'I don't know anything else': Woman made redundant after 34 years describes 'strange' experience of job searching

A woman from Bargoed, south Wales, who was employed by the same company for 34 years said the new experience of searching for a job has been "strange".

Gillian Hollister was made redundant from her position as a store manager for the Arcadia Group in July last year.

The Arcadia Group, which owned brands like Topshop, Dorthy Perkins and Burton, collapsed at the end of last year.

Ms Hollister said it was a "bizarre and strange feeling" to suddenly find herself unemployed as she had "only ever known" having a job.

It comes as the latest unemployment figures for Wales show a slight fall, now standing at 4.4% and remaining below the UK average.

Credit: ITV Wales

Gillian Hollister was initially furloughed from her job as manager of a Dorothy Perkins and Burton store in March last year, after the pandemic forced the country into lockdown and closed all non-essential shops.

A few months later, the 62-year-old was made redundant and found herself out of work for the first time in 34 years.

She said: "Straight away, I wanted to work because I don't know anything else but the family persuaded me it's time to take a little step back and think about what you want to do."

For the past few months, Ms Hollister has been searching for a new job. She said the process has been "bizarre and strange".

"This is a completely new experience looking for work," she said

"The volume of applicants for all jobs, it is quite scary, there must be massive competition out there for roles, massive.

"They need a lot of skills now...It's going to be much more difficult now because I think employers want every last drop out of an employee."

Credit: ITV Wales

Undeterred, Ms Hollistor is feeling positive about her future and is even taking a course on food hygiene and one in Welsh language, in order to broaden her skills base.

She is keen for a change and is not looking to work in retail again.

To me, it's an opportunity to do something completely different...now the world's my oyster, I can try things out.

Gillian Hollister

She added: "I'd like to do something helping people. Maybe working in a hospital...maybe a cleaner, a porter or working in the kitchen. I feel like I'd like to do something like that."

Mr Hollister has lived in Bargoed for 42 years and said she has seen "massive changes" to the highstreet. She thinks the store she worked at would have closed down "years ago if not for the locals who supported us".

"People like to shop local," she added.

"It might be a fact that's thrown out there but from experience, the customers that we had, they liked to shop local. So if there's something on offer, they stay local.

"That should be explored a bit more I think."

Credit: ITV Wales

Speaking to ITV Wales on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government would wait until the details of the budget were announced before deciding on further packages of support for businesses.

Asked if he would extend the business rates holiday, as some opposition political parties have called for, Mr Drakeford said: "I'm looking forward to being able to extend business support. I want to wait until the UK budget on the third of March, to be absolutely certain of how much money we have available as a Welsh Government.

"If money comes to us, to extend rate relief, that is what we will do.

"But the third of March and the Chancellor's Budget is a big moment for us. It will give us certainty for the future then we will make allocations to the health service, to local government and to businesses as well.''

Unemployment in Wales has fallen slightly amid signs of a "stabilising job market" across the UK.

Wales' unemployment rate has fallen slightly in the three months to December and remains below the UK average.

The Welsh unemployment rate now stands at 4.4%, while the UK has a rate of 5.1%.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data covering the three month period from October to December also showed that almost a quarter (24.3%) of Wales' working age population were currently economically inactive.

UK-wide, the number of workers on payrolls has fallen by nearly 730,000 since the start of the pandemic and the jobless rate has surged to a five-year high.

However, official figures revealed "early signs" of a stabilising jobs market.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: "The latest monthly tax figures show tentative early signs of the labour market stabilising, with a small increase in the numbers of employees paid through payroll over the last couple of months - though there are still over 700,000 fewer people employed than before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Almost three-fifths of this fall in employees since the onset of the pandemic came from the under-25s, according to a new age breakdown we are publishing for the first time today.

"Our survey shows that the unemployment rate has had the biggest annual rise since the financial crisis." 

Debenhams is one of the latest large highstreet chains to close some of its major stores, making around 320 people jobless.
  • "The only way to get through is really be resilient"

Chloe Green from Careers Wales said she is currently working with lots of young people who have been struggling to get through the door, even to interview stage.

"I've got young people who I'm working with who had weekend jobs while they were at school," she said.

"They got good GCSE results, they've done bits of work experience and they are applying for every job that they can see and not even getting replies to their applications.

"It's very, very difficult."

She advises that people really need to be "resilient" and keep trying.

Ms Green said it is important that if you are looking for a job, you "make sure your CV is the absolute best it can be". To get your application to stand out it needs to "sing".

The information on your CV needs to be clear and provide the employer with everything they have asked for.

You also need to think about how best to answer interview questions, so that the interviewer has all the details they need.

Ms Green said techniques like the CAR techniques can help. The CAR technique means you answer the interview question first by providing Context (a relevant example), then Action (explaining specific action you took) and Result (detailing the outcome of the action you took).

Careers Wales can provide free help and advice on their website.

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