Two years on, workingwise.co.uk catches up with Tanya Forester, who we last met in 2021 when she was struggling to find work in the travel industry during Covid.
Tanya Forester* has come full circle since workingwise.co.uk first interviewed her back in 2021. At that point she had faced loads of knockbacks while job hunting during the pandemic. Despite finding work in the travel industry where all her experience lay since Covid, she is now back looking for work at a time of growing economic uncertainty.
Tanya 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 until she left.
She had spent much of 2020 on and off furlough. With no-one travelling, she said the business had “died a death”. After being made redundant she said she had a few interviews, but says: “It became very obvious that I was never going to be chosen.” At the time she felt ageism was a big factor – she was 57. Indeed she altered her cv to remove her O Levels, which date her, as well as some of her earlier jobs. She came to the conclusion that the only solution was to work for herself, change sector or take a lower paid local job.
So Tanya took a part-time job at Marks & Spencer over Christmas 2021 and a second job at Waitrose. Waitrose kept her on after the Christmas season on a three-day week. She also did exam invigilating at local private schools. She continued to look for work, but not as actively as before.
Back to travel
In November 2022 she took a job in the travel and leisure industry, which had by then come back to life. The role was part time and required five interviews. The job was for a high-turnover company that specialised in high end US clients wanting to travel to London principally, but also to Scotland, Paris and Northern Ireland.
Tanya says she was unsure from the start about whether she had done the right thing in accepting the job. Two friends told her they had heard bad things about the company, but she thought she should ‘give it a whirl’. She says the culture was toxic. “There was no camaraderie. Everyone had their heads down. There was a don’t question culture and no-one asked me anything – they just went to the top. I felt so out of place. That is not the way I work. I like brainstorming,” she says. The one good thing about it was that, although she was a good bit older than most of the people there, she didn’t feel her age was held against her.
Tanya lasted for six months and left this May. She has applied for more jobs, but says there is not much around in the corporate travel world – where her expertise lies – at the moment. She was offered one job, but it involved working weekends and Tracy still has teenaged children – aged 13 – so she wants to be around for them and to work part time. She is also more reluctant about doing long commutes post-Covid, saying she finds it exhausting. And she adds that salaries tend to be lower since the pandemic, which makes it harder to justify a long commute. She took a drop in salary for her last travel industry job to get a foot back in the door, but it’s not ideal. “Employers would rather take on younger people who will cost less,” she adds. “They miss the fact that older people have a lot going for them in terms of professionalism and reliability.”
Her old company has taken a few people on recently, but she says that, while there has been some recovery, it is not the same as it was before Covid. People she knows who used to work full time have been asked to go part time. So Tanya is doing more invigilating work in September and continuing to look for work. She has considered changing careers. She liked the idea of becoming a maternity nurse, but says it involves several years of training. She hasn’t given up though and is prepared to keep looking. It’s been a rough few years, but she has a good sense of her own value. She says: “I don’t want to work for next to nothing or do a job that doesn’t suit me. I think I am worth more.”