Tanya Forester tells workingwise.co.uk about her experience of redundancy during the pandemic and why she thinks her age has held her back.
Tanya Forester* was made redundant on 16th December 2020 from her job at a destination management company. She had been employed there for 19 years, first in an operational role, overseeing every aspect of groups of up to several thousand’s travel plans, including sightseeing, theatre trips and welcome nights. When she had her two children 11 years ago, she needed to be around more so took on a sales role before going part time five years ago.
She spent much of 2020 on and off furlough. With no-one travelling, the business “died a death”. Some people took voluntary redundancy, but they didn’t get any extra pay for doing so so Tanya held on to see what happened and was among eight members of staff made redundant. “You never expect it to happen to you,” she said.
She started looking for work after Christmas, but it soon became obvious that it was an impossible task finding a job in her sector as everything was shut down. Tanya continued to look, however, and got a few interviews and second interviews. For example, recently she had an interview then received an email apologising for not getting back to her and saying that “circumstances had changed”. With each rejection she says she felt “my mind going downhill”. “It became very obvious that I was never going to be chosen,” she says.
She feels strongly that her age – she is 57 – is a factor and says she knows of friends her age who get rejected out of hand for jobs they are qualified to do even when the advert is still up days afterwards. Another friend in his early 60’s described how his interviewer’s jaw dropped when he walked through the door and they saw how old he was. Most of the people who have interviewed Tanya have been significantly younger than her.
“People don’t think outside the box, that older people are experienced and steady,” she says. She has altered her cv – she has three different versions of it – taking out her O Levels, which date her, and removing some of her earlier jobs.
She came to the conclusion that the only solution was to work for herself or take a lower paid local job. “You start doubting yourself. It is very stressful,” says Tanya, who applied for Jobseeker’s Allowance earlier in the year.
While the travel industry is slowly coming back to life, she says she has noticed that salaries are down. She doesn’t feel it is worth commuting into central London for just £18K and that the jobs are more aimed at younger people starting out in the industry. She has looked at transferring to other sectors, for instance, events management in hotel or fundraising, but has had no luck.
Tanya has just got a part-time job at Marks & Spencer which will help her to keep busy. “I just want to work,” she says. She hasn’t given up on returning to her former career, however. She states: “I will keep ploughing on, but it does destroy you a little bit every time.”
*Not her real name. Tanya spoke to workingwise.co.uk in relation to our survey for National Older Workers Week.