Sixty-one-year-old grandmother, Susan Gray, had been working in currency exchange at a large department store for 20 years. That was, until she was made redundant in October 2018. Susan had to say goodbye to her friends, her daily routine and her monthly paycheck, and go in search of her next opportunity.
After being made redundant, Susan, from Haymarket, Newcastle, spent the next few weeks dealing with a sense of loss, and considering where she might find a fresh sense of purpose. Having worked in a customer-facing role for two décades, Susan quickly missed daily interactions with colleagues and customers. And although she was to receive 12 weeks pay in lieu from her employer, she knew that she still had to find work quickly to secure her finances beyond that time.
“I went through a range of emotions when I was made redundant. It really affected my confidence. Ironically, one day I went to the bank to deposit my redundancy cheque and the lady behind the counter mentioned that they were hiring”
Susan applied for a variety of different roles – including Christmas retail roles – while she contemplated what she wanted to do. She stayed positive by focussing on other areas of her life, such as spending time with family and friends. However, she was unaware that a trip to her local Halifax bank one day, would result in her securing a job she loves a few weeks later.
Susan says, “I went through a range of emotions when I was made redundant because I’d been with the company for so long, and I would’ve stayed there until I retired. It really affected my confidence. I was devastated, and I had no idea what I was going to do instead. Ironically, one day I went to the bank to deposit my redundancy cheque into an ISA and the lady behind the counter mentioned that they were hiring. She gave me all the details about how to apply online – so I did and I got the job!”
At 63 years old, Susan now works as an On Call Customer Advisor, which she says gives her the work-life balance she needs to be able to care for her grandchildren. During a typical day at work, she will manage the flow of customers that come through the banking hall by greeting them and directing them to the correct services.
Explaining how the role works, Susan says, “I’m contracted to work 16 hours a month, but I can be offered up to 55 hours. My 16 hours are placed on a rota, and then I get notified separately about any extra shifts going, which I can either accept or decline. This arrangement works really well for me because I don’t want a full-time job. I no longer feel that I have time for one, as I look after my grandchildren too. I also like to make time for activities such as swimming, meeting friends, visiting my local library and going to the gym. I don’t think I could work full-time anymore, as I wouldn’t have enough hours in my day!”
“With my current job, sometimes I will work two full days or maybe three or four half days a month depending on what the business needs and on what my other commitments are at the time. I have worked the full 55 hours a month before, which is fine – if I’m able to, then I will. There’s no pressure though, which is nice.”
“I need to work for financial reasons, but I think the need to be amongst people is just as great. I will probably keep working for as long as I’m able to because I feel that I need it. You need to have structure in your day and something to get up for. I know that sounds crass, but it’s a fact”
Having always worked in customer-facing roles – which she’s loved – Susan is pleased that she is able to put her passion for people back into good use in her new role. She has no plans to retire and hopes to keep going for as long as she can.
She explains, “I need to work for financial reasons, yes, but I think the need to be amongst people is just as great. I will probably keep working for as long as I’m able to because I feel that I need it. You need to have structure in your day and something to get up for. I know that sounds crass, but it’s a fact. Plus, I get paid to talk to people, which I love! I would say that the largest part of the role is about talking to and helping people.
“You get people coming into the bank for all sorts of reasons. Customers who have suffered a bereavement and need help are booked in with a specialist. We have people coming in who are buying their house and they’re really excited! You also have people coming in who need help saving for a wedding, or who are opening savings accounts for babies or young children. We see people who are dealing with happiness, sadness and everything in the middle, which is really interesting.
“We do experience challenging behaviour from customers at times as money can be very emotive. But we are given regular training and guidelines to help us deal with this. Part of customer care is understanding how to deal with this, which I feel I do.”
“I decided a long time ago that you’re only as old as you act and I never act my real age. I act more like my shoe size, and I’m only a size 5! That’s been my mantra for a long time. I can be serious when I need to be but it’s good to have a bit of a laugh”
Susan adds that one of the perks about her role is that she is offered ongoing training and there is always something new to learn. She says that the level of support and kindness shown by her colleagues has made a huge difference to her happiness at work.
She says, “Halifax have been really supportive. They offer training constantly and if I ever need a hand with anything, then I’ve always felt able to go up to any one of my colleagues and ask for help. The banking world is constantly evolving, so there’s always something new to learn. Even colleagues that have worked in the bank for a long time will sometimes need support to remember how to deal with the more complex needs of customers, and there are plenty of tools available to help get this right the first time. So, there’s no shame in admitting if I don’t know something and need help.”
Reflecting on one of her most memorable training experiences, she continues, “I was with some of the younger graduates during training and there’s lots to learn in terms of how to use the company iPads and things like that. The graduates picked it up really quickly, but my trainer reminded me that – yes maybe they did pick it up more quickly, but you have years worth of experience talking to people, which is invaluable!”
Working with people of all ages, Susan says that at work, age really is just a number. Laughing, she says, “I have a joke with some of the younger girls, by reminding them that I’m old enough to be their granny! I decided a long time ago that you’re only as old as you act and I never act my real age. I act more like my shoe size, and I’m only a size 5! That’s been my mantra for a long time. I can be serious when I need to be but it’s good to have a bit of a laugh. A smile can go a long way.”
Having been in a difficult place for several months following her redundancy, Susan understands how tough it can be to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and work out what to do next. However, having re-established her sense of purpose by finding a new role that fits around her family commitments, she is now happy and content once again.
Susan says, “If you’re thinking about applying for a new role or trying anything new in life at all, then don’t think too long – just jump, and make sure you aim high. This opportunity really has boosted my confidence, and I don’t plan to give it up any time soon.”
Can you relate to Susan’s story? Do you have a story of your own that you’d like to share? Email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.