It's never too late to learn something new, with more of us than ever taking up new challenges at a time when we are supposed to be thinking about retirement. Carolyn May of Still Much To Offer Ltd shares her story.
Carolyn May, Eduation Manager to Entrepreneur
I live near Ruthin and worked at a further education college in Wales for 26 years. I was an A-level teacher, then head of department, head of faculty and, finally, professional development manager - managing and teaching on the training courses. I really enjoyed it. But I started feeling frustrated that I couldn't take on new opportunities because I was working full time.
Because of education cuts, all the senior managers were offered voluntary redundancy, so when I was 58 I took it. I was really attracted to the idea of being an entrepreneur. I wanted to set up a company to help older people change direction - either as a lifetime change or because of redundancy. Employers may not voice their concerns, but they may choose someone younger because, for instance, they feel older people are more likely to be ill or that they may leave in three or four years' time. One of my old managers was 65 and could not get another job, but he said to me: "I have so much left to offer." And that was where the name of my company came from, Still Much To Offer.
I went to London to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and retrained. It's very difficult to make money from helping older people, as I give out a lot of free advice and support, so I have a business-to-business side too. I recruit for companies and also do training.
There needs to be more education for older people. People think the brain deteriorates with age but we are capable of making new neural connections throughout our lives. Our short-term memory might be affected, but this can be dealt with using new learning methods.
I wasn't frightened when I started my company. I was well-qualified - and it may have been naivety, but I thought it was up to me to make a success of it. It hasn't been easy. I knew some of my weaknesses, but I didn't realise I would find sales and marketing so difficult. There were a lot of personal challenges and it took time to adjust.
It's a fabulous time to change things, though. It's like a second chance, a new beginning. You are just like someone starting out in their 20s. You get employers who think younger people will be more enthusiastic and find challenges easier. But older people are often looking for something new to do and want a new challenge.
Also your children are older, you don't have childcare issues, and if you take voluntary redundancy at that age you might have a financial cushion. I have four children. One of them is still at home and he was 17 when I took redundancy. The website went up in April and I hit 60 in July. But it's very good to face challenges when you are older - it keeps you physically and mentally active.
Changing employment culture is going to take time, and it won't come just from the job market, but also from the media. If Alan Sugar did The Apprentice for older people, I would love to be on it.