Sara Wilce talks to workingwise.co.uk about her career in beauty therapy and leadership in the airline industry and how, following her own redundancy, she set up an organisation to help others facing a job search later in their career.
Last summer Sara Wilce was made redundant from her corporate job at TUI. She had just turned 60. Although she has been made redundant twice before in her career, she admits that this time redundancy hit her harder. “I thought no-one will take me on,” she says. “A lot of it had to do with my age and a fear of putting myself out there when I am nearing retirement.”
Although that feeling has now passed, Sara realised that many other people in the travel industry were in a similar situation during Covid, made redundant after years of service. So she decided to help them prepare to job search by setting up a CV advice service, New Startz. She says: “A lot of people – many of them cabin crew who had been in the industry for years – were asking the same questions as me and needed help. The first thing they say when they contact me is that they are 50+ and that they think no-one will take them on. That stigma is very much there.”
She adds: “Much of what I do is convincing them that they have lots of transferable skills, such as customer service skills, and that they have just as much chance as younger people of getting a job due to their experience, reliability and life skills. They don’t see these as skills. Instead they say they are not very good on the computer, but that can be taught. No-one can teach you, for instance, how to maturely deal with a distressed customer.”
Sara says sharing her own experiences of redundancy as well as other people’s stories of finding jobs after redundancy can help to build people’s confidence. She adds that it is also about choosing the right jobs to apply for. She says many of the older women who are made redundant from the airline industry apply for jobs in retail and hospitality which are very competitive, rather than those in customer service which play to their experience.
Other advice New Startz offers includes preparation for interviews given many may not have done any for years and advice on how to lay out their cv in a way that gets it past the computers and in front of a human.
Sara herself has had a full career. She trained as a beauty therapist after leaving school and worked in a salon, owned her own salon and started teaching beauty therapy when her children were little. Then an opportunity came up at Virgin Atlantic as a Training Officer, Hair and Beauty. Sara was soon head of department and spent eight years leading a team of beauty therapists, managers and trainers, moving from beauty work into leadership and management.
After being made redundant, Sara set up some beauty academies for leading brands before moving back into the airline industry as base performance manager at TUI, managing cabin crew. She says the move into leadership, begun with Virgin Atlantic, opened up her skillset.
Since being made redundant last year Sara has been marking assignments for the Institute of Leadership Management and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, which brings together both her management skills and her teaching experience. “It is surprising when I look back where each step takes you and how it adds to what you have to offer,” says Sara, adding that her experience of running a business has helped her set up New Startz.
She says she doesn’t want to go back to a corporate role now, but she has not closed the door on employed work. She has enjoyed not having to commute during the pandemic and having the freedom to take up different consultancy possibilities and to work them around her life.
She feels much more confident too. “I have moved from thinking no-one will take me on to feeling that I have got more than enough to offer employers,” she says. She adds that the pandemic has also given her – and many others who have been made redundant – the time to think about what they really want to do . “I know many people who have decided to make a break and do something completely different. That has to be positive.”
*workingwise.co.uk is looking to tell people’s career stories as a way of highlighting the range of experience of older workers, not just work-related but life-related. The aim is to change the sometimes negative narrative on older workers and show just how much we have to offer. If you are interested in taking part, please email [email protected].