Despite popular stereotypes suggesting that older workers have less to contribute than their younger counterparts, the reality is that turning 50 often signals a phase of maturity and confidence where knowledge, expertise and life experience intersect in a powerful way. Society and business can only benefit from making the most of older workers and their knowledge and capabilities. Unfortunately this is not yet reflected in the workplace where employment rates fall gently once people are over the age of fifty and fairly dramatically beyond the age of sixty. Over the next few months on the blog, Blume’s Alexander Stevenson will be challenging the stereotype by profiling several older workers who are using their experience to great effect in the workplace.
In the second of these interviews we hear from Norma, who has had a varied career across a number of different roles and cities!
1) Tell us a bit about your career to date
In my early career I trained as a theatrical agent, working in artist representation. Following that, I was a Temp PA, working all over London for many and varied companies. Next, I took a position working with a peace advocate, first as an Executive Assistant and within 5 years being made responsible for international tours and events. This role involved team management and a significant amount of international travel, which I enjoyed. The organisation’s London office relocated from Fulham to Brighton, where I quickly followed. In 2000 I was appointed interim national director during a period of change. In 2001 I was made redundant and set up as a freelance event manager working for individuals, SMEs, creative and corporate organisations and for the public sector including Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
2) What made you decide to work as a freelancer?
In 2011 I took employment with a large financial organisation. It took being passed over for almost 20 roles, for which I was qualified and capable; before I realised that I was almost definitely being overlooked because of my age. This sapped my confidence and prompted me to resign and return to freelancing.
3) What has surprised you most since you started freelancing?
Although bringing in enough work can sometimes be challenging, I have been pleasantly surprised at the opportunities that are out there. Stepping forward, being confident and bold, networking and making contacts are all key to success. I value diversity, meeting people and taking on new challenges and I enjoy having the flexibility to manage my own time.
4) What drew you to work with Blume?
I came across Blume when I was researching to find more clients. Blume is a breath of fresh air. A professional organisation, who’s management value people and the experience they can bring – whatever their age. A great way of bringing people together and providing a varied mix of opportunities.
Things are starting to change a bit for older people, but the wheels move at a painfully slow pace. It’s got to be about the person, not their age.
Until the government lead by example and set out legislation around age discrimination that does more than just giving it lip service, ageism will continue. My experience tells me that ageism is definitely an issue, but just try and prove it! Box ticking and quota filling is what many organisations do. Recruitment agencies are some of the worst perpetrators of ageism and a block for many older job seekers.
5) What kinds of organisations would you most like to work with, and why?
I enjoy most working in creative industries and the arts, as this suits my personality and skills.
I currently couple event work with work as a tour guide at Shakespeare’s Globe. This is such a joyful experience for me and I love the storytelling element of my role. I’m also building up work as a voice-over artist.
6) How would you describe yourself in three words?
Communicator, reliable, determined.
7) What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
In 2016 I was thrilled to be accepted on a two-year course – one half day a week – as a member of RADA Elders Company. I’ve always been passionate about theatre, music and drama and
it was an enormous privilege to be a part of this company and to be taught by professionals at such a prestigious drama school. Although the course was not leading to a professional qualification, we participated in RADA play readings and at the end of each year we performed a new play to a paying audience. RADA is responsible by the spade full for helping to restore my confidence in myself.
8) What did you want to be when you were a child?
Up until I was 14 years old, I wanted to be an air hostess as I loved the idea of international travel. I have always loved travelling and still do.
You can find Norma and many other older workers on Blume, which celebrates and showcases the abundant talents of older professionals – and helps them find freelancing opportunities. You can also read the first of this interview series with Carolyn, a journalist and copywriter, here.