A product of the baby boom generation, read on and find out how one superboomer proved that there truly is no age to adventure and entrepreneurship.
Life after involuntary retirement
Having your job reorganised out from under you is no picnic at any age. But when you are fast approaching 60, it really can feel like the end of the employment road.
In some ways I was luckier than some. I had a B.Ed. degree in Art & Design and English and a wide and readily transferrable skill set. The redundancy package was more generous than it might have been. I could take my small occupational pension immediately, and the state pension was just months away. The cherry on the cake was leaving with a contract to continue producing my employer’s staff magazine. Maybe I should have felt more optimistic about my future than I actually did.
Don’t think about your age. It’s the same as when your kids were small.
I gave myself a good talking to. ‘After all,’ I scolded myself, ‘it’s not as if you’ve ever failed to make a living…’ And thinking back to the waitressing, the bar work, the mini-cab driving, the various admin jobs, the agency draughting and the private tutoring that had seen us through some of the harder times, I had to agree with myself. Indeed, I hadn’t, even when the children were small.
I’d even had a stab at my own business for a while after a friend had decided I was to be graphic designer in chief to his one-man engineering consultancy. Jaymac Graphics – now there was a thing. The embryonic business had been named after my initial and the Apple Mac my friend had plonked on my desk in the mid 1980s and I’d taught myself, from scratch, to use. The bits of design work I’d managed to pick up had kept the wolf from the door for a while then. I even traded successfully with a friend as ‘Mac Associates’ until recession forced us out of business and back onto the job market. Perhaps now was the time to resurrect the past…
We are too skilled to be pigeonholed
For a graphic designer, the first steps were hardly a chore. Revamp the old Jaymac Graphics logo, design and print some business cards and put together some basic stationery – no problem. Where difficulties did become evident, however, was when it came to marketing the new venture.
Why? Because I had spent the intervening years of gainful employment as a journalist and sub-editor, a writer for a publishing company and the publications manager in a university marketing department. By now it wasn’t just graphic design I was selling, but a whole gamut of writing and marketing experience as well. Not to mention the expertise in odd bits of software such as Photoshop and Illustrator I’d picked up along the way…
The problems first became apparent as I struggled to enter my business details on the plethora of free directory listings across the internet. Select one business category or sector and enter the details as, say, a graphic designer. Then try to enter the same contact details for journalism, writing, editing or marketing. The result? Instant rejection and a message saying, ‘that email address is already taken…’ So frustrating.
I then hit the same dilemma building my business website. (Yes, I did it myself – web stuff isn’t as hard as you think. The site’s not terribly whizzy for these days, perhaps, but it still does the job). How to explain how the writing and the graphic design dovetails into one, coherent business? How to get across my expertise in both? And how to weave in all the other peripheral skills?
Whether or not I succeeded you can, perhaps, judge for yourself.
Eight-plus years later, while I’ll never be a millionaire, the fact that Jaymac Graphics is still ticking over means I must have succeeded well enough. And these days I am increasingly thankful for the odd pensions which allow me to ‘give back’ by donating my expertise to a wide variety of local charities, pressure groups and good causes.
So, if you are ever looking for a former nursery nurse, draughtsman, driver and photographer with a teaching degree in Art & Design and English and 30 years-plus experience as a graphic designer, writer and editor – well, you’ll know where to come.
Like many people around my age we are redefining what retirement is all about. Our generation is not satisfied with just sitting around waiting for time to pass. We’re breaking the rules and making our latter years mean something.
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