Back to work after 19 years

Next week, I’m starting a new post as medical secretary in the typing pool of an NHS Trust hospital. There’s a huge backlog of patients waiting for their outpatient appointments, so our job is to help get the system moving again. Once I get in a rhythm and get to know everybody, it’ll be fine. But there is always a fear of the unknown before you start.

The last 20 years were dedicated to my twin girls, who were born prematurely. One of my daughters has autism and special care needs. They're both gaining their independence now and don’t need me around as much. I was basically getting bored. While I've got some life in me, I wanted to go out and earn some money. I knew I had the skills. Could I still use them?

Before my children arrived, I’d done secretarial work for Ernst & Young, a big organisation in London. I had also temped a fair amount, working for different companies. In my thirties, starting a new role and meeting new colleagues wouldn’t have fazed me in the slightest. I used to find it exciting. There were no CVs, covering letters or psychometric testing – barely even formal interviews. Just a quick chat or a recommendation. I took it for granted that I’d always find another post.

The application process has changed beyond recognition since the start of the century. You’ve really got to market yourself. I was up against so many people – and most were much younger too. Now that I’m in my fifties, it was terrifying, to be honest.

The WEA came at the right time for me.

What am I looking forward to? The paycheck will help! Meeting new friends too. But perhaps most of all it’s about starting a new chapter. I’ll be Linda again. You can feel stuck on a treadmill at home. What did I actually achieve today? I know that raising twins is a full-time job in its own right, but you don’t always feel that way as a mum, especially if you have always worked before. I'm looking forward to getting into a routine.

That feeling of self-worth is very important to me. Yes, I’m on the backline, but I’ll be proud to say that my work is contributing to the NHS, especially at this difficult time. I’ve always seen the NHS as a wonderful, underrated organisation. To get a job there is incredible. I’m so impressed how they have managed to keep going during COVID-19. 

The WEA came at the right time for me. I've done three modules, each of them extremely valuable. My tutor Rachael Watson was brilliant – such a motivational, optimistic person. So full of encouragement and support. We were a small group and she tailored the module to meet our needs. She went the extra mile, making sure our CVs were just right.

I can’t thank her enough, because without her support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have applied for the job in the first place. The Employability Skills course gave me the confidence to get back out there, restart my career and earn money again!

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