteer work in the UK through platforms like Charity Job, Do It and The Red Cross. These platforms offer a wide range of volunteer roles suited to different interests and schedules.

We might wish to look for roles that will help us build confidence and knowledge in certain skills, such as contributing to project work, gardening, creating social media content for a charity, or working for a telephone befriending service. 

4. Identify any gaps in our skill set

Are gaps in our skills or qualifications affecting our job search? If we notice any areas where we could improve, we could consider taking a short course to fill those gaps. For example, platforms like FutureLearn offer a variety of free courses that could be helpful in boosting our employability.

How to ace an interview

Interviews might feel nerve-wracking, but it's totally normal to feel a bit anxious. Remember, we're more capable than we realise. Just think about all the different people we've talked to during our care role — like healthcare professionals, sorting out stuff with banks, chatting with care teams or advocating for the person we care for. We've already got heaps of experience in communication!

So here, we’ve put together a simple checklist for preparing ahead of our next interview:

Research the company: Get to know the company inside out. Check out what they do, their products or services, and the industry they're in. It's also important to understand the company values and what their mission is all about.

Review the job description: Take a close look at the job description. Highlight the keywords and skills they're looking for. Then, think about how our own skills and experiences match up. And don't forget, our care experiences can be really relevant here!

We might want to prepare some examples from our past that show off these skills. Interviewers will often ask questions that start with “tell me about a time when…” having some brief examples ready for example of when we dealt with an emergency situation, managed a difficult relationship or used our listening skills.

Practise typical interview questions: It's a good idea to get ready for common questions that often come up in interviews. For example, "Tell me about your experience," "What's your proudest achievement," and "What are your career goals?" Having some well-thought-out answers ready can make a big difference. Gov.UK has outlined a helpful list of common interview questions, with examples of what the recruiter might be looking for.

Test ourselves with mock interview videos: Check out mock interview videos on platforms like YouTube. They're really helpful because they simulate real interview scenarios and questions. Watching these videos and practising our own answers can be a great way to sharpen our interview skills.

“You have to do what you think is right for you when it comes to caring and working. There is no right or wrong answer.”

What to do when an employer asks about a career gap 

When an employer asks why we’ve been out of work, it can feel pretty daunting. We might worry what they’ll think, or if it will impact our chances of landing the job.

The key here is to be honest about it and be prepared with a response. Here's an example answer that may help:

"I'm really glad you asked about the career gap on my CV. During that time, I made the personal decision to become a full-time unpaid carer for a family member. This role required my full attention and dedication, as I took on the huge responsibility of providing compassionate care and support."

“While it wasn't a traditional job in the conventional sense, my time as a carer allowed me to develop and strengthen a wide range of transferable and hard-to-acquire skills that I believe are highly relevant to the role we're discussing today."
“For instance, I developed my communication skills by liaising with medical professionals, coordinating appointments and providing updates to care teams. I also became great at problem-solving, multi-tasking and adapting to changing circumstances. And as a carer, I have endless amounts of patience and empathy, with a cool head in stressful moments."
“Now that I'm eager to re-enter the workforce, I'm excited about the opportunity to use the skills and experiences I gained as a carer and I’m eager to learn new ones too."

Final word

The thought of getting back into work can feel like a big step. We hope these tips have been supportive and encouraging if we’re thinking about applying for a new job in the near future.

For those of us still making up our mind about working alongside looking after someone, we might wish to read Can we care and work? It explores how taking up more hours might affect any Carer's Allowance or Universal credit we're receiving.

Have some additional job hunting advice you think our community should know about? Make sure to share it on the Mobilise Hub, a dedicated online space for carers to meet, chat and connect.


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