When it comes to being a single mother, the two most important characteristics of a job are flexibility and salary. And while those elements are found on a company by company basis, there are certain industries that lend themselves to being more flexible than others.
The most flexible professions include sales, public relations, health care and real estate. As an added bonus, employees who work in those fields have the potential to make decent salaries. Education is also on the list. Although the hours are set, they’re likely to be the same as their school-age children’s.
Of course not all companies in those professions are ideal for single parents. That’s why single moms must do their research to find out how family friendly their potential employer is. Among the characteristics they should look for (aside from the ability to control their own schedule) are flex time, job sharing and on-site child care.
One place to start is Working Mother magazine’s annual list of 100 best companies for working mothers.
From there, moms shouldn’t be shy during the interview process. There are ways to tactfully learn if their potential employer allows its staff to work from home and adjust their schedule according to their child care needs. Of course it can’t be the first thing asked in a job interview. But it is reasonable during the second or third meeting to say things like: Tell me what it’s like to work here; how do you find working here personally?; tell me about the opportunities to make use of here in terms of flexible environment.
Another way to learn about family friendliness is to ask if there are any affinity groups, says Jennifer Owens, an editor for Working Mother. Those are groups of employees that meet regularly on specific topics. For instance, many companies have working parent’s affinity groups or parents of special needs children.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking the interviewer, ask someone else within the company. Also, check out the company’s Web site to see what it says about values and work culture.
Much of this depends on where a single mother is in her career. For instance, Margy Sweeney’s two daughters were 2 and 5 when she got divorced. Sweeney was age 29 and still wanted to explore different careers. She was a marketing manager at a real estate firm and wasn’t convinced she wanted to do it forever. It became clear when her boss yelled at her for coming into the office at 9:15 a.m. after staying up until 4 a.m. to finish a presentation. It was particularly frustrating because she left the office at 5 p.m. the previous day to pick up her children from school. She continued to work on the presentation after they went to bed so she could meet her deadline.
“A single mother should look at a company and say, ‘Do they appreciate the work I do outside of regular working hours?,’ ” says Sweeney, who, since then, worked as a freelance writer and is now happily settled in her job as a PR professional in Chicago. In other words, find out if they’re results-oriented or if they simply want employees at their desks.
Some jobs, like nursing, require employees to be on-site. But there are lots of shift options so they can work while the kids are at school–or sleeping. The average national salary of a registered nurse is $49,534, according to CareerBuilder.com. Another well paying and flexible job in health care is physical therapy. They set their hours according to patient need, and there are many offices that allow them to work part-time. Their average national salary is $53,508.
Still, single parents need to prioritize their needs. Companies that provide the most flexibility don’t necessarily offer the highest salaries. Think medical transcription. They listen to dictated recordings from doctors and transcribe them into medical reports. The upside is they can work from anywhere; the downside is they often make less than $30,000, according to data from CareerBuilder.com.
It’s a balancing act–something single parents are very familiar with.
The Queen is hiring a royal cushion and curtain maker. The chosen applicant will work in 1,000 rooms across Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and St James’s Palace, helping to create and maintain the bespoke soft furnishings in all three royal residences. The Royal Household has advertised the full-time position online, telling prospective employees that it is their chance to leave their mark on “some of the most famous houses in the world”.
According to the job description, the ideal candidate will be an expert in machine and hand stitching, with extensive experience in the field, “outstanding” practical skills and an ability to meet “challenging” deadlines. “It’s knowing your curtains add the finishing touches to state rooms,” it reads. “It’s protecting heritage by leaving your own legacy. And it’s furnishing some of the most famous house in the world. That’s what makes working for the Royal Household exceptional.”
The advert continues: “Your challenge will be to provide curtains and soft furnishings that will maintain the presentation and functionality of these unique environments. You’ll manage and deliver multiple soft furnishings projects, designing new items, estimating materials, costs and timings, and cutting fabrics. From tailoring furniture covers, to creating new curtain to scale the heights of state room, you’ll consistently aim for the highest standards.
“Working with numerous historic items, you’ll survey and evaluate the condition of furnishings, prioritising work to both repair and preserve items, whilst also meeting the operational needs of working Royal residences. You’ll carefully record all your handlings of historic furnishings, as well as keeping workrooms in good condition, fully equipped and stocked. The range of projects will stretch you. And knowing that you’re conserving and creating magnificent items that will be enjoyed by future generations will give you the greatest sense of reward.”
The starting salary for the position is £22,000 per annum, plus 15 per cent employer contribution pension scheme and benefits. Closing date for applicants is 6 April. Vacancies are frequently posted on the Royal Household website. Other positions currently advertised include a £24,000-a-year secretarial assistant based at Buckingham Palace, and a £18,000-a-year assistant gardener to help maintain the grounds of Bagshot Park, home to Prince Edward and his family.
- Always include a cover letter. The recruiter may not read it, but if they do, it is a key way to differentiate you from your competition. Over 85% of candidates do not routinely include a cover letter with their applications.
- Remember that the first person who will look at your application will be a member of the HR Team. Therefore everything needs spelling out, as they will not be an expert in your area. Do not use acronyms unless they are used in the job advert. Use words that the recruiter will recognise and be able to link to the duties of the role. This will increase your chances of having your application put forward to the hiring manager.
Things To Remember
- Make sure you have included your name, address, telephone number, email address and the date of your application at the top of your letter.
- Include the company name and address if you have it.
- If you have the name of the specific person to send your application to, make sure you include it and CHECK THE SPELLING. Recruiters are known to reject applications on the grounds that their name is spelt wrong. They believe that it shows that the candidate cannot pay attention to details.
- Address the letter correctly if you do not have a name. You should address it to “Dear Sir/Madam”.
- Sign the letter correctly. If you have written, “Dear Mr X”, you should end with, “Yours sincerely”. If you have addressed the letter, “Dear Sir/Madam”, you should end with, “Yours faithfully”.
- If you have been asked to include anything with your application, such as references from previous employers, evidence of qualifications or samples of your work, make sure they are attached; otherwise your application will be rejected for not paying attention to detail.
- Avoid humour or jokes in your cover letter (unless you are applying for a role as a comedian or a comedy writer). Your sense of humour may not appeal to everybody.
- Do not use swear words or crude language in your cover letter.
- Make a heading for your letter. This should be in bold with the title of the job you are applying for and the location (if there are several options).
- Your first line should be simple and to the point: “Please find attached my CV for the post of X”.
- Then tell them where you saw it advertised. If you are being referred to the role by someone already working for the company, mention their name here, as if there is an internal employee referral scheme, they stand to make some money if you are appointed.
- Outline briefly why you are interested in working for the company and the key skills you can bring to the role. To do this effectively, read through the advertisement and highlight which words seem to be important within it. Then double check by looking at the company website and see what they state their corporate values to be. The chances are that some of these will be in the advert. Use these key words in your cover letter.
- If they mention key experience in the job advert, mention the experience 3 times in your application (across both the cover letter and the CV). For some reason, recruiters believe something that is mentioned 3 times. For example, if they state that they want someone with team management experience, you should point out in your cover letter that you have team management experience. Within your CV you should also state under at least 2 jobs that you have team management experience. Bear in mind that your cover letter and CV may be being scanned and ranked against other candidates by an automated e-recruitment system. By using the exact words used in the advert you are more likely to get yourself ranked highly. Similar phrases are not generally searched for so if, for example, “team management” is used, use the phrase “team management” not “managed a team”.
- If they have asked for essential qualifications or accreditations, make sure that you mention them in this paragraph.
- Outline briefly relevant work experience and any other experience (non-work related) which would make you suitable for the role.
- Re-emphasise your interest in the role and ask them to invite you in for interview. Be subtle about this. Something simple such as, “I would welcome the opportunity of an interview” is fine. If you are going to be out of the country when the job closes, let them know at this point and tell them when you will return. If you will be checking your emails whilst you are away, this is a good point to let them know.
- Thank them for their time in reading your application.
- Finish with, “I look forward to hearing from you”.
- End with either, “Yours sincerely” or “Yours faithfully”.
- If you are emailing or uploading your application to a website, it is not necessary to hand sign the letter. If it is being posted or hand delivered, you must sign your name at the bottom of the letter. A typed name will not be sufficient.
- If you have been asked to attach work samples, evidence of certifications and accreditations or references from previous employers, list them under attachments.
- If you have not been asked to attach any additional information and you have decided to, it is worth listing them under “Attachments” so that the recruiter knows to look for them and that they are relevant to your application.
- If you are only attaching a CV, it is not necessary to have an “Attachments” section at the bottom of your letter. It is optional.
Carolyn Philip is the Director of Fremantle HR Consultancy and regularly advises clients about how to apply for jobs and get their applications noticed.