What advice would you give your younger self? A question the media often invites us to answer. At 17 I was a student nursery nurse going to college three days a week and working on a training placement in a nursery on the other two days. Living in a bedsit after my parents’ divorce, I was adjusting to working, studying and independent living and it was hard. I left early for work or college and came home late and this continued for all of my working life, nurseries cater for working parents and many stay open until after 6pm.
It never entered my head that I should prepare myself for any other career, that I would not as I got older be fit enough to keep this up, and even if it had occurred to me, by the time I got home in the evenings I was too tired to do anything about it, my living accommodation often involved sharing a kitchen and bathroom facilities with other housemates that I didn’t know other than sharing a house with them and the weekends were about shopping and going to the launderette.
However, when I am asked that question, what advice would I give my younger self, it would be to have a career plan B. Of course, like many women in care and related professions I didn’t know that the pension I thought I was going to be able to get at 60 would be withheld by new pension rules until I was 65, and by the time I am due to draw it, it may be later still . Many women affected by changes to pension rules are from care and teaching professions, these jobs are not easy to carry on as a woman gets older and at 17, one cannot predict future health and its effects on employment. A career plan B for later life, or for situations such as health issues at any age preventing your original career path is a great advantage to have in place. Always have an adaptable career plan and know what it is if you need to make sudden changes, be prepared.
You cannot be sure anymore that if you are sick or disabled in later life, that you will be able to claim sickness benefits, these are far harder to pass the eligibility tests for than they used to be. You may well find yourself looking for another career, or a retirement income because your pension is not enough to support you or you have had to give up work or lost your job before being eligible to claim it.
When finding a new career more suitable for you in later, you may well be shocked and not too happy to find that this has to be an entry level position with a far lower salary and grade than you have been used to. However, what can help an older applicant appeal to a prospective employer is to have current skills. Up to date and adaptable skills, a career plan B can give you far longer employment security whether you be working for someone else or self-employed.
So, how can you get the skills you need to stay in the job market and have options as you get older?
Be prepared to use your time, if you are studying or training, be sure to do the work necessary to get the skills and or pass any exams. This may indeed be hard when you are older and also maybe have home responsibilities and or health issues requiring treatment but the benefits of being disciplined about your studies, e.g. IT skills or basic skills such as maths and English that need a qualification will be well worthwhile. Set a goal, to learn a skill and or get a qualification and then plan your study time to achieve that goal.
Take any classes that are available from a reputable college or training centre that you can afford, they may even be free. Whenever possible at adult education colleges or when doing an online course choose ones that lead to a certificate, diploma or degree. It’s good to be able to take these to a job interview, send a copy with a job application, or add to a profile on an online job board. Courses are also often held at local libraries and community centres.
Webinars can be a useful way to learn a skill and have the advantage of being portable as long as you have a computer, tablet, smartphone or laptop and an internet connection, the classes go wherever you are and many can be found online for free.
While you are in a job, take up any chances your company might offer for educational opportunities, you never know when you may not be in a job and need that IT certificate your company is offering.
Here are some links to mostly online learning opportunities, I have used IT training as an example but it is also wise to keep your basic skills, maths and English up to date …knowledge and being willing to train for new things gives you options ….