Jim Duffy comment: Not in the career you wanted? Get another one

How you cope with and approach risk will shape your propensity for retraining, says Duffy. Picture: Ian Howarth.
How you cope with and approach risk will shape your propensity for retraining, says Duffy. Picture: Ian Howarth.
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Not The Nine O’Clock News was a very funny, satirical sketch show that aired on BBC 2 from 1979 to 1982.

It was cutting-edge humour and launched the careers of several high-profile actors and writers, also leading to other comedic series including Blackadder and Mr Bean with Rowan Atkinson, and Alas Smith and Jones.

There was a hilariously funny and edgy sketch starring Pamela Stephenson involving an American Express card, which even today I am surprised BBC 2 allowed. Of course, many of the cast would continue in their field of work – comedy.

But Stephenson, married to the Big Yin, Sir Billy Connolly, made a massive career change. Trained as a ­psychologist early on, she picked this up again, becoming a renowned specialist in the field. My ­question is, would you be willing to retrain, and what as?

There is no doubt that the jobs market is changing all the time. One only need look at recent headlines to see Ford laying off staff globally and smaller companies going bust. The ‘job for life’ does not appear to be around as much these days. Careers like the police force used to be 30 years and a gold-plated pension. But many recruits are leaving within the first ten years as the pension is not so hot and the job is not what it used to be.

Retail positions are becoming harder to get as ‘needs must’ for many graduates who had big dreams of a rich payday, but now find that barista and working for Next is all that is on offer.

But if you have been in the same line of work for ten to 30 years, would you leave if you sensed the writing on the wall?

As 50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50, many of us are healthier into our older years. Retiring for many is not an option at 60 as mortgages, boomerang family members, and a sense of purpose mean we either want or need to work longer.

But the jobs are thinning out, and it appears there is still unconscious bias from some employers when interviewing older candidates. That is if they even make the shortlist. But with all of this comes opportunity, and the potential to retrain in something completely different. I was asked recently what I would do if I was starting a new business. It certainly caught me unawares and made me think.

I remember years ago wanting to build the best building firm – ever. I had been let down by so many builders and tradesmen over the years, and thought I could do it better. But alas I knew nothing about building. What I did know is that I could communicate well, look after customers and project manage to a tee. So, what next?

The interesting thing is there is a whole load of courses available in ­plumbing, electrics, and general building, all ­available to book, pay for, and attend. Add to this the array of online courses and tutorials and, within six months, one could be pretty astute and skilful, ready to start a new chapter in life. Buy a second-hand van, stick up a ­Facebook page, bring on a couple of ­like-minded tradespeople –and the world is your oyster. But would you be willing to retrain to make the switch?

How you cope with and approach risk will inevitably shape your propensity for retraining. Whether it is a hands-on job like building, brewing coffee in a high-street chain, offering courses in flower-arranging, or running a key-cutting franchise will depend on how you feel about the size of the retraining window.

But if you view the next ten to 20 years as exciting and bursting with possibility, then retraining in something simple that could generate a pension-boosting wage might be the ticket for you.

Pamela Stephenson is inspiring. She moved outside her comfort zone to find a line of work that she loved and enjoyed. From a late start she built up a solid reputation. There is nothing stopping you from switching to something different. Perhaps just keep it simple and see where your research takes you.

Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special.