A parent once told me that the best way to meet people locally is through children and dogs. Attending the local play group, picking the kids up from school and arranging play dates are all interactions that connect parents with the local community in a way that many of us who are child-less (and dog-less) can’t.
Why then, when we ran a Backr family day at the Horniman Museum in Lewisham, did so many of the parents we met say they felt isolated in finding work? They might be plugged into their community, but haven’t thought about making use of these networks when looking for work.
Our Backr family day saw members arrive with their children, looking forward to getting up close and personal with the museum’s exhibits in their ‘Hands On’ room whilst parents learned how to make use of their networks to find new opportunities. Some have to choose whether they will work while raising their children, others don’t have that choice. But for those who do stay at home to bring up children the vast majority do look to get back to work when their children reach school age. We’ve seen that some of those receiving Income Support are now being actively encouraged to prepare for work when their child turns three. Their Job Centre advisors might as for evidence they are actively preparing for work, so they’ve got to think ahead.
You are the main carer, with very little income and no one to look after the kids. How do you do this? Here’s our answer:
a. Build relationships alongside what you’d usually be doing with your kids. Go to the local playgroup, attend the children’s reading session at the library, start a conversation at the local playground. If you have the opportunity to do something with your kids, consider whether it might be an opportunity to build your networks as well. From there…
b. Use your relationships well. There are several ways to do this. You can use your network to help you reflect on what you many want to do, or to introduce you to someone they know who could give you some advice. Offer to watch someone else’s child for a couple of hours, and ask them to return the favour so you can get some current experience on your CV. Just keeping connected to the people in the industry you perhaps once worked in can really help. Build your network now so that when you are ready to get back to work, it’s ready to help you.
The parents at our family day started to support each other in just a couple of hours. They were able to talk about the skills they would take from being a parent into the workplace, build their confidence and even exchange information about local job opportunities – one heard about some bar work which she is looking for. Above all they began to see how they might prepare for work beyond re-doing their CV in a way that is achievable now. They’ve got the support of Backr helping take them through the next steps, but this is something most people can do even if you don’t live in London where we work. Having kids, family and friends is part of your life- so why not make it work for you?
Emma Southgate is Head of Services for Backr.