At certain points in life a crossroad is reached. Mine came at the end of last month, very unexpectedly.
I have spent the last 18 years working around my children, their schools and schedules. So I was always working part-time and with lots of different roles meaning that I was around after school and in holidays. My husband works away all week, so I have been the main responsible parent for what seems forever. As a parent, you don’t stop using skills and learning more – bringing up my children I have been a driver, tutor, cook, cleaner, taxi service, accountant, decorator, gardener, driving instructor and many more thin, It might be the empty nest syndrome starting, but about 2/3 years ago I though I should really try and find one direction to head in, focus on one role only and get ready for the day that my chicks will have both flown. I had a very high powered job pre-children, and it was my choice to give it up to be with them as they grew up. I never thought it would be hard to return to work as a result.
As you may be aware from the blog, I have had about 3 different roles over the past few years; teaching art, doing up houses and creating social media for clients amongst other things. But not one of these roles was something that could be consistent, full time, financially sound, and most importantly something that I would really enjoy doing every day.
APPLYING FOR JOBS
So I started sending out my tentacles, and applying for a wide range of roles that suit my skill set, (God, I hate that bloody awful word). I do live in the middle of nowhere in terms of local work opportunities, so I had to expand the radius to 50 miles. But I am willing to travel for the right role, so applied away.
What I have found, and it is a definite, is that after a certain ‘age’ work is much harder to find. I know that companies are not supposed to age discriminate, and it would be really hard to try and prove that they have, but I do suspect that it happens a lot. I spent a lot of time crafting my CV for each specific role, making sure that whatever attributes were needed were clearly identifiable. What I really wanted to write in bold letters at the top was ‘Won’t leave for breeding purposes – I have 20 years before I will even think about retiring, and I have a wealth of experience’. Your age can be deduced from the roles you have done as they want years and dates, and even you don’t legally have to give your D.O.B., they all ask for it and it would be churlish not to put it in.
So… I have applied for jobs that I could do in my sleep, with masses of experience, (if not over-experience!), and 90% of the time did not even get a response. What is this culture of not responding to a job application, regardless of the amount received by a recruiting company? The amount of time and effort people put into a job application could at least be rewarded with a response email. Sometimes I would worry that my application had not been received if it was a job I knew I was well qualified for, so I would send a polite email asking for acknowledgement , and I was lucky if I got a response to that at times.
Becoming really worried about a lack of interest, I asked recruiters to check my CV – was I doing something wrong? Did it need changes? Is my interviewing style bad? No, they’d be mad not to interview you I was told. But again, and again, and again I got no responses most of the time.
For those that did decide to interview me there were some hilarious moments – the time when I was sat down in front of a 20 something year old possible boss who looked at me with undisguised ‘OMG, you’re as old as my MUM!’ eyes. On another occasion I met with company owner and his underling, the latter who would have been my line manager and who had the final say over the hiring for the role. The owner and I got on like a house on fire, and over the course of the interview I could see in the underling’s eyes the dawning realisation that if I was taken on I would be so much more experienced than her and it would show. So that was a no then.
So back to my crossroads – Last week I was interviewed for a job that was not particularly lucrative, but I could do it easily and well and it was only 10 miles from home, plus I offered up my marketing skills for free as temptation for some added value for the organisation. I heard back a couple of days later that I had not been successful… “high standard of candidates.”, “hard decision”.. blah blah….
Something switched in my brain at that point. Not impatience or rage, but instead I just thought I simply cannot tell my friends and family yet again that I have failed to get a decent job, and then watch them looking surprised and upset. It set me thinking. What do I really want to do, what do I love, I am only on this earth once and should make the most of it? For me, it is all about being creative; whether it’s in film or interiors. The former means a move back to London, crazy hours and the pay if half of what it used to be for double the work. The latter, which is my main passion, is impossible for me to really get into properly without formal training.
So in the papers that day, news came of the A level results around the country. Clearing was open to those who needed it and who had not made their grades. So I emailed the head of a department at a Uni who I knew had a great Interior Design course, and got a call back within an hour. The call sort of went along these lines…
Got any spaces?
Can I come?
Tell me about yourself & your interior work so far..
Which I did, then I got a yes.
A quick phone call to the Admissions team, where it turns out I have UCAS points pouring out of my ears, and I had a place to study for 3 years in a very architecturally based Interior Design BA Hons course. One more phone call to Student Finance to arrange a mega loan, and I started yesterday. More on that later…
I will probably never pay back the loan in full, but you know what, I really don’t care. I would rather be a financially challenged student and learn for 3 years to do something well, than apply for one more underpaid, undervalued position where actually my chances are 1% of getting it anyhow as I am ‘too old’. Who know what will happen when I leave Uni, no doubt I’ll be in the same position and even older. I am hoping that a good portfolio might open some doors, but maybe not if I am interviewed by a youngster who cannot see how valuable experience is. The HR departments
So this article is dedicated to all the ladies out there who took a career break to have kids, and then find that now they are undervalued, under appreciated and ‘unemployable’. It’s really tough out there in the job market which can be very hard on your confidence. But if I was an employer I would hire you like a shot. You ladies can multi-task like nobody’s business, have years of really valuable experience under your belt in all areas, and you are not an aged hindrance but an asset. You are just GREAT.