Older workers change career direction





Karen, 53, HR Business Consultant

Image of Karen

Karen is an HR Business Consultant with Aviva Insurance, supporting their business across Scotland and the UK. She’s proud of having made a change from a technical insurance role into a completely different business area with the HR team. Karen thrives on the variety within the role and the daily opportunity to make a difference for their people and through them, for the business.

Karen’s journey
Throughout her technical career, Karen enjoyed coaching and developing people more than she enjoyed the technical elements of the role. This led her into a role with a technical training team where she discovered that her strengths lie in working with people and creating solutions to help them and the business develop.

The more she learned, the more she wanted to make the move into an HR role, but it was challenging as it seemed impossible to get an HR role without HR experience. She decided to complete her CIPD qualification and also create a network of people in HR within the organisation. Through this, she encountered some great people who started to involve her in HR projects, which helped her to learn and to develop her network further.

The best piece of advice she got was “You’re no spring chicken, you need to focus on getting what you want”!

Hopes for the future
Karen hopes to continue to develop her knowledge and experience in HR in a project or leadership development role. 



Christine Hodges, 50, Operations Manager, Mercer Marsh Benefits
Christine joined Mercer as a team secretary in 1990. She says she found the job enjoyable and challenging and learned a great deal.

As she got married and had children, Christine spent a few years juggling her career with childcare, studies and hobbies. 

When both of her children were at high school, Christine was ready to really start developing in her career, and she eventually moved into a people focused operations role. Having studied psychology/counselling and undertaken voluntary youth work in her spare time, she was excited to be given the opportunity to develop and manage the Mercer Wealth business’ apprenticeship and work experience schemes, and to be part of a team developing a new behavioural training framework. 

“Throughout my career at Mercer, I have had supportive People Managers who always encouraged me to take on new challenges.” 

At the end of last year, Christine was offered a new role in Mercer’s Health business, managing the People agenda. As a keen runner who is very interested in holistic wellness, this was a brilliant opportunity, as the Health business are doing some innovative work in this space. 


Doris Gomez-Gonzales, 51, Community banker, Barclays

After being made redundant by the Post Office, Doris was volunteering at Camden Community Centre. They were near the local Job Centre, and it was there that Doris found a leaflet about the Barclays apprenticeship scheme. She liked the sound of it, so asked if she was able to apply.

Doris’s role is mainly cashiering. She helps customers pay money in and withdraw funds from their accounts. She also help them with loans and savings account opportunities. It’s quite similar to the work she used to do at the Post Office, but on a completely different system. Doris believes that getting to understand the new system is her biggest achievement since joining.

Capita, who are running the qualification part of the apprenticeship, visit her once a month to see how she’s doing. She’s working through a couple of manuals that will help broaden her knowledge of Barclays, and there are occasional maths and English tests to take. The leadership team in her branch are there if she ever needs help with anything.

Doris feels it’s an opportunity for people who thought they wouldn’t work again to have a career. She gets to share her experience and knowledge, rather than letting it go to waste.


Jeff Ruffell, 57, Essential Banking at Sunderland Contact Centre, Barclays

Jeff found out about Barclays and the Bolder apprenticeship scheme in 2015 and was encouraged to apply. He says he had to be pushed to apply and when he found out he had got an interview, he thought he wouldn’t have a chance because of his age.

Jeff’s journey
Working at Barclays has not only given Jeff the confidence to go back to work and take real pride in his job, it has also given him the confidence to talk about his experiences. Jeff left school in 1975, before working in the North East region canvassing for the home improvements sector (arranging appointments for kitchen and bathroom home improvements to both the retail sector and latterly direct to customers). Promotions followed, and he worked in sales management from the 1990s until 2009. 

Jeff has epilepsy which has been under medical control for most of his adult life, but in 2009 he had an epileptic fit while driving his car with his wife as a passenger, resulting in a bad accident. It meant that Jeff couldn’t drive for 12 months, preventing him from doing his job. When he did return to work, he worked on and off while he recovered. 

The severity of the accident caused Jeff to have a breakdown, and to make matters worse, the company Jeff worked for ceased trading in 2012, leaving him unemployed. Jeff felt his health wouldn’t enable him to secure a permanent career with a new employer which worsened his depression, but with the help of his doctor and counsellor he took steps to regain a positive attitude.

Jeff knew he didn’t want to work in sales after his accident, and wanted a job that played to his strengths – meeting, talking to and helping people. In his role as an Essential Banker, he is helping customers and resolving their financial queries – and he feels his life experience enables him to do this well, particularly with customers his own age. He can give them reassurance if/when they have digital concerns, as these are some of the skills he has recently learned.

Hopes for the future
Jeff feels that going back to work has given him ‘the old Jeff’ back, and helped him get into a much more positive space. The apprenticeship scheme is a new career for life and has enabled Jeff to go on holiday with his wife and family - something he hadn’t done for years. He hopes to continue long into the future.

“if I had any advice to give, it would be to send in that CV or go for that interview, even if you are older. Everyone has something invaluable to contribute, and age should not be a barrier to success.”