Not retiring: the job search and job reinvention challenge

Finding a job in uncertain economic times, despite labour shortages in some areas, can be challenging – as can reinvention. But more of us will be doing it in the next decades.

Job Search


It’s an uncertain world at the moment for jobseekers. With redundancies rising and some sectors still recovering from Covid, it can be tricky to find a job, despite the well-publicised labour shortages. I’m speaking to more and more people who are struggling. And the longer it takes, the more rejections you get, the bigger the dent to your confidence. Even if you know it is not personal, it feels somehow that it is.

Research shows that the longer people are out of work the more their confidence suffers. For those in sectors like the performing arts or travel which were badly hit by Covid it has often been an uphill struggle to find work. Caroline Maher told back in late 2021 of the troubles she was finding a job in the arts With years of experiencing directing youth theatre productions nationally and internationally, she was advised by her local Job Centre Plus to take a job as a technician. Caroline was 60 at the time. She said: “[Being a technician] would involve climbing up poles and dealing with wiring. They really do need to be realistic. I am fit, but at 60 I don’t fancy climbing up poles. Yet the plays I have directed have had brilliant reviews and I have helped thousands of young people. That is my vocation,” she says. “My heart is in working with young people in a dramatic environment doing shows.” She blamed not just Covid, but also ageism in her industry, which is in part due to a lack of money and the assumption they can get less experienced people for cheaper.

I was speaking to someone the other day who worked in travel. She has had an up and down trajectory as a result of losing her job early in Covid. She struggled for a long time to get a job back in her industry, taking a role that didn’t turn out to be suitable in the end. She is now unemployed again and looking for work. It’s not that she hasn’t been flexible. She has taken a range of different roles, but most of her experience is in travel. Initially she blamed ageism for not getting a job, but now she thinks it is more about the money and the current economic uncertainty. Once again, there is a sense that it is cheaper to hire younger people, but that may have a long term cost. I spoke to one man, again in the performing arts, who said he had been passed over for a younger person only to find that a few weeks later that person had left the job due to lack of experience and the employer had come back to him.

There is a lot of talk about changing track and transferable skills for those in industries that have been struggling. This is likely to be a bigger and bigger issue when the impact of AI on certain jobs is taken into account. In truth, jobs are changing all the time, although the fundamentals often remain the same. It can seem a bit trite to suggest to someone who has spent 30 years in a sector they love that they should consider another sector. It’s hard to know where to begin and it goes against all the stories we tell about ‘finding your passion’ and sticking to it.

There are organisations like Brave Starts that are out there that can help and often it is not about taking a huge leap, but a smaller sideways one. It can be very hard, though, to give up on a vocational job that you have dedicated your life to, may have been very successful in and which may be part of your whole sense of identity. That needs careful thinking and, often, some guidance.

Reinvention is no easy thing. The man who was in the performing arts has reinvented himself more than once – from a professional footballing career, he went into music then theatre administration. Now he is considering mental health, combined with teaching performing arts. It’s not ideal, but it’s a way forward or sideways and it shows an openness to learning new things. Not everyone can do it without help, though, and as more will be needing to that help needs to be there – and affordable. It can’t just be an online tick box thing, though perhaps online can help at some point. Much of this is about proper, empathetic human conversations.

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