Women Returners Network :: What do I want to do?

What do I want to do?


Start from scratch

If you’ve done the exercises, you should now have a good idea of what you have to offer employers. But what about you – what do you want? How would you like to change or develop your life? What would you most like to do? Doing something you enjoy or find worthwhile is often the key to job success.

ACTIVITY: What do I want more of / less of

But I don't know what I want to do!

Kelly's Mind Map

What do I need to learn?

And now for something completely different


ACTIVITY: What do I want more of / less of

This is a simple activity to help you think about possible changes in a broad way. Answer the following questions in as much detail as you can:
  • What would I like to have more of in my life?

  • What would I have to like less of in my life?

  • What would I like to stay the same in my life?
Now put your points in order of importance. What are the implications of your statements? If, for example, you said, ‘I want to spend much less time on routine housework,’ you might think about a family discussion about sharing more tasks or agreeing a rota.

But I don't know what I want to do!

Another common lament! But if you are unsure about the kind of work you would like to do, here’s a way forward. A mind map is a way of generating ideas and encouraging your brain to be creative.

Kelly’s mind map

Take Kelly, for example. She used to work in an office but doesn’t really want to go back to office work. Her passion is gardening. But she has never worked in this business before so how can she get a job doing what she loves?

Get a jobCollege coursesSelf-directed learning

Look at Kelly’s diagram. ‘Gardening’ is at the centre of her map. She then asks herself two key questions:
  • What could I do to get some experience?
  • How could I learn more and make myself more marketable to employers?
What could I do?
Kelly came up with 3 ways of getting some experience in her chosen area. She could:

  • Get a job: in say a garden centre, nursery, DIY stores, country house, district council
  • Start a business: in, say, garden design, running a planting service, mobile sales, mail order plants or become a specialist grower. You’ll see from the diagram that Kelly also asked herself where she might find clients from her business. Hospitals, nursing homes, new housing developments and executive estates were among her answers. In addition, she made a note to take advantage of the free, friendly advice available from small business consultants at her local Business Link. To find out more about Business Link, click here
  • Do voluntary work: for, say, the district council or some local estates

What do I need to learn?

Kelly then asked herself how she could learn more about gardening. She came up with the following answers:

  • College courses: with her local college and other training providers
  • Self-directed learning: Kelly could, say, do more reading, watch specialist videos/TV programmes, go on visits or do her interviews with people in the business, join a club

  • Volunteering: Kelly could, say, volunteer to work on conservation projects or in her local parks department
Now Kelly has some ideas about how to take her ambitions forward.

ACTIVITY: Getting what you want

  • Identify two or three passions or interests in life? Write down a couple of sentences on why they are important to you.
  • Using Kelly’s mind map only as a guide, see if you can turn your passion into paid work. Ask yourself the 2 key questions - what could I do? and how could I learn? – and roughly sketch a mind map for your own ambitions. You’ll find each idea sparks off others – you can get others to contribute too.

And now for something completely different

Would you like to design a baby incubator or be part of a team that builds dams in Africa? Do you fancy driving a bus, getting to grips with finer points of plumbing, turning your love of gadgets and technology into a paid job?

Good opportunities for women returners exist in all these – and many more - job areas thanks to skill shortages. So if you’re looking for a career change, don’t just think about the obvious career choices. Use your imagination and passions to guide you into work you really want to do.

Pathways into engineering

Why engineering?
Would you like to design a baby incubator or a machine that diagnoses and treats serious illnesses such as heart disease or cancer? Would you like to build a new airport, improve national and international telecommunications, produce better quality drinking water? In short, would you like a career that makes a meaningful contribution to society as well as offering interesting, varied, well-paid work resulting in a clear, practical outcome? If so, ever thought about engineering?

Why engineering for women returners?
Forget the old stereotype of engineers. Engineering isn’t just a career for men and the image of engineers working grimy Victorian factories or dirty, greasy workshops is outdated. Today engineering is a high-tech profession practised in offices, laboratories and design studios as well as in modern production plants and on construction sites. It’s also a profession which is increasingly attractive to women. For example, there are now over 300,000 working age women with degrees in a science, engineering or technology subject. A much higher number than 20 years ago. What is more, both the profession and the government are keen to attract more women into engineering (partly to plug an acute skills shortage) so opportunities for women to enter the profession have never been better.

Types of engineering
As we’ve seen engineers can work in a wide variety of industries in a wide range of roles but basically, engineers’ study, train and work in one of 7 major areas. These are:
  • Electronics, computers, telecommunications
  • The manufacture of cares, aircraft and other modes of transport
  • The generation and distribution of electrical power
  • The extraction of minerals from ore and manufacture and use of mats
  • The design of large machines such as engines, turbines and pumps
  • Chemical plants for the manufacture of everything from bio chemicals to petroleum
  • The design and construction of buildings, bridges, railways, dams, tunnels
Jobs for engineers
But engineers can also work in a wide variety of roles. There are jobs for engineers in design, research, product or process development. They may work in quality assurance and customer services. They can become engineering consultants, lecturers, patent agents, and writers or find careers in marketing and selling engineering products.

What skills and personal qualities do I need?
Engineering employers look for people who are:
  • Numerate: at minimum you need to have an easy facility with numbers; strong aptitude for algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus needed for more senor jobs
  • Problem solvers with an eye for details: engineering is essentially about problem-solving so you need to like it and take a determined, persistent, tenacious, ‘can do’ approach to work; they also need an eye for detail – slap-dash work makes engineering products unreliable
  • Team players: so they can work closely with other engineers and non-technical staff
  • Flexible and willing to learn: so they can keep up-to-date with changing technology and readily accept and welcome change
  • Good communicators: who can, e.g. explain technical engineering ideas to, say, the marketing department or give easy to understand guidance to customers

What qualifications do I need?
That depends on where you start. There are three grades of professional engineer. These are:
  • Engineering technicians: ideally they hold GCSEs in maths, science and a first level National Vocational Qualification in Engineering
  • Incorporated engineers: they are often the middle managers in engineering operations and hold a High National qualification in engineering; women can study for a Higher National qualification when they have, e.g. A level, EdExcel, GNVQ qualifications in appropriate subjects at the appropriate level; Higher National qualifications can also be used to gain entry to 2nd year of degree course
  • Chartered engineers: these top-grade engineers must have a degree accredited by the Engineering Council; if you’d like to study for an engineering degree you will need at least 2 A levels or Advanced GNVQ in relevant subjects and in many cases 3 A level or an Advanced GNVQ plus an A level are now needed

First steps for women returners
Thinking about making engineering a career? Here are some tips:
  • Seek our ‘taster’ events: some engineering companies and industry bodies run taster days for women who want to find out more about engineering; also look out for the events during Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) week which is held annually to promote awareness of science and related careers; contact Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) and The Engineering Council for details of upcoming events
  • Get some relevant qualifications: by, e.g. doing an access course at a Further Education College, doing part-time A levels or an Open University foundation course; look for courses tailored specifically for women, e.g. Huddersfield University offers a one-year pre-degree course for women returning to education to build a career in science; it’s open to any woman over 21 whether or not they have a science qualification; even GCSE maths is not essential since the level of maths depends on your choice of options
  • Get networked: it’s a good way to find out what other women engineers are doing, what’s going on in the profession and pick up some useful job-seeking advice
  • Check out employers for their women and family friendliness: so you know which employers are likely to take a more enlightened attitude to women returners and offer a range of flexible working options and family friendly policies.

For Useful Information

  • The Engineering Council: There are a number of organisations which provide information, encouragement and support to women considering engineering as a career, or training or working as engineers, technologists or technicians
    Women Engineering contacts

  • Promoting SET (Science Engineering and Technology) for Women: Use to find out some of initiatives offered by government and industry to get women returners into SET careers; good source of background information which could be useful in deciding whether you want SET career and dealing with interview stage www.setwomenresource.org.uk

  • Association for Women in Science and Engineering (AWISE):
    (Tel 020 7060 4571) www.awise.org
  • Daphne Jackson Fellowships: facilitate retraining and updating through a substantial research project for women who want to return to a science or engineering career www.daphnejackson.org
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