One of the viral news stories of last week was of Angela Laws who came out of retirement, aged 70, to work as a social media manager for a digital start-up. In an interview with the BBC, she says: “All of us are capable of learning new skills. We are never too old to learn and start a new journey.” And she’s right, whether you want to change career, or just keep up to date in your current job.
Often we hear from candidates who have moved out an industry to do something else for a few years (not always out of choice, it must be said), only to want back in later. While some jobs are like riding a bike, and you can quickly get back into the swing of things, in other professions things change. New software and processes can change the way things are done; laws or regulations can be updated – and both these things can keep you from hitting the ground running in a new job. And that will put employers off hiring you, because they’ve not necessarily got the time to get you up to speed.
Of course, for the vast majority of jobs, no-one can just sit at their desk and just got on with things from day one. Everyone needs a bit of training or “onboarding” when they first start just to get settled (A failure to do this is a big reason that companies struggle to keep staff long-term – it takes more than pointing out fire exits and the toilets!), but in small businesses you may well be the only staff member doing your job so it’s crucial new hires know what they’re doing.
So if you’ve taken a career break, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your skills to make sure they’re up to date. There are a growing number of reputable online and face-to-face courses available to help you brush up on IT skills and other things you might need in the workplace, many of which are reputable and totally free. And the commitment to your career you’re showing by doing the course counts for a lot too!
New technologies and techniques are being developed all the time for all industries – some will be long forgotten, but others will stick around and have a huge impact. To repeat the social media example, Linked In is swarming with recruitment consultants, but does anyone else remember Myspace? Knowing which way the wind is blowing in an industry and brushing up your skills accordingly puts you ahead of the curve.
Even if your business is old fashioned or slow to adopt new techniques and technologies (like recruitment agencies that still aren’t using Linked In), moving with the times will make you more competitive if you’re looking for work in the future. And the commitment to your career that professional development shows can put you front of the queue for promotions and greater responsibilities.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out in a career, or have been in an industry for 20 or more years. People are working for longer in their lives; the sooner you decide you’re “too old” and set in your ways, the sooner you’ll be left behind. Like Angela, you might find yourself in a job that you love. And in her case, in a career that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.