Eileen Parkes, 59, works for Borders in the West Midlands and won the award for Bookseller of the Year 2007. In her forties she was offered a place at Warwick University to read social studies. She then went on to undertake a research masters through the Open University. She is now considering a PhD.
What’s your background?
I left school without having any A-levels. I took a part-time job in retail, which was convenient for looking after my children. After that I worked full-time, running an arts and
graphics shop, but I became ill and had to finish work quite suddenly. After a few months, the doctors suggested that it would be good to get back into the swing of things. So I enrolled at a local college in women’s options and studies course. It was just one morning, twice a week, and I wrote a few essays. By luck, one of my lecturer’s partners was a professor at Warwick University, and after reading one of my essays they said they
would be happy to take it from a second year. As a result I was offered a place at Warwick to do a BA (Hons) in social studies. I came out with a good 2.1. When I was about 50 my husband took early retirement and I decided to undertake a researchmasters with the Open University in crime and policing, for which I gained a distinction.
How did you handle your job hunt?
When I was 53 a new centre was opening in Solihull. I applied for a part-time job with Borders. They interviewed me and asked if I was interested in full-time work. I had been concerned about my working full-time at my age, but Borders looked at me blankly when I said this! They have no age restrictions on working there. I now do all the ordering for the shop and my main areas of responsibility are fiction and true crime. I also started a local interest section which there has been a huge demand for; it is the biggest local interest
section in the West Midlands. I get to meet a lot of local authors
which I find fascinating.
Did you face any barriers?
I am now 59 and I don’t want to finish working yet. It is hard working when you are older because it is more tiring and it is mentally and physically challenging. But I love mixing with people of different ages and having to take on new challenges. It was difficult learning how to use computer systems in my 50s, but I got my head round them and I can use
them for doing the inventory. I have also found my age to be an advantage when speaking to customers; I have a greater knowledge than some of the younger staff.
Any tips for fellow graduates?
Apply for everything you see. Use your university referees and stay in contact with your tutors. Find something that gives you a lot of job satisfaction.