Where to begin?
‘I want to work – but I don’t know where to begin’

Q: I haven’t worked outside the home for 20 years. First, I was at home with the children, and then my husband took ill and I became his full-time carer until he passed away last year. Now, I want to go back to work, but I am frightened. Where to begin? Previously, I worked in retail and enjoyed it, but I fear my skills have lapsed. Any suggestions? (GL, email).

A:  Patience is important here, I feel. Your self-confidence has taken a hit, and, yes, the world of work has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Technology has altered the landscape almost beyond recognition – so, if your IT skills are not great, you should take a short course or attend that wonderful university, YouTube. Technology is a day-to-day factor in almost all jobs nowadays, writes Deirdre May, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

What should you do now? What careers would you like to pursue?

A critical element here is to develop your self-awareness. You are still a human being; you still have strengths, weaknesses, inclinations and interests. And they are the key to making the next step a good one. To be confident of career happiness, you should work in roles that reward and respect those.


You will be pleasantly surprised to know that many employers will value your dedication and effective multi-tasking, valuable transferable skills you can now bring to the workplace.

To build your self-awareness, ask friends, family members and former colleagues what they think you’re good at – don’t ask them what careers they feel you should do just yet, but, instead, focus on getting them to evaluate you as a person.

Do they see you as somebody who works well with other people or are you better solo? Do you like a busy desk – or one major task to conquer?

Are you someone to work away quietly in the back office – or are you a front-of-house person?


Next you should outline your greatest achievements to date. These can be drawn from anywhere in your life: work, home, hobbies, community involvement and so on.

Did you play a key role in securing a grant for your community? Are you a successful sports coach? Someone people turn to when they need a listening ear?


As you continue this process, you should develop an enhanced awareness of your strengths. Without this, you’re shooting in the dark. With this, you can start to see how those strengths match various jobs or careers.

Compile a list of all the strengths identified by your ‘support group’, along with the achievements you’ve documented above – and circulate them to the same group. Additionally, give them a long list of careers and jobs (find these on the net).

Ask them to tick the careers they feel might suit you. Some patterns will emerge – a number of people will select the same careers. You’re getting closer.


Now, research those careers. YouTube is again your friend here, but to really understand careers, talk to people working in them. Ask them what courses you need to do, if any. Ascertain how you can get into this sector.

Where to begin?

Bit by bit, you will start to see suitable careers and opportunities. I mentioned patience above: take a few weeks to do this and don’t worry about the stages after that. To help you, I will return to this topic in a few weeks.


If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches, see HERE for CV Preparation, Application Form writing, LinkedIn Profile writing, Interview Training and other career services.

Deirdre May is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.

Make a booking HERE  for CV Preparation, Application Form writing, Interview Training and Mock Interviews.


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