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Column: Stay positive, keep moving - the advice YOU gave me

Two weeks ago, Liam Horan wrote about going back to college after 26 years – and the response he received in comments, emails and calls displays the positivity and courage of many people finding their way through the recession.

Liam Horan

TWO WEEKS AGO, Liam Horan wrote about being back in college after a 26-year break. The article generated a huge response, not least from people who found themselves in the same boat.

Liam writes: It felt like my article of a fortnight ago turned over a stone – and out came dozens of people with a similar story to tell. Waffler started the feedback – defeating any negative connotation inherent in his Journal handle – by telling us he was back in college the following week “at age 35, after being made redundant in August.”

Jason Spratt, 37, “started back to college about five weeks ago” and found it “a bit strange at first.” Mary Frain “went back at 50, following redundancy” and is now in her Honours Degree year and hoping to continue. “Sure it is tough financially, but it is liberating, self-affirming and brilliant for confidence… best decision I ever made.” Siobhan Breen also labelled it “the best thing” she has ever done.

In total, 49 people commented, and, almost without exception, the contributions included back-to-college tales and/or words of encouragement to those who had gone back or were thinking about going back.

So why did so many come out of the woodwork to share their stories and encourage one another?

Was it really about going back to education – or did it tap into something deeper? Perhaps it touched on the determination many people are now showing to get through this recession?

Emails I received would support this contention. Award-winning photographer David Walsh, 45, a former colleague of mine from Mountbellew, Co Galway, wrote to say how he has recently taken to learning Spanish – at home. He wrote:

I bought a Spanish language book many years ago and every time I moved house, I brought it with me, but I had never got beyond the second page. Then, recently, when I had time on my hands because work is much quieter now, I took out the book again – and I started learning it.

What inspired me was the fact that a second language could be a help to me somewhere down the line, maybe in a sales or marketing role in an Irish-based business that exports or deals with suppliers overseas. I notice more and more employers are listing a second language as a job requirement.

It certainly won’t be a burden. Learning Spanish is something I can do, without having to incur cost, and it has given me a great boost to be doing something positive that might stand to me again.

Another man, Paul O’Neill, got in touch to say he had placed an advert in his local paper last week, after six months of unemployment. In it, he announced his availability for placement on the National Internship Scheme (JobBridge). He said:

I outlined how I had management experience, including six years managing a golf club/tourist facility, and I just want a chance to get back on the ladder. I can help a company grow its business. I have got some replies, and I expect to be soon taking up a placement that will get me started again. It felt good to place the advertisement. It felt like I was taking control. If you had asked me five years ago if I could ever see myself taking such a step, I’d have laughed at you.

But you do what you have to do. I know many people have a problem with the National Internship Scheme, but I am prepared to do a placement if I feel I can learn from it, develop my skills, and prove my worth.

In the article two weeks ago, I referred to a man who closed down his family business after 25 years. I didn’t name him. After he read the piece, Michael Baynes said he wanted to come out from behind the veil. He said:

Part of the process of rejuvenation is letting people know that you’re changing – and that you’re doing well too. I closed down the business which had been in my family for generations, but I got great support from my family. I went back to college. My wife supported me. We don’t have bundles of cash. It’s amazing how you can learn to shrink your living costs to cope with losing one income in the house. When you put your mind to it, you discover great resources within yourself.

Michael is in the final year of his Honours Business Degree at GMIT, Castlebar, Co Mayo, and is adamant it has “given me a fresh hunger for business.”

He added: “I’m 45 years of age, and I have a great deal of business experience. Taking out a few years to study has given me a fresh perspective on life, and I am very enthusiastic about the future.”

He’s nursing a new business idea, and is starting to navigate the funding options. “I am happy to tell my story now, even though I haven’t become a business success yet. But that’s not really the point: the point is to encourage people not to give up, not to believe all they’re reading in the media about the country being dead on its feet. Stay optimistic,” he said.

Liam Horan runs www.SliNuaCareers.com, a career training company providing CV preparation, interview training, mock interview, and psychometric testing services. He will be contributing a regular column dealing with career issues. If you have any topics of questions you’d like him to deal with, email him on liam.horan[at]slinuacareers.com

Read: I’m back in college after 26 years – and I’m not alone>

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