When Melbourne mother Susan Hanson decided to devote her life to raising her children and enjoying her family, she never thought taking the plunge back into work as a mature-aged person would be so daunting.
As her children grew older, her thoughts had occasionally drifted towards kick-starting her professional life, but by then, she felt so out of touch she was worried her employment barriers were insurmountable.
But a meeting with MAX disability employment services business manager Ali Al Saffar, slowly changed her perceptions.
While his new customer was not experienced in all the latest technology, Mr Al Saffar said her people skills were top-notch.
“We work in the people business,” Mr Al Saffar said.
“So, when we get a new customer, we work with them and try to figure out what they’re suitable for - and we try and customise our service to best fit them.
“I saw straight away that Susan has a really outgoing, bubbly personality.
“We’ve worked with Thomastown Physiotherapy before and I thought she’d be a fantastic match for them.”
According to the Australian Government’s Labour Market Information Portal, the top three most commonly requested skills by employers are: communication skills, building relationships and customer service – with computer literacy and administrative support skills much further down the list.
When Ms Hanson interviewed with Justin McGrath, owner of Thomastown Physiotherapy for a part-time receptionist vacancy, she underestimated how the skills she’d learned taming toddlers and teenagers had actually prepared her for the business world.
“We engaged MAX Solutions to bring Susan in because we thought, we’ve used MAX before and we were very happy with their service,” Mr McGrath said.
“We interviewed Susan and we thought she was a good fit for the role.
“She’s got a lot of skills. While she hadn’t used them in the workforce for a long time, we were willing to give her a go.
“I really believe, if you give people a chance, you’d be surprised at what you might find.”
Despite her joy at being offered the job, Ms Hanson admitted the first few days on the job were tough.
“First day I came in, I really thought I should have had an L-plate on me, but we got over that,” she chuckled.
“MAX Solutions getting me this job has actually totally changed my life because it’s brought me back into the workforce – it’s improved me.
“I work three days a week and each day I know where I am going to be, what I’m doing and how I’m going to do it.
“I have improved confidence, self-esteem and purpose and I hope I continue to improve and eventually take on more responsibility in the business.”
Mr Al Saffar says one of the most important tips for mature-aged workers or parents returning to the workforce is to back yourself.
“You are still the same person that you were before you had children – in fact, you are probably better because of your soft skills,” he said.
“If you think experience is an advantage then it definitely will be.
“Be clear about what you can take on – especially when you first return to work.
“It’s better to state upfront what your constraints are than let people down or, alternatively drive yourself into the ground trying to meet expectations.
“The adjustment might take some time, but at MAX, we’re always happy to provide ongoing support to customers who need it.”