Willingness to adapt is vital to stay in work

I was made redundant in August 2005 at the age of 61 after nearly 36 years in IT with the same company. I found it all but impossible to get another job in IT for a number of reasons, one of which may have well have been my age.

I was made redundant in August 2005 at the age of 61 after nearly 36 years in IT with the same company. I found it all but impossible to get another job in IT for a number of reasons, one of which may have well have been my age.

I had gone into IT at a time when you did not need a degree and progressed in various roles, keeping pace with technology only in so far as it was necessary to do my job at the time.

So while I have loads of experience and can perform well at different levels from programmer up to project manager, I have no formal qualifications. The lack of qualifications does not matter until you find yourself out of work, when it bars you from a large part of the marketplace.

Working at one company for a long time can bring a good salary and high standing, but it can also leave you with a great deal of experience that is of little or no value in the outside world.

Starting again

You have to accept, however unpalatable, that your worth in that world is not what you would hope for. You also have to be willing to start again, further down the career ladder at a lower salary.

If you are unemployed and have any savings, you will qualify for Job Seekers Allowance (£56 a week) for six months only. After that, you get nothing until you are destitute or decide to take your pension.

If you take your pension early, its value is reduced considerably, although we older workers have probably cleared our mortgages and may well have finished the child-rearing phase, so we can afford to reduce our expectations accordingly.

Even so, it is still difficult to find work in or out of IT because of the rising number of unemployed people of all ages. Many have fixed bases, some in parts of the country where the situation is especially bad; relocating is often not an option.

I applied for an average of about six contract and permanent positions a day for almost a year, including a number of jobs outside IT altogether. The Job Centre really did not help at all. Most of my applications went unacknowledged and during that time I had only three face-to-face interviews and two phone interviews. There was a lot of enthusiasm from agencies, but it came to nothing.

Legacy skills

I eventually landed a programming job using old technology where my age and experience both counted in my favour. Many companies operating legacy systems welcome old hands to act as caretakers for a few years. There is no long-term future, but it is a job where my experience is valued and it will bridge the gap until retirement. It is a lot better than being unemployed and much better than stacking shelves in a supermarket. It has also restored my belief in myself.

l Gordon Eve-Tatham’s first job in IT started in 1964 for the Westminster Bank. After a spell with ICT (later ICL), he joined software group Fraser Williams before taking up his current role in VMS Cobol and DEC Rdb

If you have an opinion about this, or any other article in Computer Weekly, e-mail computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

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