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Employment advice for single parents from a single parent

According to the charity Gingerbread, the UK is home to around two million single parents, with 66.5% of these working

It can be incredibly hard to juggle parenthood and your career, and even more difficult if you are a single parent; however, being a single parent gives you skills that you simply cannot earn elsewhere, unless you have worked as a UN diplomat!

Do not assume that your single parent status will prejudice employers against you; instead, use these tips to help find a job that will integrate into your life.

Flexible working

Legally you must have been employed for 26 weeks to request flexible working; however, many positions are flexible from the very beginning. Flexibility is essential if you plan to work full-time with very small children or if your childcare arrangements are yet to be ironed out.

You could also focus on looking for a job share, which could be beneficial in times of difficulty as you share the burden with a co-worker. Job shares are great because you can back each other up in times of need; for example, you do not have to worry that work will fall apart in your absence if your children are sick.

Honesty is the best policy

Many single parents try to conceal the fact that they have sole responsibility for a child from potential employers and recruiters. Some of us have done this only to garner disapproval when we ask for carer’s leave when someone gets sick; therefore, wouldn’t it make more sense to be open in the first place?

If someone minds about the possibility that you may sometimes need to put your child above your job, do you really want to work for them anyway? Besides, being a single parent is an asset – you already do the work of five people for free – so talk up your experiences, own your life, and put all your cards on the table.

Working hours

Before you go for any interviews, narrow down your job search to those with hours that work for you. Do not go for a job that sounds amazing but is totally unworkable for your life. Iron out the details right from the start; otherwise, you are wasting your time.

Make sure that you factor in the commute to establish whether a certain job will fit around childcare arrangements or school hours.

Networking

An old-fashioned word, perhaps, but networking works whether you do it the trendy online way using Facebook and LinkedIn or the traditional way with a face-to-face conversation. Many people find jobs through friends or relatives – make it known that you are looking and what skills you have to offer, and see what comes your way!

Explore the public sector

The public sector is known for flexible working hours and for part-time positions that can lead to further career development and internal opportunities. The education employment market is particularly appealing for single parents because you get to spend the holidays at home with your children. The public sector also has various schemes such as childcare vouchers and subsidised nurseries, all of which will help you to find a better work/life balance.

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