We often hear carer’s express that they have no skills or experience to offer to a volunteering or employment role, or that they lack the confidence to participate in training, education or even a peer support or hobby group.

But, given the opportunity to step back and look at all of the qualities it takes to be an unpaid carer, it becomes obvious that their skills and experience are abundant, and very transferable to volunteering and employment.

Think of all the qualities it takes to support and care for another person, which are not directly work related, but which are very important in a work environment; organisation (you have to be to get to the person you care for out of the house and to all of those appointments on time), patience, good time management skills, and be able to multi task, to name a few – and many of these skills are invaluable to a volunteering role or to a potential employer.

Every carer and every caring role is different.  When you are a carer, you have many responsibilities and carry out tasks every day, using lots of different skills without even thinking about it! 

So, what about the “I have nothing to offer, I’m just a carer….” or “how can managing someone’s medication help me get a paid job?” type statements.

Well the truth is, being an unpaid carer and supporting your family and /or friends gives you a whole range of knowledge, experience, and skills that you can use in a learning, volunteering or work environment. These are known as transferable skills and are the kinds of skills that employers are looking for. When really considered, the skills, qualities and abilities of an unpaid carer are extensive.

One approach to being able to identify your skills is to write down a list of things that you do as a carer, maybe over a week, then think about how these skills can be used in a workplace, in a volunteer role, or even what it means you can offer to a community or peer support group.

Here are some examples…

“I make sure my loved one’s home environment is clean and comfortable”.

So, you’re a chef, a housekeeper, a home decorator, a gardener, and personal shopper. Transferable skills and/or personal qualities? Creativity, Decision Making and Self-Motivation.

“I have to make and attend all appointments with the person I care for, and work with others to ensure they have all appropriate care”

So, you manage schedules, create daily routines, arranges appointments, co-ordinate care and support. Transferable skills and/or personal qualities? Organisation, Flexibility and Team Work.

“I am there to support my loved one, to ensure they are getting all the support they need”

So, you speak on behalf of the person you care for, you ensure their support is in place, and raise their issues. Transferable skills and/or personal qualities? Advocacy, Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution.

“I am always there to ensure that the person I care for has a ‘listening ear’ and someone to talk to about their worries.”

So, you provide emotional support to the person you care for. Transferable skills and/or personal qualities? Compassionate, Good Listener and Communicator.