There is much fussing and blustering in the Daily Outrage over the finding that the UK workforce is largely made up of the over-50s. I am one of them. The commenters are mostly right in their assessment of the reasons behind this.
Employers don’t want employees (especially at my current level, ‘second assistant underling’ and below), who have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Schools currently develop that particular sense to the detriment of the common kind. Kids are taught that they are too important to do the menial stuff but the menial stuff is the entry level to every kind of work. Whatever workplace you join, the new guy is going to get all the jobs nobody else wants, until another new guy arrives.
You cannot start in a new field and get straight in as the manager. I tried. I have all the qualifications you can get. I have managed research staff, teaching staff, run HND, B.Sc, M.Sc and PhD courses and students. I have controlled large budgets and had to cope with stock control (microbial growth media and many analytical chemicals have a limited shelf life). I have taught courses on food safety, on cleaning and disinfection and more. So you’d think moving into food retail would be easy, right?
Two big problems. At interview, I was shown the stockroom. It’s not like the lab stockrooms I’m used to. It’s a shambles back there. I had no idea what I was looking at and it showed. The other problem was customers. I had not interacted, at work, with anyone below the level required to get an HND. These were students, which you could argue are customers of a sort, but they are customers who expect to be told what to do and who expect to learn something. Shop customers do not expect any such thing. Also, some of those customers seem barely aware of the world around them and dealing with them has required the development of tact – an alien concept and one which is proving difficult to master.
The sensible thing to do was to start at the shitty end of the scale, watch and learn and see how the stockroom functions, how the shop operates and how the managers work. Then, six months down the line, try the manager jobs again. Still looking to earn no more than I need, but with fewer hours and actual holidays!
It sounds like a big jump but I’ve done the management part. I just needed to learn how it applied in a non-science environment. Naturally, I’d be looking at manager jobs in a different shop. In this one, it would be difficult to shake the staff’s conception of me as ‘the jannie’. I think ‘assistant manager’ is as far as I’m interested in going. The main manager looks far too harassed all the time and he has nobody he can pass difficult customers on to.
Youngsters starting out would start at the same shitty end as me, work up to stockroom staff, maybe on to shop floor staff, up to supervisory and into management. It takes time and the starting wages are desperately bad. The hours can be social-life-destroying too. Shops are open at weekends and staff can’t turn up too hung over to work.
That’s just a matter of self-organisation. If I have to start early, I don’t have much to drink. If I have to start late, I don’t have more than I can clear from my head by noon. Full-on smoky-drinkies are only when I don’t have to work the next day (there have been few of these so far). I suppose I have an unfair advantage in that I’ve never really been very sociable…
There are other reasons for an ageing workforce. Pension raids by successive governments, a State pension that can barely feed a cat and you have to wait longer before you get it, savings rendered worthless by pitiful interest rates, ever-increasing fuel bills… it’s not hard to see why we oldies have to keep an income going. The Spites are of course out in the comments, although their number is declining –
Thats the trouble with the “baby boomers”, they won;t move over on anything and give the next generation a chance! – justmyopinion, Glasgow, United Kingdom, 3/2/2013 12:46
A chance to do what? Work, pay tax and complain that you’re paying our pensions once you have removed us from our jobs? Get stuffed. Oh, and get a job. Hint: if the managing director retires, you won’t get his job straight away.
I have no problem with people working up to state pension age but to carry and deny a youngster a job is selfish.Many older workers have been stupid taking on mortgages that run way past pension age. Shame on all you fools. – bigowl, sheffield, 3/2/2013 13:13
Let’s see. A mortgage is for 25 years usually, State pension age was 65 but is increasing, I couldn’t afford a mortgage until I was 40, so I would have just made it. Stupid? Taking on a mortgage before I could afford it would have been stupid. Oh, and about eight years ago I was made redundant as a lecturer, researcher and consultant in food and intestinal microbiology. So there you go, school leavers. There’s a job opening for you. As for my current position, there was a youngster working alongside me who blew it. I didn’t deny her a job. She did.
And housing too. This greedy, selfish me-first generation are loaded while the kids struggle to make ends meet. Will go down as the most rotten generation in British history, the generation that bankrupted a nation and sold the nation’s silver to Asia for their own enrichment. – Dino the pleb, Grommet, Wallis And Futuna, 3/2/2013 13:14
Loaded? I’m breadline here. And what about housing? I’m paying for it, not you. I’ll have whatever house I damn well please and if I should decide to take the floor out of a spare bedroom so I can grow a tree in the living room then I damn well will.
I’m not surprised. Arrogant employers want experienced people so those looking to get in the job market have no chance. – Noodle Doodle, Noodle Town, 3/2/2013 12:52
(sigh) There is no ‘job market’. Jobs are not something you buy into unless you fall for the ‘work from home, won’t cost you much’ scams. Wanting experienced people is not arrogant, it’s common sense. Training people from scratch is expensive.
It’s why I can’t get in as a manager in retail and why I am now getting the experience they wanted while on minimum wage. That, dear boy, is how it works. Getting the experience is not necessarily a fun thing and it’s never a well paid thing. Not even in science. You have to get through the penury of the PhD before you get that first temporary job. The first one (usually more than one) is always temporary unless you hit it very lucky indeed. The PhD is the start. You still have to prove you can run a project of your own.
I have no retail experience. None at all. Never even had a paper round. I am also over 50 and horribly overqualified for everything outside the very narrow specialisation I trained for. Why am I even bothering to get into retail? Because I see a large quantity of brown stuff heading towards a massive whirly thing in the near future and when it hits, there’ll be no point selling CDs or toy trains. Nobody will want expensive consultants in areas of research many people already regard as witchcraft.
People will cut back to the bare essentials. Food and clothes. That’s the area to be working in, and not as a highly paid area manager either. Nor as an easily replaced shelf stacker. Somewhere close enough to the action to be essential but not too expensive to keep.
No experience? Get some. Somewhere nearby there is a job at the shitty end of the stick that nobody keeps for very long. Get that job when it becomes available – it will. Don’t think of it as ‘the job’, think of it as ‘gaining experience’ and stick with it for at least six months before looking around for the next phase of your plan. Don’t just coast it either – especially if it’s your first job, you need that good reference to move to the next stage. Work at it. Watch and learn how those at the higher-paid jobs work. Then move up and pass the shitty stick on to Noodle Doodle above, who sees that employers want experience but who can’t be bothered getting any.
The drones will call me ‘selfish’ and ‘motivated by pure self interest’ but let me ask them this – who the hell else is going to look after me?
The state? Should I rely on those liars, cheats and parasites? I think I’d be better off selling ashtrays for motorbikes, handbrakes for canoes, crochet swimsuits and papier-mache teapots. If I were to let the State take over my life, guess what? The exact same drones would label me ‘dole scrounger’ and object to paying for my pension…
There comes a point with these people where whatever you do, you can’t win. Where no choice is the right choice. There is only one sensible response to that situation. Do what the hell you like and ignore the whining.
So, drones, I am over 50, I have taken an entry-level job none of you idle bastards would even have applied for anyway, and I plan to move on from there so it will be available for you should you decide that getting some experience might be a good idea after all.
Call me selfish, give me disapproving looks and hard stares if you want. I’ve been getting those since I was three and they still have no effect. If looking after myself and not relying on the State to look after me is selfish then yes. I am. I am an over-fifty still in work – in fact, back in work after a couple of years of ruination. I have the sort of job a school leaver would have taken, back in the days before they all expected to get an O level and become Prime Monster.
Selfish. And damn proud of it.