After over three decades in the travel sector, 60-year-old Philip Martin is now excited about retraining as a secondary school teacher. He told us his working life story.
When the Covid pandemic hit in early 2020, travellers were grounded and the travel sector was in chaos. Philip Martin, then in his late 50s, saw many of his peers in his professional network taking redundancies, seeking out new roles, or re-evaluating their careers.
Philip was a partner at a marketing agency that worked with the travel sector – a sector in which he’d spent over three decades. During the pandemic, he helped contacts who were job-hunting with their CVs. He often felt that those who’d stepped away from work altogether seemed bored. It was a time of huge flux – and it got him thinking about his own next steps.
“I was having a long chat with a friend of mine, and he told me that his wife had said to him: ‘What would happen if you [started] again? What would be the thing that you’d really want to do?’ ” he says.
While Philip had enjoyed his career to date, he felt ready for something new. He thought about how much he’d enjoyed working with interns in recent years: helping them to start their careers, while also learning new things from them. He thought about how much he’d enjoyed helping people with their CVs during the pandemic.
Soon, teaching seemed like a natural next step. “I found that possibility, as a teacher, to give back everything I’ve learned as a manager…I found that [idea] rewarding,” he says.
Now aged 60, Philip has just started a PGCE course in Sussex and plans to teach business studies, a subject where he can draw on his first-hand experience. His marketing skills in giving presentations and making information engaging will also be useful in the classroom.
Philip didn’t have a specific career in mind as a teenager, or while at university. After studying environmental sciences and doing some temping, he went into computer programming. This skill took him into the travel sector, at a time when technology was increasingly being used for bookings and at airports.
Philip worked for British Airways and then spent 25 years in France working for Amadeus, a travel tech company. While at Amadeus, he moved into marketing and found that it suited him well. “I’m a people person, so I was missing that contact with individuals,” he says.
You have to find out who you are later in life. You change over time.
Then, in recent years, Philip started to realise he was keen for a new experience – but he also knew he didn’t want to retire early or see his working life “fizzle out”. He was now back in the UK and in his senior role at the marketing agency, having returned home in 2015 to support his son through an illness.
“You [have to] find out who you are later in life,” he says. “You change over time, because you learn different things…and because of what’s happened to you as well. And you have different skillsets that you can use.”
Philip has taken a student loan to cover his PGCE tuition fees, while covering some living expenses with savings from his previous jobs. His wife works as a French translator and hypnotherapist, which is sufficient to cover their other costs. Their three children are grown-up and have jobs, so their household costs are much lower than they used to be.
The government offers some bursaries and scholarships for people to train as teachers, although these are tied to specific subjects (business studies is not currently on the list). There are also apprenticeship schemes that pay a small salary while you train.
What’s Philip’s advice for other older workers who are considering a career change? Quite simply, to go for it. “I think first and foremost: embrace it. If you want to have a change…then really go for it,” he says.
Philip has been supported with his career change by Now Teach, a charity that helps people to become teachers later in life. The charity runs a two-year programme that includes providing advice with applications and creating cohorts of career-changers for peer support.