Former credit controller Elizabeth Forbes tells us how her original career no longer suited her once she’d started a family, asks whether it’s right to expect 16 year-olds to make life-altering decisions and explains why she feels now is the right time to pursue her passion for sewing, soft furnishings and interior design.
Elizabeth Forbes of Elisheba Designs
Facebook: Elisheba Designs
Elizabeth started her career in credit control until she took time off to bring up her three children. On her return to work, she realised that the lifestyle attached to her original career didn’t fit in with being a parent so she did an Access course before going to university to study English and Culture as a mature student, funding herself with a part-time sewing and wardrobe mistress business and temp work.
When she completed her degree, and backed up by her own experiences as a child, she realised she wanted to support young people who had had a difficult upbringing and started work in personal development for young people, including young offenders.
Elizabeth then transitioned into career guidance, working across schools in Hertfordshire, before becoming a careers and employability consultant at a university.
Having in the past three years taken on more sewing commission work, and her children having grown up and left home, Elizabeth recently started her own business in interior design and soft furnishings.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- How the lifestyle attached to a particular career might not always fit as we get older and start a family
- It may not be until later in life that we want to pursue higher education, rather than on leaving school
- How a hobby can turn into a business, but why it might not be the right path for you
- How your perspective determines what you do and don’t find hard
- Why 15 and 16 year olds shouldn’t be expected to make decisions that could fundamentally affect the course of their life, and how they’re often still in the same position after another five years of education
- Why, depending on our personal and financial circumstances, sometimes we need to wait until the “right” time to transition to a particular career
- The value of looking around you at people you admire and carrying out a “self-audit”
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
- MSc Integrative Counselling and Coaching, University of East London
- YC Hertfordshire
- Exercises to help you find career happiness
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 39: Career guidance for young people and interior design - with Elizabeth Forbes
Jeremy Cline 0:00
I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:18
Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. This week's guest is Elizabeth Forbes. Having spent most of her career as a guidance counsellor for young people, she's got some really interesting insights into what it is that we expect of young people in terms of making decisions about their future and their career when they're 15 or 16, and whether it's really right that we should be expecting them to make those decisions. Having said that, Elizabeth has recently started her own business pursuing her own passion, which is interior design and soft furnishings. And we spend a little bit of time talking about why it was that she didn't pursue that until comparatively later in life. Here's the interview with Elizabeth Forbes.
Jeremy Cline 1:02
Hi, Elizabeth, welcome to the show.
Elizabeth Forbes 1:03
Hello. Glad to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:05
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us what it is that you do?
Elizabeth Forbes 1:09
My name is Elizabeth Forbes. Previously until Christmas, I was a careers and employability consultant for a London University. At the moment. I'm just starting a business in interior design and soft furnishings, which is something I've done on and off throughout my life.
Jeremy Cline 1:27
You mentioned previously when we were in contact that you've kind of thrown everything in the air and seen where it lands on a couple of occasions! Can you tell us first about what your original career was, and what led you to throw it all up in the air first time, and where did it land?
Elizabeth Forbes 1:42
As a young person from my teens, I had left school early and went into finance work - working for Lloyds TSB group. Had a career in credit control until I had my children. I took a little bit of time off, to stay at home with the three children I'd had in quick succession, and then went back into credit control and finance-related work and realised I really didn't like it. Didn't have the lifestyle that went with it anymore now that I was a working parent and just decided that I had no future in that.
Jeremy Cline 2:16
When you say the lifestyle - what do you mean? What was the lifestyle of a credit controller that didn't fit in with the lifestyle of a mother?
Elizabeth Forbes 2:22
I think it was that originally as a young person I'd worked in London, and I lived in London. So I worked quite long hours, I was part of quite a big team, you know - working for a big organisation. There was a lifestyle attached to that. So if we were working longer hours because of month end totals, straight to the pub and out for dinner - and when I went back into credit control working as a parent, it was much more difficult to me to be involved in the lifestyle that went with the team and the organisation, and because I always had to get back to collect my children from wherever they were. So it does make a big difference to your attitude towards work when you're a parent.
Jeremy Cline 3:02
Did you think at any stage of seeing whether you could carry on what you were doing, but in your sort of new lifestyle? Or was it not going to work?
Elizabeth Forbes 3:11
I did for many years, actually. I think for about five years, I did continue to work in finance, and was juggling just being a parent and everything that goes with that. In the five years, my circumstances changed in that I got divorced, and obviously, that poses additional demands on who you are and your time and how you juggle work and life. And it was at that point that I realised I needed to forge some type of career for myself, and that it wasn't going to be in credit control. So as things were changing anyway, I felt like everything had been thrown up in the air and was going to land somewhere because of the circumstances. So I just decided to go with the flow and have a think about where I wanted to be. That caused me to go back into education. So that's when I did my first degree. I did an access course at a local college for one year. I applied to university, got in, deferred because there were some personal issues I was still dealing with because of going through a divorce. And then after I deferred for a year, I went, actually and did my English and Cultural Studies degree, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And it was the right time for me to do that. I think I was about 35 then.
Jeremy Cline 4:22
When you first decided that you were going to go to university, how far along the road were you in terms of knowing what you were going to do when you got to the other end?
Elizabeth Forbes 4:33
I wasn't there actually. I thought getting some education would be a really good idea because I knew I wasn't a stupid person and had the capacity to learn, and knew there was a little bit more that I could be doing with myself. I'd left school early, and even with hindsight, I don't think I would have made anything of my education at that age. I just wasn't in the right place. But in my 30s, I was thinking much more seriously about myself and a career and what I was capable of. So that did really change my perspective on education. I did think that I would probably want to do something that would enable me to work around my children - you know, having a family of three children. So I knew I didn't want to go into a career that would see me out of the house for 12 hours a day, because that wasn't going to be possible. So I did think about teaching but then quickly realised I actually didn't want to teach. At the beginning I wasn't really sure.
Jeremy Cline 5:28
Okay, so what made you choose the course that you ended up doing?
Elizabeth Forbes 5:32
Just a real interest in the English language, remembering that I'd been quite good at it when I was at school. Having a look at the course - it was combined with cultural studies and history, which I did strands of throughout my degree, which enabled me to study culture, not only here in UK, but you know, world culture. It was a very broad degree that wasn't too reliant on somebody who was very well read or had a real interest in literature. Much more about English and communications, much more about looking at culture and people and what makes them say and do and write what they do.
Jeremy Cline 6:08
And was it a full time degree that you did?
Elizabeth Forbes 6:10
It was. It was a three year full time degree, which I did quite locally.
Jeremy Cline 6:15
How did you manage that with having three kids in terms of the basics, like money coming in to pay for food, and all that sort of thing?
Elizabeth Forbes 6:26
All of my life I've been able to sew. I'm a creative person, and I've always made things. And when my children were babies, and I was at home, I did quite a lot of that sort of thing when they were asleep or late at night, and I had commissions from people who saw things in my home that they enjoyed or saw things I'd made for the children, or costumes I'd made for children's shows and things. I had a variety of little sort of part-time commissions, I worked for a local theatre as their wardrobe mistress, I did costumes for a National Theatre group, a children's theatre group, and I used to do the costumes for their showcases and you know domestics soft furnishings to commission. So that did help and keep the wolf from the door. I did temp work because I had obviously finance and administrative skills. Somehow managed to pay the mortgage and the bills and feed us all and it worked!
Jeremy Cline 7:22
How did the sewing work come about? I mean it's a hobby, but how do you get to the stage where people are starting to pay you for that sort of thing? And how did you find the jobs as wardrobe mistresses?
Elizabeth Forbes 7:33
I actually asked for those jobs as wardrobe mistresses through contacts I had. I knew about children's theatre groups and I knew that they did showcases so I actually spoke to the directors of these theatre groups and said I have sewing skills, I work well with children, I find it easy to have a rapport with children and obviously with yourselves, if you'd like me to come along, see what you're doing, possibly make some costumes for these shows I'm really happy to do that. They gave me a trial and said you're a really handy person to have around! And yes, please. And the local theatre in Hitchin, I worked with the youth theatre there and was the wardrobe mistress for the youth theatre and their productions.
Jeremy Cline 8:12
And what about selling stuff to other people? How did that come about?
Elizabeth Forbes 8:14
A little bit of entrepreneurship. When my children were babies and my youngest child was about two, I did City and Guilds interior design and soft furnishing at what was then Hitchin college. I think I had two children at primary school and my youngest child used to go to playgroup and I would go down to the college and manage to do the City and Guilds for a year. I think that gave me the confidence to tackle bigger projects and do upholstery and other commissions. It was sort of talking about what I was doing with like friends and family and people wanting to have a look and then asking me to do similar things. And then I started showcasing at local craft fairs and school craft fairs and that actually gained quite a bit of work, I'd do handmade dolls with embroidered faces and cushions and small things that I could take to craft fairs. And it was very well received. So I did that for quite a while. It was very easy to do that while I was at home with young children like a bit of temp work, doing my degree and sewing and making things.
Jeremy Cline 8:27
Was there any stage during this time whilst you're doing degree and whilst you were doing this work that you thought maybe I could do this, maybe this could be my new career?
Elizabeth Forbes 9:27
I did, and I really enjoyed it. But my concern was always that if you're working to commission, there's a danger that the work might dry up. And I definitely wanted something that was salaried because I had responsibilities for the household, the finances, I needed to pay a mortgage and I decided that a salaried job was what I needed to get.
Jeremy Cline 9:49
If someone had told you that the work wouldn't dry up, would you have considered doing that instead?
Elizabeth Forbes 9:56
Jeremy Cline 9:56
Do you think you still would have done?
Elizabeth Forbes 9:58
I think yes, I would have pursued it. But, you know, our personal circumstances certainly dictate what we're prepared to do work wise. I didn't want to have any risk. Yeah I was really, really confident, and I just thought, you know, if I can I'll take on this mortgage and it will all work. And it did. I did. And it did all that. But there was another part of me - I think we all have a situation where, you know, we may have a talent or a flair for something, we really enjoy using that, but that's not the only thing we want to do. I've always known that I'm quite a people person. And if you're sitting at home in a workshop, making up copious amounts of things for other people, you know, I realised that I really enjoyed the negotiation and the talking to the clients about what they wanted and how they wanted it done. But then I would spend days by myself in a workshop and that sometimes felt a little bit isolating. So I knew I also, you know, needed to have something where I had lots of contact with customers, clients, people I was supporting, however that was going to be. So it is getting the balance right and I did sort of have a think about who I am and the skills I've most enjoyed using, and realised that at that stage in my life, it wouldn't be enough for me to just be making stuff up at home by myself.
Jeremy Cline 11:16
So where did you get to then once you'd finished your degree or whilst you were doing your degree?
Elizabeth Forbes 11:22
Whilst I was doing my degree, I had increasingly become interested in what happens with young people when things go very wrong for them. So for example, if a child is having a difficult time in their family and at school, and then by the time they hit their teens, things are still going wrong for them. They can get into all sorts of trouble, their education suffers, and I just became interested in safety nets for those children. So I decided to do some work experience with children, schools and families. I did some work experience with the local probation services based in Stevenage, and got to shadow court welfare officers and probation service advisors.
Jeremy Cline 12:08
Where did that interest come from?
Elizabeth Forbes 12:10
Like a lot of young people, I had a difficult time growing up. And I left school early, much to the horror of the school, but the situation was I was in meant that I was so ready to leave school and just to work. I just thought I wonder if there had been different people around me if things had been different. I left school without qualifications, because I left before I should have done. I think a personal experience is what initially started the interest. So I just thought, what are the safety mechanisms now? How does it work? If you identify that child is really struggling, what happens? So I decided to find out about it. After doing the work experience, I realised I couldn't do anything related to the judiciary, the jobs were too tough. I didn't have the personal resources to deal with that. I would have struggled to switch off and to leave those difficult situations at work. So I had a look around and realised that there were lots of different ways of supporting young people and helping them and guiding them without being part of the judicial system. So I looked for opportunities there.
Jeremy Cline 13:13
Sounds like you're kind of looking to be the sort of person that you'd wished you'd had when you were at school?
Elizabeth Forbes 13:20
When I was at school, the people around me were kind, and I think they tried their best to keep me there, but only at school. Outside of school that wasn't really happening. So perhaps if there had been somebody perhaps in the family that had made things different. That's where the original idea came from, was I wondered if the circumstances were different now - 20, 30 years on from when I was a child growing up - and that's where it came from. And then I realised that there were sort of all sorts of things going on, and I was particularly interested in the education aspect of it. So I had a look at what was going on locally and at that time, North Herts college had the funding to provide programmes for young offenders, for young people who had never worked - so had been out of education for five years or more and never had a job. I just went and asked for a job within those teams.
Jeremy Cline 14:18
What are they looking for? Did you have to do any additional qualifications in order to get this sort of job?
Elizabeth Forbes 14:23
Not Initially, I went to North Herts college at Stevenage because I knew that's where the provision was. I asked to speak to the manager of the services, who was I think, a little taken aback that this anonymous woman just turned up and said, I'd really like to have a chat with you about what you do. And then I offered my services and actually did secure 20 hours a week working on personal development with young people who had a variety of different issues that they're working through. I just shadowed and worked alongside other professionals and was employed essentially as a trainer.
Jeremy Cline 14:54
By the college?
Elizabeth Forbes 14:55
By the college. That was when I first finished my English and Cultural Studies degree.
Jeremy Cline 14:59
So do you think they saw in you that made you them want to try you out?
Elizabeth Forbes 15:03
They were asking me questions about how I would deal with young people in different situations. And perhaps they just felt I had the right personal qualities at that time. Obviously, if you're working with young people who are perhaps difficult, you need to not be a particularly reactive person, you need to have some strength that you are who you are and your behaviour is not going to be altered by their behaviour but have empathy too. So I was asked us a series of questions about how to deal with different situations. They decided that they would give me some hours to work alongside the team and that quickly grew.
Jeremy Cline 15:39
So it grew from the 20 hours you mean?
Elizabeth Forbes 15:41
Before I knew it I was working full time and I was working across different programmes. I was doing personal development work with some of the young offenders, some of the young people who had been permanently excluded from schools in the county. I was also working with mature and older adults who were referrals from Job Centre Plus. And again, it was just supporting them and some confidence building, which is part of the personal development, helping them to understand some of the IT that they perhaps had missed out on because of not being at school for a long time, things like that.
Jeremy Cline 16:17
This sounds like it was unbelievably hard. Is that a fair description? The sort of the sort of people you were working for working with?
Elizabeth Forbes 16:27
I don't know about unbelievably hard. You know, human beings have a variety of different issues that they can be working through at any point in their life. The important thing is always to just see them as a human being first. The vulnerabilities will come through and you deal with them as and when they're evident. I don't think it's unbelievably hard. I think it's your perspective on who you're working with, which determined whether that would be particularly difficult or not. The things I've always found the most hard was when the resources were so limited that that we felt we couldn't really impact in a positive way. So that was a hard thing to deal with.
Jeremy Cline 17:02
Was it something that you found that you were able to leave at work? Or was it something that became a bit of all-consuming?
Elizabeth Forbes 17:09
No, it was definitely something I could leave at work. My remit didn't extend to supporting them with, you know, homelessness or if they had any problems with substance abuse - I only referred on in those circumstances. So my job was really personal development and making them feel more confident and building a good trust relationship. And then beyond that I was referring on to other professionals to deal with some of the harder issues to deal with with some of the young people I worked with/
Jeremy Cline 17:40
So you mentioned that it's gone up from 20 hours to full time, how long were you in this role for?
Elizabeth Forbes 17:45
just over a year, I really, really enjoyed it. And I think it had been about a year when I saw an opportunity via Hertfordshire educational authority to train in careers guidance. So there was an opportunity to apply for a job, and if you weren't a qualified careers guidance practitioner, you were allowed to go to university for one year to do the masters in guidance/
Jeremy Cline 18:10
And what was it that attracted you about that?
Elizabeth Forbes 18:12
It was just gaining a qualification and actually having the theoretical background to the work I was doing. I felt I was already very much immersed in guidance work, even though I was a trainer and I still had programmes that I had to help students of all ages to get through but the guidance work was something that seemed to be happening anyway. So the opportunity to qualify and train to do that was actually something I wanted, and I've achieved it and I got it.
Jeremy Cline 18:41
And where was that?
Elizabeth Forbes 18:42
I actually trained at London Southbank University that was the nearest university that offered the masters in guidance. It's still available. I think it's now at University of East London. I think Nottingham Trent offer it. So it's still a qualification that's out there. So I worked for what was Herts Career Service that became Connexions. I was at university full time, I had to work for the organisation during the break between the semesters, and did the masters and guidance course in a year. And I did a portfolio which was a professional qualification for the Career Development Institute, so I did that alongside it.
Jeremy Cline 19:22
And then after you finished that qualification did you stay with connexions or did you move on to something else?
Elizabeth Forbes 19:27
I stayed with them for a while and worked across schools in Hertfordshire. I was working with children year nine - 14 or 15 - up to sixth formers in schools in Hertfordhire and colleges, and did occasional drop in work at job centres.
Jeremy Cline 19:45
And so what sort of work were you doing? What is careers guidance for a 14 year old?
Elizabeth Forbes 19:49
It doesn't really happen anymore. Well, it doesn't happen anymore in the same way as it used to because the funding changed and schools don't have people that come in and do this anymore. But generally I was seeing individual students at school and mostly in year 11. So before they were about to make decisions about Sixth Form apprenticeships, going to work, training.
Jeremy Cline 20:12
So this is 15, 16 year olds?
Elizabeth Forbes 20:14
Yeah. 15, 16 year olds. Just having a chat with them about, you know, where they were at, how things were going, what their plans were, and perhaps, you know, getting them to think about a variety of different options.
Jeremy Cline 20:26
Did anyone know at that age?
Elizabeth Forbes 20:27
Some. Few young people really know where they're heading at that age, and the majority stay in school and continue in that way. For some young people for whom school hasn't been particularly productive I was trying to encourage them to look at opportunities outside of their school. It was really interesting work. Like I say, it doesn't really happen anymore in the same way. The only children that get that level of support now are children who are at risk. The funding isn't there to allow schools you know, to refer all of their year 11 to see a guidance practitioner and have a half an hour chat, and perhaps produce an action plan and identify a few things for them to research and then perhaps send them some information to back it up.
Jeremy Cline 21:11
At the risk of playing devil's advocate here and this probably goes back to a comment from a previous guest on this podcast who said that when you're looking at 16 year olds and 18 year olds making decisions about what they do next, you're basically asking children to make decisions, which may or may not affect the future course of their life. As you get older, you kind of realise that those decisions don't necessarily need to have a fundamental course, fundamental effect on the course of your life, although they can. Did you ever get a feeling that it was kind of too early for these kids to be having this sort of conversation?
Elizabeth Forbes 21:44
Absolutely. There was a big part of me that thought it was - that it is - absolutely ridiculous to put young people at 15, 16 in a position where they have to make decisions that could potentially affect their working life forever. There are some things it's really difficult to come back from and some of the decisions that can be made at say 16 can actually stay with you forever.
Jeremy Cline 22:09
And I guess it's a decision whether or not to continue with education that's going to be one of those decisions, probably the most important one.
Elizabeth Forbes 22:15
Yeah, I mean, now the school leaving age has changed. So they raised the school participation age to 18, so now all young people 18 and under are expected to be either in work with training or still in education. But still, I think the whole system actually carries children along with this expectation that they're going to stay in, in education. And then I certainly noticed it - because I've been working in universities for the last six, seven years - the young people I was seeing in university at 18, 19, 20 were in the same position they were had been in at age 15, because nothing had actually changed for them. They'd stayed in education and done their level 3 qualification - so they'd done their GCSEs, A-levels or B-Tech qualifications in sixth forms or colleges and then moved on to university. And then the conversations we were having were what are you going to do when you finish this qualification, and they were in no better position than they'd been at 15. They still were completely unsure about what was out there. They'd never really had an opportunity to reflect on who they were, what their skills were, which skills they particularly enjoyed using which skills were the most relevant to different areas of work. I felt like in all the years that I'd been working initially with children in schools, then for 12 years, I worked with 16 to 18 year olds, and then for six years I worked with, you know, in higher education, so with undergraduates, postgraduates and graduates so alumni I was working with and supportive as well - I didn't feel that anything had changed particularly. Young people haven't really been encouraged to think about themselves in terms of their potential at work. I'm hoping that it's changing, but it certainly hasn't changed.
Jeremy Cline 24:02
I wonder whether part of that is just lack of experience, lack of life experience, lack of doing things, lack of the work experience, because you know, you only really know whether or not you'd like something, if you give it a go. And if you don't try things, you don't necessarily know what's even out there.
Elizabeth Forbes 24:20
Yeah, exactly. Lots of courses do have built in work experience. I know that it's still the case that schools do encourage children when they're about 15, so year 10, to have a week's work experience. It's not a very realistic experience if they just go and shadow somewhere for a week or two. There needs to be ongoing work experience. I certainly spoke to many, many students in higher education, so undergraduate students who are perhaps in their final year, whose only work experience had been the one week that they shadowed somebody in a bank when they were 15. It's absolutely crazy to them say, so what do you want to do yourself when you've finished your degree? They have no reference point, they have nothing to look back on and say I really enjoyed working in that particular environment. I know I really like being part of the team or I know I really like taking the lead, because that's not really happened for them. University education is certainly changing, and even the university that I was working at in the time I was there - they were working very hard to build work experience into the degree programmes, and there are now degree apprenticeships, so that's really helping. So things are changing. And employers are increasingly having some say in the content of degree programmes.
Jeremy Cline 25:42
When you went from working with 16 to 18 year olds to working with undergraduates, was that a similar type of work or was it quite a different role?
Elizabeth Forbes 25:53
It was very similar type of work. I think the job title changed from careers advisor to careers consultant and obviously, like I said, you know, working with young people who are doing their first degree, they were very much in the same place they'd been at when they were at school. Obviously, degrees are available to people of all ages, and I certainly worked with quite a few people who were having a career change - they were going to university to prepare themselves for a career change. I did do quite a lot of work with our alumni and people who are coming back for postgraduate study, which was often work related, and even supported people who were doing their, you know, PhDs, doctoring, professional services, things like that. There was a variety of people I worked with.
Jeremy Cline 26:41
And so is it right to say that those people who had come back to university to do these qualifications had a much clearer idea of where their career was going than the sort of 20, 21 year olds?
Elizabeth Forbes 26:52
Mostly, but not always. The universities do work quite hard to hang on to their students. So the universities do offer incentives for their new graduates to come back to the university to do postgraduate study. And I certainly worked with many postgraduate students who hadn't really thought about work and they just moved from school into a sixth form or a college onto a university, and on to a postgraduate course because they were encouraged to do so by the institution. That's a bit of a problem I think, for lots of young people - that the school, the college, the University are quite keen to hang on to them, and they don't really experience work and don't really think of themselves outside of being a student.
Jeremy Cline 27:42
So let's talk about your most recent transition - interior design. And perhaps you can talk a bit about how that came up. How did that happen that you were going from working in career guidance at universities to becoming an interior designer?
Elizabeth Forbes 27:54
I've always for my own pleasure made things for my home and for other people's homes. Because I can sew, I've allowed myself over the last three years to take on more commission work and realised that it was the right time for me to actually not work in a London University anymore and suffer the trials of getting to and from my place of work - which could often be two hours each way - and work from home. Although I'm still interested in perhaps consulting in guidance work, at the moment I'm actually focused on commission work for interior design and soft furnishings. Mostly initially through my children being adults, and having lots of friends who are setting up home and asking me for help with certain things because they're encouraged to do so by my children, they say 'my mum'll know all about that! Why don't you ask her for some help?' It sort of grew, and by word of mouth I had quite a few people asking me to do different things. I realised I really enjoyed it and wanted to do more of it. In the last year of my work at the university, I'd actually reduced my working hours so that I could combine both, and then felt it wasn't fair, either to myself or to the university. So in December I left, and am now working from home full time.
Jeremy Cline 29:17
So are you making pieces for people or are you designing rooms, so going to someone's living room and designing the whole look of the thing?
Elizabeth Forbes 29:27
Both. A lot of the work I've been doing so far has been renovating different pieces or making certain pieces that people want, but I have started showing different design ideas to different people and saying this could be potentially be a really good revamp for you, an opportunity to do something different. So I started doing some drawings and showing them so I'm quite happy at the moment that is the way I'm going to go, that I'll be able to go into people's properties and actually give them design ideas and potentially do up whole rooms and take it from there.
Jeremy Cline 30:04
Do you see yourself doing further qualifications?
Elizabeth Forbes 30:07
Not at the moment, I don't. In my adult life, I feel I've had a sequence of events that have caused me to really push myself often, you know, take myself out of my comfort zone and try something different. At the moment I'm quite happy to do my interior design work, to do my soft furnishings work. Because I can sew I do a lot of bridal alterations and special occasion wear as well. I'm really happy to just be busy with all of these things at the moment.
Jeremy Cline 30:34
And how are you marketing yourself?
Elizabeth Forbes 30:36
I'm not really at the moment. I do have a Facebook page, which certainly needs some work, and I will get round to that. I haven't got round to that yet. But this time, I don't feel in any great hurry. I've decided I'm allowed to take the pressure off for the moment.
Jeremy Cline 30:49
You mentioned that your kids are referring you to the people, is that sort of the main source of your business at the moment?
Elizabeth Forbes 30:55
I've certainly had a lot of work come through them. The few bits and pieces that I've put on my Facebook page has actually attracted attention as well. So I've had a number of commissions that have come from people that have seen my Facebook page.
Jeremy Cline 31:07
And going back to the objections that you had to doing this when you had your first career change. So I think there were two that you mentioned in particular, one was the cash flow risk - doing things on a commission worrying that the work was going to dry up - and the other was the working environment, you know, it being sort of quite lonely just staying in a workshop, that sort of thing. Can you talk about what's changed in terms of both of those?
Elizabeth Forbes 31:35
Financially, I'm in a very, very different situation now. My three children are now all in their 30s, live independently with their partners and do not rely on me in any way financially. I paid off my mortgage some years ago - I'd had a mortgage since the age of 19, because I married very young - so my mortgage was actually finished quite early, even though I'd slowed it down when I was newly divorced, because I couldn't afford it at first. So my financial situation is very, very different. Obviously, the first time that I had a complete change, the financial situation was still really important. But now it isn't, I'm quite comfortably off now, through my working life. I'm fine. I think emotionally, I'm so much stronger. I don't really necessarily need to be surrounded by people and a team and have that sort of encouragement and support. So I think it's changed in that I'm much happier to work by myself. That could be an age thing. It could just be a maturity thing. I still really enjoy seeing clients and working with them to find out what they want and how they want it to be. And as I said, there is still a part of me that thinks I may well do some guidance or careers consultancy work, perhaps as a freelance, but I'm not sure about that at the moment. It's very early days.
Jeremy Cline 33:04
Yes, Yes, for sure. You only started in December. But it's interesting, there's a few people I've spoken to who have said, Oh, January.
Elizabeth Forbes 33:11
Yeah, it was January. So I finished my job at the end of December.
Jeremy Cline 33:15
We're recording this in February, so we're talking very early days. But no, it's interesting that I've spoken to a few people who've said they wanted to work from home and do whatever. But they did find it quite lonely. And so they do make sure that they do have something else which does involve, you know, whether it's going into an office or just having regular contact with people. Well, I suppose you don't know, at this stage, how it's going to pan out, you're thinking of doing the consulting on the side?
Elizabeth Forbes 33:43
I have an opportunity to join the London Careers Group that serve the main London universities and they have freelance advisors, so I've registered with them. And I'm just in the process of getting that set up. If they're short it'd be as a freelance advisor so if there's something that's going on and they need additional advisors, I could well be on their list and they could call me up and I could do some work that way. I've also just started to do a little planning around the local groups in the community that may benefit from or want to have some guidance services. So that might be targeting perhaps young women who are on a career break having their family when they're ready to think about going back to work. It could be that they'll want to speak to somebody about making plans for that and perhaps rethinking what they've been doing. It's something I've had experience of before I did work on women's returners courses when I worked for North Hertfordshire College a few years ago. And obviously, as a higher education advisor I've beem working with adults for years. So that's something I'm quite interested in doing as well. And there's a variety of ways of actually marketing myself to these groups of people.
Jeremy Cline 34:49
You could end up with quite a portfolio career.
Elizabeth Forbes 34:52
I could! Like I say, it's early days. I'm very conscious that I'm in a transition period at the moment. I'm just finding my way after leaving work. Officially I left work on the fourth of January.
Jeremy Cline 35:04
So notwithstanding that this is early days, where do you think or where do you hope things might go in the future, either with the career guidance consulting or with the interior design or with something else?
Elizabeth Forbes 35:17
At the moment, I'm really hoping that the interior design thing works for me. At the moment, I'm quite happy to have left the careers guidance and consultancy work. I don't know that I might feel a need to go back into that in the next few months. I'm not sure yet. I feel like I owe it to myself to actually do something I really want to do for a while. I've worked quite hard for quite a long time. I'm 58 this year, and I left school at 16. So apart from having a break when I had three children and having a break when I went back into education, I've worked pretty hard and I feel that I actually deserve a little bit of time to try something that I've probably wanted to do most of my life.
Jeremy Cline 35:57
Elizabeth Forbes 35:58
So I'm gonna allow it! I'm allowing this to happen.
Jeremy Cline 36:01
Brilliant. Have you had anything particular which has really helped you through these transitions? People, books, courses - anything that you've just found as a really useful resource?
Elizabeth Forbes 36:15
I have read widely, and obviously because of my job, I've read an awful lot of literature that's meant to be self-help literature about building your rainbow and building your career and making all these things happen. I can't give any specific publications - what's worked for me repeatedly, is to have a look around me and think about the people I admire, the qualities I admire in them, what they do, how they do it, and measure that and think, is there anything from that that I could take or adjust and build in myself? And I'm a real believer in self auditing from time to time, having a think about yourself, what you enjoy, who you are, what gives you a real sense of purpose, what you're interested in, the skills you've developed throughout your education, your working life. Even within your family and your friends - who are you? Are you the go to person? Have a think about who you are and think about the skills you've banked, the ones you must enjoy using, and think in terms of where you want to be using those skills. I think that's certainly something that's really helped me from time to time.
Jeremy Cline 37:30
And if anyone wants to see some of your designs, can they go into your Facebook page and have a look?
Elizabeth Forbes 37:35
They certainly can. I certainly need to do some work on it and put some more stuff on there. I need to spend some time doing that. My Facebook page is Elisheba Designs, and there is evidence of some of the work I've done some of the commissions I've worked on on there.
Jeremy Cline 37:51
Brilliant. I'll link to that in the show notes. Well Elizabeth, thank you very much. It's been really interesting hearing your story. Best of luck for the future. Now even though the focus of this podcast is about changing career a little bit later in life - sort of midlife and so on - I was really struck by what Elizabeth was saying about education for young people, and particularly what she was saying about seeing 21 year old undergraduates at university who were mentally as far as work goes effectively in the same place as they were when they were 16 year old school leavers. They still didn't really know what they wanted to do, and had no real idea what the next step should be for them. And for me, what this really highlighted and it's something that's come up in previous podcast episodes is the importance of work experience, and I suppose for want of a better phrase life experience - how you just don't really know what you like until you've had a chance to be exposed to lots of different things. In relation to Elizabeth's story, it was really interesting how she described that now was the right time for her to pursue her passion in interior design, aged 58 and it kind of left me feeling a little bit conflicted. I've recently been thinking quite a lot about this school of thought which says that if your dream life looks like xyz, really you should be taking steps now to make that a reality rather than waiting until the right time, because the right time just might never happen, or, frankly, we might never even get there. But for Elizabeth, she clearly felt that she needed to wait. She needed to wait until her circumstances were different and her own outlook was different. She mentioned how she was now in a place mentally where she felt better able to work by herself rather than needing to be around people in the workplace. And her own circumstances had evolved and had to have evolved before she was happy to make this change and pursue her passion. I'm not quite sure what the lesson to take is from this other than I think it's probably a good thing that my own beliefs - I had this sort of unshakable belief that you know, if you wanted to go and live by the coast so you had a view the sea then you should make that happen now rather than wait until some future event. And that kind of belief has been slightly challenged by what Elizabeth was saying, and I think that's probably a good thing and something which I'll certainly reflect on myself. Show Notes for this episode, including a link to where you can find Elizabeth's Facebook page are on the website, changeworklife.com/39. And whilst you there - I mentioned this in a past couple of episodes - I've put together a couple of exercises which are really designed to help you work out what you might want from your career, if you're in a place where you know that you need to change but you just don't really know where to start. I've got a couple of exercises, which are designed to give you a starting point to work out what it is that historically you've enjoyed and what you might enjoy going forward, and also how that might fit in with what you would like your future life to look like. So if that's of interest to you, on the website, look at the tab at the top of the website for 'Find career happiness'. That'll take you to a link there. You will find a form to fill in and to get the exercises. So do check it out. We have another great interview next week on the Change Work Life podcast and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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