Not many people in their 50s leave a part-time job and return to full-time working, but Tina Dennett says life has actually become easier since she made the switch.
Fifty-eight-year-old Tina currently lives in Bookham and has had a classic career profile. She trained as a Nurse, and worked at St George’s and the Royal Marsden, specialising in paediatrics. She was a Junior Sister until her 30s, but she then became a full-time Mum and moved from London to the picturesque village of Bookham in Surrey.
Like many career women, Tina chose to return to work part-time when her children reached school-age to fit in with their schedule. And as she had teaching experience from an expat school in Hong Kong, she was able to get a part-time job in early years education where she remained for 14 years.
Tina says: “At some point in my 50s, I started to feel I had skills that were not being used and that I had more to give. I had my health and energy plus a lot of experience. I wanted a last little career in a different area. A school setting can be very constricted in what can be done and I wanted to be in a more flexible environment.”
And whilst Tina had made the decision to change careers, she was unsure exactly what field she wanted to go into next, so she decided to start by taking a closer look at exactly what transferable skills and experience she had to offer.
She explains: “I found looking for a new job quite daunting. Having been in my last job for 14 years, I didn’t really feel hugely confident that my skill set would be attractive to prospective employers. But, what I did was sit down and completely re-write my CV.
“I focused less on the specific roles I’ve had in the past and emphasised what I could offer – life experience, teaching experience, dealing with people and difficult situations, organising things, communicating, finding solutions, being patient, having a sense of humour and so on. I’d advise anyone looking for a career change to do that. You probably have far more transferable skills than you think.”
Shortly after rewriting her CV, Tina saw an advertisement for a Support Worker role at The Grange Centre for People with Learning Disabilities and went along for an interview. She initially worried about her “lack of specific experience”, but ended up being offered a more Senior full-time role. She started in April 2019 and joined a team providing support and care for 15 people with learning and/or physical disabilities living in three small group homes.
She remembers how she felt at the time: “I was flabbergasted when I was offered a Senior position! It’s wonderful to be able to transfer my wider skill set – gained through past work – to my present role. It’s the most amazing confidence boost.”
Tina also reflects on how life in her new role is going so far.
She says, “It’s very busy. There are a lot of logistics and changes to our daily plan. Anything can happen!”
A typical morning shift sees Tina arrive at 7.30am and start on the list of tasks – who needs help getting up and getting ready? Who has an appointment and which member of staff is taking them in which car? Where’s the paperwork? Then there’s the daily round of medication and very often someone will need emotional support in the middle of the morning rush.
She laughs: “Basically, you’re dealing with 15 sets of needs, dietary requirements and personal preferences. Then each person has a number of one-to-one hours and this needs to be quality time – such as a day out or a visit.”
“It’s been a steep learning curve but a lot of it is familiar to me – writing reports, care plans, using outside agencies and managing teams – it’s all clicking into place and I’m studying for a Care Certificate online when I find the time.”
Despite the busy nature of Tina’s work, she admits that she actually finds the role easier than some part-time work she’s had.
“There’s a certain rhythm to the work and we all pull together as a team. In some part-time jobs you take a lot of work home with you. Plus the people we work with are a delight. It’s made me realise the importance of support work. It’s a professional role with a high degree of accountability.”
“I do find working full time a challenge but really enjoy the continuity of it. I also enjoy the financial reward and the potential to be an important part of how the team in my area of the Grange functions and develops.”
Tina says that although she is working full-time she still has a good work-life balance.
She continues: “The kids are at University and I’ve got a very supportive husband. Although I’m doing shift work, including alternate weekends, I quite enjoy having a day off in the week. Not a lot has changed and most of all, my family are pleased that I am happy in my job.”