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How can I change careers without a degree? Advice gratefully received

(7 Posts)
thriftymrs Thu 13-Feb-14 17:21:13

Sorry this is really long!

I would really appreciate some advice and ideas about how to change what I do for a living. This isn't really about "going back to work" as I have never not worked, but I wasn't sure where else to post this.

I have worked in the legal field all my working life, working my way up from solicitor's clerk to secretary, legal executive, senior PA and even becoming a legal affairs manager for 5 years (although that was 10 years ago). After several redundancies I am now back in a more standard PA/Legal Exec role and at the age of 50 I feel demoralised and not sure where to turn next. My job is ok but not fulfilling, i.e. no job satisfaction and no prospect of progression. I have been on a pay freeze for 7 years! I am lucky to work with nice people though, which is a bonus. It's just that I don't see this kind of work going anywhere, as technology progresses everyone seems able to type for themselves these days and whereas I used to be involved in working on complex and interesting documents, organising and minuting meetings, going to court etc nowadays I just get to do dull admin and the boring tasks no-one else wants to do. With a large mortgage, children etc, there is no way that I can afford to give up working in order to study.

So what to do? As said above, I don't have a degree, just a bunch of O levels. I am a very capable person and I think that is supported by the fact that I have never been out of work. Even after my redundancies I have always been able to find new work very quickly. Even though I don't feel confident inside, I am able to act in a confident manner in interviews and have been told that I impress in interviews. Every boss I have ever had has said that I have been a major asset - I always get given a lot more responsibility over and above the initial job spec, as employers seem to quickly recognise my capabilities. I am very creative and full of ideas and have implemented more efficient ways of doing things for my employers.

But employment agencies don't seem to be interested in me. Is this because I am 50? I have applied for jobs online on and off over the past year but never get to interview stage. Most of the time I never hear anything back and it feels like I'm just sending my CV into the ether. I've been told my CV is excellent and I think it reads quite impressively. I have a very good work ethic, never take time off sick, never late, very helpful and friendly attitude, discreet, loyal, great team player or can work autonomously etc. But if there is no future for me in PA work I am just not sure what to do. I am interested in lots of things (most things except finance/maths related stuff) but it just seems impossible to break into a new field where I don't have experience, don't have a degree and need to keep earning.

I do appreciate that I am more fortunate than many in that I have a job and a solid work history. But I have 16 more years of working life ahead of me and just dream of being able to do something I find fulfilling. I don't need to earn a fortune - �24/25k is what I need to get by. I can turn my hand to so many things, I'm flexible and open to any ideas. I could spare 1 day a week to do training/volunteering but just not sure which direction to go in.

I can't be the only person in this position and I would be eternally grateful if anyone who has been in a similar position could share their experiences or if anyone has any bright ideas.

Perhaps this is what they call a mid-life career crisis?

Thank you!!

Funnyfoot Thu 13-Feb-14 23:09:52

Have you though about doing an OU course to gain a degree?

I left school with a few GCSE and at the ripe old age of 36 with a full time job and 4 under 12's I have decided in my wisdom to do a OU degree in phycology shock

It works for me as I do it in the evenings or I go to the library (quieter). It will take me 6 years as I am doing it part time but it means I can gain my degree without giving up work.

joanofarchitrave Thu 13-Feb-14 23:19:19

Given your excellent work history, I would look around your current employer. Is there a job/area/team/function you would like to be involved with? Could you request a meeting with your boss and talk about your objectives, what you would like to be doing more of and how would that fit with your organisation's aims?

Externally, you have great admin, documentation and legal experience. One way is to use the skills you have to try to move sideways into a field you would like to work in. Where would you work if you could?

Also, never underestimate the network. Put the word out positively among friends, family, even at work, that you are looking forward, thinking about all the great stuff you have done so far and thinking about new challenges. Accept invitations (social ones, not 'networking events') and talk to people you meet about their work and what they like about it, how they got it, and tell them you are looking for your perfect job. You only need one job - someone out there will have the key to it.

TheFarSide Thu 13-Feb-14 23:47:47

The lack of a degree is not necessarily a problem: a degree might be rejuvenating on a personal level but won't necessarily help you change career unless it is in something highly vocational and in a shortage area. These days a lot of people have degrees and not all employers value them as much as you might think - many prefer experience.

A lot of admin staff in large companies are being deskilled and downgraded. You might get a more interesting admin role in a smaller organisation where you can be more involved. You could repackage yourself as a project manager, although you might have to shell out for an appropriate qualification (not as longwinded or expensive as a degree though).

Do you know what your ideal job looks like? Is it still admin or are you looking for a complete career change? I would recommend browsing the different sections on the National Careers Service website and then possibly booking a face to face interview with a careers adviser (all free of charge) to help you clarify your goals.

With regard to your CV, is it focused enough or would it be difficult for employers to understand exactly what you can offer them? Even if your CV is perfect, the job market is massively competitive at the moment and it is unfortunately quite normal not to get a response.

The age thing need not be a problem if you can promote yourself as a mature, reliable, experienced person. I managed to get myself registered at a local agency by forcing myself upon them. These places are often staffed by very young people who just can't deal with older clients. Once they realised I had certain in-demand skills (in my case shorthand, minute-taking, public sector experience) they started to take an interest.

Good luck.

Chunderella Fri 14-Feb-14 18:19:16

Your skills mean CAB would probably be very interested in you as a volunteer, and from then on you can often work yourself into an advisor position. The only problem is that few CAB advisor posts are 25k, they're usually a few grand less than that unless you want to do advice session management. But if you want to go down this road, you could think of getting your generalist advice certificate asap.

Chunderella Fri 14-Feb-14 18:22:01

Although saying that, I've just looked at the CAB jobs site and they do have some advice worker vacancies, non supervisory, at 24k or more.

thriftymrs Mon 17-Feb-14 10:06:46

Thanks everyone for taking the trouble to post ideas and advice, I'm genuinely grateful. There's quite a bit of food for thought here so I'm going to have a good think, make some notes and try and get myself motivated into positive action. I will definitely take steps to see a careers advisor. Ideally I would like a complete change but I know it might be difficult/impossible to earn the salary I need whilst going into a new field where I may have to start at the bottom. I am putting feelers out locally and speaking to friends who have their own businesses etc, asking them to keep their ears open in case they hear of anything suitable.

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