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Jane Ashurst, 59, makes career change during COVID-19 crisis

At 59, in March 2020 Jane Ashurst was made redundant, her dreams were further shattered when coronavirus hit and she could not attend several job interviews she had lined up. Instantly, those job interviews disappeared, but one call from Reed Specialist Recruitment set her on a path she never thought she would find herself on, into a job that she now wants to do until she retires. 

“At the start of the year I was working as a repairs scheduler placing electricians in jobs all over the UK. It was good work, and I was happy after having previously worked as a PA when I would be on call most weekends having to organise the diaries of directors.” Says Jane, “However, I was unfortunately made redundant early on in 2020.”

As a result of this redundancy, Jane applied for a number of roles, her valuable experience secured a number of interviews and face-to-face meetings were set up. However, it was at this time that coronavirus was spreading across the world and had made onto UK soil. Soon, UK businesses were addressing the chaos created by the virus and any new roles that were vacant were put on hold.

“Like everyone in my position I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get back into work in the near future.”

“But then I had a call from Reed Specialist Recruitment about a role with the NHS as a call handler. They suggested that I had the right skillset to transfer into the role and they were recruiting people to deal with the increased volume of calls coming into the service” says Jane.

After Jane had previously told REED that she was looking for work, one of their recruitment consultants, using the Keep Britain Working mentality of re-deploying people out of work from low to high-demand sectors, had matched her skills with this role. The role was one of 130 NHS call handler roles that had been created in East Anglia.

“It wasn’t something that I had considered before. I had never thought that working for the NHS, or in the public sector, would really suit me. However, I thought it was definitely worth trying, after all I needed an income coming in, and applied for the role.” Continues Jane.

Within a few days Jane had an interview over the phone and was fully vetted for the role through the REED fast-track remote screening service that she could do from home. In less than a week she began training. The intensive one-week course included answering non-urgent calls getting people from hospital to hospital – this was condensed from the usual four week programme for NHS call handlers.

After the intensive course had finished, Jane and her colleagues had the option to train for an additional two weeks – alongside working in their new roles – to progress to emergency medical dispatchers, learning the skills to talk someone through delivering a baby and give medical advice.

Jane continues, “The skills that we’re learning on these intensive courses and then the opportunity to put them into action is exciting. As well as working for the NHS, I have never worked in shift patterns before. It’s a complete change but one I’m enjoying. Working 10 or 12 hour shifts for four days straight and then having four days off, is something that I adjusted to really quickly and I’m really enjoying. When you’re off the clock, you’re off work. It’s not like in my past careers where I’ve been handling calls while on holiday.

The work-life balance is perfect and I feel like my mental health has improved.”

While her previous experience of work has been very varied, she has found that her skills to organise and mobilise people with the right knowledge of the local area have really helped. Her long-developed people skills to keep calm in a crisis have also assisted. But, this is still a big career switch for Jane and one that she hadn’t planned for before the crisis. However, she is enjoying it more than she could have expected, and the biggest proof of that is how quickly she has committed her future to the NHS with a keenness to keep developing for many years to come.

“I never thought about working for the NHS, but now that I’ve started I want to do this until I retire.” Jane confesses, “I’m really proud to be part of the Green Family and I’ve felt so welcomed by all of my colleagues too. People say that after 40 there are few career changes, but I’ve made a huge change just before my next landmark and at a time when jobs are at a premium. I couldn’t be happier, or feel happier in my new role. All I had to do was embrace the potential for change.”

If you are looking for a new career or a talented candidate to join your team, contact your nearest REED office.