It is never too late to change! Your mindset, your priorities, your career, your Life. Britta Schüler understands what it really means to dare to change. She decided to undergo a complete career change only 10 years away from retirement and it changed her Life.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am 50 years old now and started as an apprentice in tailoring more than 30 years ago. After my apprenticeship I received the opportunity to start academic studies in the clothing industry at a technical college in Albstadt, Germany. After a successful degree, I left my home because I wanted to see the big world working as a clothing engineer. I worked in Tunisia for 2 years. My mother died in 1999, so I decided to come back to Germany and look after my father. I worked at several places in Germany, not more than 170km far away from home, for nearly the last 20 years. Every weekend I had the chance to go home and look after my father. During this time, I always handled the clothing production abroad. I was responsible for production planning, quality control and timely delivery to our clients. I loved communicating with all those production plants, most of the time in English. There were a lot of challenges to handle due to different cultures and different mentalities. Finally I had to fulfill the requests of my bosses and clients here in Germany.
What encouraged you to go through a complete career change?
At the age of 50, it was time to make a decision: I could either move back home and re-build a new social network there in consideration of having got older or I could sell my home. I recognized that prices of houses in bigger cities were not affordable to me. So I took the first option and went back home. As a consequence of this decision I knew I had to look for a safe job near my new, old home. While I lived close to the border of Switzerland, I was chairman of a sports club. I felt responsible to keep this sports club alive and to give people the chance to do sports in their hometown, especially for elderly people. Most of them don’t have the chance to travel and pay a lot of money for a fitness center. I received a lot of gratitude from the elderly. I celebrated birthdays with most of them and loved to hear their story of Life. I felt comfortable with them. People told me that I have a special affinity to the needs of the elderly and a talent at encouraging them to take part in civic life again. When I received the chance to do an apprenticeship in nursing the elderly I took this challenge and started as a carer in a big care home near my home.
How did you find the transition from working in an office to a hands-on carer's role?
While I worked in an office, my back and my neck were aching every evening because I’d been sitting on a chair in front of my computer all day. Now my legs are aching every evening because I run a lot whenever the emergency bell is ringing in the unit of my care home.
Were there ever moments when you doubted your decision?
Of course, at the beginning. I was afraid to tell my friends about my decision of this complete career change. I thought they would call me crazy to quit a well paying job as an engineer, far away from home. But all of them encouraged me!! So, if they are sure this will be a job matching my personality, why should I have doubts?
What is the one thing you like the most about your new role?
The interaction with human beings. To feel useful and beneficial and encouraging elderly people to take part in civic Life once more.
What was it like working at Birchwood Grange Care Home in London?
It was great working at Birchwood Grange Care Home. All the people are very friendly and I felt like part of the family right from the start. To be involved in the team from the beginning was a very nice experience which I enjoyed a lot. All members of staff encouraged me and I received help whenever needed. Many thanks to Birchwood Grange Care Home.
What was the best moment of your work experience programme in London?
To feel like a member of staff team right from the beginning.
Could you imagine moving abroad at some point to continue your work internationally?
Approximately 1 year ago, I told everybody that I am tired of travelling so much and only want to stay at home. But after my great experience at Birchwood Grange Care Home, I would not negate this anymore.
How has this experience inspired you?
If you feel at home even when you stay abroad it speaks for the people you meet there. You have to go up to people, no matter if they are staff or residents. Different cultures make Life colourful.
What would your advice be for students who are about to go on the Internship Programme?
Just do it!!!! Do not be afraid to take this challenge. You cannot fail. You will learn a lot about your social skills.
Britta visited London with our Internship Programme, a project eligible for funding from Erasmus+. We also arrange work experience projects in Dublin. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.