ADVERTORIAL: '2020 was my year' – woman finds work in pandemic after 9 years illness

“It sounds strange to say in the middle of a pandemic – but 2020 was definitely my year,” says Rista Erasmus.

“I have cystic fibrosis and after nine years of not working because of my illness, I started a job that I really enjoy. And my husband Nico moved up the career ladder.

“Now I can honestly say that the future looks really exciting for both of us.”

Originally from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the couple sought new opportunities after moving to London in 2005 and Cardiff a decade later.

With his experience in the construction industry, 41-year-old Nico signed up for the “Communities for Work” project in 2017 and was put in touch with the public relations consultant, Charmaine Simons-Evans, at the Community Hub in Cardiff.

After getting him a job using his carpentry skills for the first time, she supported his ambition to move into the management.

“That was always on Nico’s five-year plan when we moved to Cardiff – and being involved in the project definitely helped him get there faster,” says Rista.

“He’s now a health and safety manager and Charmaine not only steered him in the right direction to find this job, she also helped him access the training needed to move up.”

But that didn’t end Charmaine’s commitment to the couple – because 37-year-old Rista felt well enough to return to work after taking new medications, and she also called Charmaine for help.

“I came across Charmaine’s business card so I emailed her and she was very happy to help me.”

In fact, Rista’s timing couldn’t have been better, as after gaining nursing experience in London it was a perfect fit for a position Charmaine had just discovered.

“I told her what I was looking for and she called me back the next day and said a care and support company was recruiting for care workers near me. So everything was lined up. “But because she hadn’t been on the job market for so long, Rista needed support.

“I’m not very confident anyway and the idea of ​​going back to work after such a long hiatus was very daunting,” she admits.

ADVERTORIAL: '2020 was my year' - woman finds work in pandemic after 9 years illness 1

Making the right impression in an interview can be the decision that gets the job done for you. Employment counselor Charmaine Simons-Evans gives her five top tips on how to manage an interview

Get the knowledge Do some research on the company and make sure you know a little about its history so you are ready to answer specific questions. And don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself

Do your homework Do you know exactly which role you are applying for, which tasks you would take on – and give an example if you have already gained experience

Dress appropriately Wear suitable clothing – no baseball caps! – and turn off your mobile phone so it doesn’t ring in the middle of an interview

Posture is important Try to relax before the interview so that you develop a positive attitude by being friendly and confident

Be on time or a little early Know the location, plan your route and check the timetables or allow the traffic. If it’s a remote interview, pre-test the link to make sure you can connect

“But Charmaine talked me through everything. It calmed me down and helped me focus on my skills, which made me feel so much more positive. We stayed in touch by phone almost every day – she gave me the advice I needed with my resume and criminal records check, and she talked about the questions I was asked in an interview to make me feel ready.

“She kept reassuring me,” It’s going to work in your favor. “And she was right!”

Rista has been a home care assistant since September and says the past 12 months have been full of positive events for her and Nico.

“To be honest, I’m so glad our paths crossed with Charmaine. Coming here was the best step we’ve ever taken. It’s been a whirlwind year and I feel very blessed.”

Communities for Work is a Welsh Government program supported by the European Social Fund and working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus. The UK Government has worked with the Welsh Government to develop a range of job support programs that are in addition to the existing support programs offered by the Welsh Government.

Do you need a new role? Here’s a good place to start

If you are looking for a new job or you think now is the right time to change your career, JobHelp is for you – you can help at every stage of your job search.

ADVERTORIAL: '2020 was my year' - woman finds work in pandemic after 9 years illness 2

The JobHelp website has the tools you need – from tips on improving your first search and highlighting your resume and application to creating the right impression in an interview.

With articles and advice from seasoned job center job trainers, JobHelp can help you identify your experience and transferable skills that could open new careers that you may never have considered.

And there is a dedicated resource for those under 25 who are just starting their career path and are trying to take advantage of the work experience, apprenticeship and graduate roles options.

JobHelp is part of the UK Government’s Employment Plan and provides helpful tips and advice on finding a job and working in a variety of sectors.

ADVERTORIAL: '2020 was my year' - woman finds work in pandemic after 9 years illness 3

The website provides details on industries that are opening up opportunities such as transportation and logistics, healthcare, construction, and the public sector. It also highlights what employers are looking for so you can see if a new sector is a good match for your skills.

Despite the disturbance through CoronavirusThere are still plenty of open positions out there and JobHelp is here to help you find one.

How to explain gaps on your résumé

Taking a career break isn’t uncommon – but what should you do if you have an obvious void on your resume?

At first, don’t try to hide it. The most important thing is to be open with a potential employer about why you took the time off – because openness works in your favor. Not only can they show that you are honest, but they can also show that after a break from work you are interested and ready to get a job again.

Don’t be tempted to lie, leave a gap or extend the dates of past jobs in an attempt to close it. An interviewer will likely call previous employers to confirm your time there and you will soon find out. If instead you include your employment dates on your resume, it is perfectly fine to omit the month and only show the year.

And there is no need to explain a void on the resume yourself. You could do this more effectively in your cover letter where you can put a positive bias towards it. How you express things makes a difference. Don’t say you couldn’t find a job – explain that you took time out to realign your career and focus on what you learned from it.

ADVERTORIAL: '2020 was my year' - woman finds work in pandemic after 9 years illness 4

The time you’ve spent traveling is your chance to mention what you’ve gained through the cultures and experiences. Make it clear that your trip was more of a personal development opportunity than just an extended vacation.

After you’ve been laid off, don’t let old frustrations with your previous bosses on to a potential new employer. Instead, discuss, for example, how a business reorganization or budget cuts made the decision to make them inevitable. And talk about what you achieved in your time there. A little optimism can go a long way …

If you worry that a gap on your resume is preventing you from finding a new job, you can combine that with volunteering or take a course to improve your transferable skills. They will show that you are someone who makes the most of their time.

An employer wants you to be confident, honest, and enthusiastic. So if you have any gaps on your resume, approach the topic like they are a plus, not a minus. Bring the problem up early, be positive, and give a recruiter more time to be impressed with the rest of your resume.

Further help and advice on job hunting – from hints and tips on applying to the latest job offers – can be found at gov.uk/jobhelp

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