If someone said when I left my last job, I wouldn’t work again for over a decade, I’d have laughed in their face. I’ve worked since I was 14 years old and the only times I hadn’t were when I was at university and after I had my daughter. I’m from a proud working-class family, “whatever pays the bills!”
Towards the end of my second university course, I had a “nervous breakdown”. I have OCD. I graduated, moved to Scotland near family (a Scot with an English accent, confuses taxi drivers everywhere!). Found us a place to live, started my daughter at school and job hunted.
Less than six months later and against advice. I went back to work. I sold wedding dresses, the company were great to work for, it was a very happy place.
2008 the banking crisis hit! Company closed. I found an administration role, better pay and conditions, I was so relieved. It started off well, I got along with colleagues, but my line manager was frosty, then became downright hostile. I’d not experienced workplace bullying before, had colleagues and bosses I didn’t gel with, this was something else entirely, to the brink of another breakdown.
The final straw, I refused to do something risking an injury, she “jokingly” called me lazy in front of the whole office. I left that day, knowing I’d not return. I needed time to recover, maybe a few months?
But life took me and my family on a downward spiral of ill health we’re still dealing with now, losing two during the pandemic.
Eventually things calmed, the OCD was relatively well managed. I applied for over 200 jobs and got two replies, both rejections.
When I included my degree or once my A-levels!
They worry you’ll want something “better”, meaning higher pay. We also want work that interests and fulfils us, we want flexibility, work that fits our lives, not the reverse.
Frankly I think both also hinted “too old” – I was mid 40’s, so hardly Miss Havisham! Ageism is not a good look employers.
No recent experience
“Must have recent experience” the bain of returners everywhere!
My knowledge and skills were not surgically removed!
A course, that would hit the sweet spot, as Simon and Miranda might say, simply ‘dusts off the rust’ and giving me the proof I needed would have been handy.
Returners are often keen learners that, with support, speed ahead in upskilling, not only from work, but life experience. Raising children, nursing relatives, surviving life changing illness or injury, these shape us into adaptable, resilient and highly responsive people. If you can tame a toddler, silence an overactive mind or adapt to a new culture, there’s little you can’t do.
Wasn’t flexible enough
They want employees to come running at their command.
I omitted my degree when applying for new entry level jobs in retail and hospitality.
Your health is of concern to us
Sometimes slightly different phrasing, they wouldn’t employ someone with mental illness, but dressed it up in concern to disguise the discrimination. There is still stigma, even fear associated with mental illness. Don’t know how to speak to or work with someone with a mental illness? Guess what? There’s loads of us! You’re already working with them, you just don’t know because we’re often afraid to disclose at work.
I moved to Glasgow, went on an online women returners course. The other women were very capable, supportive and intelligent. My plan, to set up as a Virtiual Assistant. One session they asked what our fantasy job was. I bit the bullet, confessed I’d always wanted to be a writer. I’ve written since I was a child, I lost my confidence and stopped showing anyone, but I kept writing.
Why? I cannot imagine not writing.
Through work I’ve heard fascinating stories, met amazingly interesting people. These people became characters, the stories plot points, this is how I think, it’s natural to me. They gave me the kick up the rear I needed!
It made sense to be self-employed, set my own schedule (deadlines notwithstanding), work with those I wanted to and work from home, around ongoing health issues where needed.
Gradually I learned and I am still learning how to:
Identify my market
Approach potential clients
Use social media and other networking tools
Market myself (still feels a little awkward, though I’m surprisingly good at promoting others)
Of course, I am always working on improving my writing skills, and currently developing my website, newsletter and learning how to produce a podcast.
I’m loving using my brain, meeting challenges and incredible people.
Employers - be extraordinary! Hire returners, they will return the favour.
Written by Evie B of EvieBWrites.