After years of working in the IT industry, followed by a failed attempt at running a small catering business during the global financial crisis, Jock Brown found himself unemployed in his 50s.
He spent five years being “casually underemployed” before he decided on a complete career change at the age of 57.
He retrained as a florist.
“I thought I’d retrain to do something with my hands and something creative and I didn’t want go back to the corporate office role,” Mr Brown said.
“It was all about taking the leap to do something you really enjoy.
“I had enjoyed playing with flowers for school events, had done a couple of funerals for extended family and a wedding, and thought I should do something serious about this.”
Mr Brown has been working at the florist shop at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital since January.
While he was only one of a few mature age students in his class at TAFE, he said it “was fun” returning to school.
Over 45s without a job increasing
Senior New South Wales TAFE career counsellor Rene Poulos said in the past five years she has seen an increasing number of people over the age of 45 at a crossroads and looking for a career change.
Tips for changing careers
- Look at what skills or qualities you can offer to a new career.
- Improve your computer skills.
- Consider further education.
- See a careers counsellor for extra support.
- Set a realistic timeframe to reskill.
“People are going to be working for longer, a lot of jobs have disappeared, technology has replaced a lot of human resources so people find themselves in a transition space they weren’t expecting,” Ms Poulos said.
“It’s important to know that these days four or five careers is the normal, it’s expected of people.
“Age used to be an obstacle, but people are now expected to work up until you’re 70. So if you’re 50 you still have 20 years to go.”
That was the position Mr Brown found himself in a year ago.
“I can’t actually imagine being retired so that’s made it easier, because I haven’t seen myself in that position yet,” he said.
“It was all about what am I going to do next and how am I going to spend the next decade.”
Mr Brown said he took the opportunity to return to his passion for flowers. (ABC Radio Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
Ms Poulos said one of the hardest parts of transitioning to a new career was the emotional aspect, particularly if the person has been forced to leave their job because a company has downsized or outsourced skills.
It is especially difficult if the job or working has become part of your identity and “sense of self”.
“That’s very debilitating,” Ms Poulos said.
“They need to focus on their strengths, learn new skills, set some new goals, think about what they can offer to the world now.”
Older people come with loyalty
On Monday, ABC Radio Sydney heard from 43-year-old Michelle from Penrith, who said she was often overlooked for casual retail jobs as employers favoured younger workers.
But Ms Poulos had some advice for employers who may be cautious about offering a position to an older worker.
According to Ms Poulos, older workers come with a number of benefits.
“In retail, not all customers are young, so you should have a very diverse workforce,” Ms Poulos said.
“Younger generations offer different things to employers; they might be more tech savvy, but they might not have the sense of loyalty to an employer, might not be as committed to teamwork and be more self focused.
“That’s why we concentrate on older people’s strengths — like maturity.
“Many medical practices like older people in the front desk roles, because they have that maturity about patient confidentiality … that’s one example where an older person might have an edge over the younger person.”
This week ABC Radio Sydney is investigating Working Sydney: how we work now and how we’ll work in the future.
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