Age: Early 50s
Founder Bold New World Recruitment
Describe your career path in two or three sentences including any twists or turns ending with where you are now.
I didn’t go to university, I left school and went straight into PR – first at Shandwick and then at Lowe Bell Communications. This was good training. After working four years in PR, I went travelling for a year and when I returned I joined CitiGroup (known then as Salomon Brothers) working in Investor Relations. It was incredibly busy as we worked with all areas of the bank from Equities to Fixed Income and Corporate Finance. I was then headhunted by BNP Paribas to set up their Fixed Income Investor Relations Team. I loved my time there. The work was equally hard work as I travelled most of the week but our team was well respected and all my colleagues wonderful to work with. On becoming pregnant, I made the choice to leave rather than juggle both roles badly.
I set up a lamp and shade business because I could do it from home and then I started to work on a freelance basis for Red Savannah, a luxury travel business. My boss was a great friend and he said you can do this and I could. The team at Red Savannah taught me that my experience was valuable. But it still seemed difficult for me to find more work to do alongside the Red Savannah. There seemed to be a lack of information about reskilling and how to find companies willing to take on flexible part-time/full-time people from my demographic (i.e. over 35). So I set up Bold New World Recruitment and Reskilling. I wanted my company to present job opportunities as exciting and not grey, drab and corporate. We created a website that is colourful and optimistic where you could find lots of information and a host of companies willing to hire people our age, as well as returners, people rethinking their careers and even retirees. Bold New World embraces all these groups in a very can-do way. We only represent companies and charities we know and like as we need to guarantee every role to our wonderful candidates. And importantly, we do not take on roles we wouldn’t want to do ourselves!
What decision / experience proved to be the most helpful to your career?
When I started at CitiGroup, I was just a temp (they took me on because I wanted to work there so badly) and because everyone in the office was ill, I was sent to Madrid to set up an Investor Relations conference. I had no idea what I was doing. I literally had no idea. But I had to do it. I flew to Madrid with the speakers and I pulled it off. And when I came back I was so proud of myself. That was the way they used to do things in the city, throw you in, sink or swim. If you swim it gives you so much confidence although it’s rather terrifying winging it on your own!
What advice would you give your 20 year old self knowing what you do now?
Stop being so worried about what other people think. It doesn’t matter.
What do you think are the most important qualities for sustaining a fulfilling career as you grow older?
To keep going and realise that Rome was not built in a day. I saw a fantastic image from Lifehack.org with someone walking up the stairs thinking at first they can’t do it and then realising they can. And the message is when the going gets tough just keep going up the stairs don’t pause and DON’T stand to the side. Just keep going up, step by step. You know when you have one of those days where nothing is working and you think maybe I am completely wrong, maybe nobody wants to do this, just make another telephone call and then make another one after that. You just literally have to keep going, one step at a time.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for people making a career re-entry or re-invention later in life?
Twofold. First, believing in yourself. So you need to find yourself an area in your house where you can shut the door and take a pause from being a mother, a wife etc. You need to create a space for yourself to concentrate, write your CV, make that call, do what you need to do.
The second thing is persuading employers that our demographic have something of value to offer. They need to see that our model, crafted over time, who has learnt by experience, is sometimes a better fit than the shiny new model right out of the factory. Our demographic is ready to go, we are tried and tested and can actually slot straight into a role. But it is going to take more employer education to get there. There are a number of wonderful organisations changing attitudes and I am quite sure perception is changing.
What do you think are the opportunities for people wanting to work in their 50s and 60s and beyond.
Re-entering work in your 50s or 60s is tricky if you have had a long break and wish to return to a large organisation. You need to be realistic. I would suggest approaching a small business and offering flexible work that they can dial up and down as they need and can afford. Big organisations for some reason don’t embrace this. I think their HR departments are probably too busy fighting fires but I am sure this will change in time. Re-entering the workforce in your 40s is easier if you are determined. There are lots of returner programmes on offer now. And excellent academies, for example St James’s Place Wealth Management offers the chance to retrain as a Financial Planner. Legal firms are putting together similar programmes. Think about what you like doing and if you can make a business of it. Or go and help a business that you really like by offering something that you have done before.
What is your top tip for people thinking about re-inventing their careers?
Preparation is really important. Before you go to an interview tape yourself answering questions about yourself and then ask a friend to practice with you. Speak naturally but make it fluent because you are going to get tripped up especially if you haven’t interviewed for a long time.
Recommendation: Favourite book to read, website to browse or podcast to listen while sipping coffee?
- I love the Spectator Coffee House Shots
- I also really like Giles Coren’s Podcast
- And the other podcast I listen to is The Red Box Politics with Matt Chorley of the Times.