Back between the 1970s-90s I found it relatively straightforward to get employment. I lived in a big city, was young, and had a variety of roles from IT Training to database work. I was a happy bunny at work feeling like I was doing something useful and important; I revelled in meeting new people and sharing my rapidly expanding IT skills I had a smile for everyone. A couple of job roles during my late 20s saw me driving around in brand new company vehicles, although for me, carrying a briefcase was the ultimate status symbol.
At some point this was no longer enough. At some point it didn’t feel like progression and I wanted more – I wanted a role that meant I had to think rather than regurgitate my well-rehearsed performance. I was hankering after a role that made me feel clever as well as important. I worried the need for IT trainers would diminish as the schools were bringing children up to that level – it wasn’t the last time I’d be wrong.
In response to my gut nagging for me to reach for more, in the noughties I started a part-time OU degree (which took me almost a decade to complete). By 2012 I was officially clever – I’d arrived for the second time since buying that briefcase in the late 80s.
From the 2004 – 2009 I worked in a Project Management role and then I did something crazy; and wonder if I’ve been paying for it since. I moved area and took on the project management of a derelict house. My husband and I assumed the roles of bread-winner (he was also our civil engineer) and project manager respectively, until we had a brand-new home and were able to sell the caravan that had been our home for 9 months.
During the time I’d been occupied with builders, plumbers, electricians, planning officers, financial spreadsheets, kitchen fitters and trips to B&Q, a recession had got a grip. I’d emerged excited with my new-found experience to a world that wasn’t interested.
I was lucky on a few occasions to secure some temporary work but I needed to fall back on more generic, basic and transferable skills. I picked up an eclectic mix of non-contiguous, temporary, and usually part-time contracts which left me wondering who on earth I was in terms of an employable entity. My label had fallen off. And the more I did, the more I tried to capture the experiences, the more complex my CV became. Was I diluting my appeal by actually working at all?
I soon realised life in recruitment had changed. No longer could you walk into an agency and be listened to by wide interested eyes as the recruiter had a light bulb moment knowing where they’d place or promote you. No more did the recruiter place you in a temporary role so you could try it for size and be picked up by an impressed manager. Organisations didn’t trust recruiters. Recruiters didn’t trust candidates. Now you had to attend an interview to even become a temp. But the biggest shock was the rates were the same as I earned circa 1987 and often I wasn’t picked, trounced by someone younger! How low could I go?
Soon it was apparent that one size doesn’t always fit all. In my search, the talent of matching skills and experience had been drowned by an automated tick-box exercise. As a candidate who rode the wave of technology in the 80s, I was never out of work. What I was able to offer was in demand. A linear role. All they needed to know was ‘which software’? Now, having added a raft of experience from qualification project management to house renovation, I truly had no idea where I could fit.
So without a pigeon-holed label to guide me, I was left with clicking ‘one click apply’ buttons across a variety of job roles. I was filling up recruiters inboxes when all I’d have loved was a conversation with a talented recruiter who could see what I’m good at and with a human bent to thinking outside the box, understanding what the client and industry wants and perhaps play more than a game of snap.
Eventually when a long contract came to an end, I made a decision. It was time to write the novel I’d had bouncing around my brain for ages. I sat down and started. It took me months and months, and months. During that time I also tried to become a useful house-person, cooking most evenings for my husband and attempting to look content with the ironing board out during an afternoon watching the Corrie omnibus. I nearly lost my mind trying to assume two labels and although my husband was adamant I didn’t need to work – I realised I wanted to; for me. How else would I justify my Clinique skincare habit?
Putting one word in front of another, finally in January 2016 I self-published my first novel. I did the writing, editing, formatting, uploading and marketing myself. Approximately 80,000 books are published on Amazon every year. Without good marketing, it doesn’t matter how good you are, chances are your masterpiece will get buried under the others. Yet that is one herculean achievement! And those who’ve read it agree. Love Travels has received some lovely reviews. However, you need to sell an awful lot to make a living from it.
As fate would have it, I need to be looking for work again to support my husband as the company he worked for has unexpectedly gone into administration. We are waiting to see if redundancy and notice payments will appear and in that time, we both have to be job-seeking. I don’t know exactly what I’d like to do because I’d like to do something around the many skills I have that I’m good at and enjoy. Yet writing is pretty much all I’ve known for a few years. I don’t know how to translate my skills into a job role, largely because I’ve not been out in the big wide corporate world for years and don’t know or even understand what is out there. With the expectations of the Job Centre weighing on me, I have to play ball and look for work.
The search feels impossible. The job titles and descriptions that don’t match; the fields that only let you enter what they want to know and don’t allow for explanations. Eg are you prepared to relocate? Y/N and I’m expecting to move house later this year. How do I capture that in Yes or No terms? Job searching people deserve more sophisticated software than a one-size-fits-all approach. A large amount of energy will continue to be wasted (on both sides) and quality candidates will inevitably fall by the wayside without it.
Meanwhile I consider: am I washed up now I’m in my 50s? And with that thought, I will put my author label on again and continue throwing some words into my second novel.