Women Returners Network :: What do I have to offer?

What do I have to offer?


Are you worried that your skills and know-how are outdated and that the workplace has raced on while you’ve been standing still? Do you think you have little to offer an employer? It’s a typical concern of women returners. But you probably have a lot more going for you than you think.

It's down to 3 Ingredients

Most people think employers are only interested in what employees can do, i.e. their technical skills. But employers are also interested in who we are as people.

How people behave in the workplace is as important as what they can do. That’s because it’s relatively easy to teach someone, say, IT skills. But it’s much harder to teach someone how to, e.g. work co-operatively with other team members or handle customer enquiries politely and effectively.

To create a full picture of what you have to offer employers, you have to look at three important ingredients:

Your experience

Yours skills

Your personal qualities



What has experience taught you?

Experience makes us into the kind of people we are. From each experience we learn different things about our attitudes and behaviour. We also add to our skills.

Here are two activities to help you identify what experience has taught you:

Activity 1 - Lessons in experience

Here is a list of experiences that many people go through. Tick the experiences you’ve had, add others you think are significant.

Moving house
Caring for children
Caring for the elderly
Coping with a disability
Death of someone close
Living alone
Personal achievement
Witnessing/experiencing a crime or accident
Change in appearance, health, diet
Personal problems

Now choose one or two experiences that had a big impact on you and taught you a lot about the sort of person you are. Perhaps you realised you were stronger than you thought you were. Or you tackled something for the first time and handled it well. Or you achieved a goal you set for yourself. Use the space below to answer the following questions:

An experience that taught me a lot about myself was:

As a result of this experience, I learned that I am:

Activity 2 - Your personal Lifeline

Another way to take stock of what has happened in your life is to build a personal lifeline.

Draw a line representing your life down the left-hand side of a page and mark an age scale as in the diagram here. Then begin to note the main events in your life as they come to mind – both achievements and disasters. Include as many as you wish: school days, relationships, jobs, children etc

Think. Go back and mark in one colour those times when things went well. In another colour, mark those times when there were problems and difficulties. Ask yourself:
  • When things went well, what helped?
  • When there were problems, why was this?
  • Are there any patterns to what work and what doesn’t?
  • What have I learned from experiences I’ve had, both good and bad?

Personal Lifeline – An Example

Age Event

38 Looking for part-time job

37 Adult training – learning IT skills

36 Started looking for job

31 Second child

29 Husband promoted; moved house

28 First child – finished work

25 Married, got HNC, promoted to office manager

20 Got ONC, started HNC

18 Changed job, started college

16 5 GCSE’s – started work – general admin

11 Moved house, started secondary school

6 Parents separated

0 Born May 26 1967

What are my skills?

Skills are not only learned in the workplace. They are learned though hobbies, outside interests, doing routine things, having relationships. So even if you left the workplace several years ago, you have still been learning new skills. Your challenge is to identify them.

But I’m only a housewife and mother!

A common cry from women returners but if you’ve looked after children, for example, you’ll have probably developed extra skills in e.g..
  • Communicating
  • Problem-solving
  • Teaching
  • Counselling
  • Negotiating
  • Financial planning
  • Time management
All these skills are valuable in the world of work. The role of parent, for example, uses many of the same skills as the role of office manager.

Now try these two exercises to see how many skills you have.

Activity 1 – Skills Checklist

Below is a checklist of skills. Tick which ones you have. You’ll begin to think differently about yourself.

Communicating skillsPlanning and Organising
Being a good listener
Organising others
Speaking clearly
Making arrangements
Writing letters
Working to deadlines
Starting a conversationWorking without close supervision
Speaking clearly on the phoneHandling a variety of tasks
Asking for helpDealing well with a crisis
Stating own opinions
Taking difficult decisions
Giving instructions
Finding new ways of doing things
Solving arguments
Financial planning for a household
NegotiatingManaging time
ExplainingAdapting to changing circumstances

People skills
Dealing with different types of people
Persuading people
Showing patience
Being approachable
Understanding how others feel
Taking criticism well

Maunual Skills
Manual skills
Driving a car
Making or mending clothes
Changing a plug
Painting and decorating
Following instructions in a manual
Applying first aid
Using a computer

Activity 2 – Build a Skills Grid

Here’s another way to identify all your skills. Take a large sheet of paper and along the top, write down the jobs you have done – paid or unpaid. Down the left hand side, write a list of skills you had to use. Here’s an example to give you some ideas, but add others as you think of them. Within each of the boxes, jot down what you DID.

Skills grid – an example

Shop assistant
Treasurer - PTA
Dealing with people
Liaising with sales reps, serving customers, handling complaints
Answering queries, giving directions, liaising with staff
Committee member, contact with parents, governors, professional staff
Discussions with teachers, doctors, garage mechanic, plumber
Handling money
Accepting money from customers, giving change, cashing up, banking

Accepting/writing cheques, arranging floats, banking
Household accounts, family savings, mail order catalogue
Teaching others
Helping junior staff

Helping with reading in classroom
Helping with children’s homework; giving moral guidance
Collecting for leaving presents
Fund raising, helping with school concert
Moving house, birthday parties, Christmas, holidays
Keeping records
Stock records, till rolls, customers’ orders
Visitors book, name badges, record of people in building
Financial records
Family medical records, guarantees, insurance
Letter/report writing
Memos to other staff
Memos, passing on callers’ messages
Invitations to school functions
Letters to school, bank, manufacturers
IT skills
Computerised till
Word processing

Checking delivery dates, customer orders
Switchboard, passing on messages
Contacting other committee members
Social, school, doctor, travel arrangements

What are my Personal Qualities

How would you describe yourself? Personal qualities are those aspects of personality that make you the person you are and set you apart from others. If you find it difficult to articulate and assess your personal qualities, look at this checklist. Use it to build a profile of personal strengths.

Personal qualities - checklist:
Open minded

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