I left school at 15 and having little — bordering on none — confidence was unable to find work looking through the employment ads; so many qualifications needed of which I had none, so I decided to just get out and knock on doors of businesses that appealed to me. I started at a firm called Pye Records because I just loved the idea of working in a record company. I was there for almost a year when they decided to train me in Time and Motion study. When I was able to start in that area, I soon became the most hated person in the building. No one liked having their work watched closely and timed etc. Unable to handle the rejection I once again just went out and knocked on doors — the first being Channel 7 in Dorcas Street, Melbourne and was hired immediately in the accounts department. I hated accounts, but loved working with the celebrities… And there were many!
The point is that the lesson I learned was that, for me, the best way to get a job was not through the ads in the papers but to decide what areas appealed to me and then get out and knock on doors — sometimes going back several times. Looking back, I can honestly say every job I have ever had has been from turning up and asking if there were any jobs available and if so, would they consider me. Surprisingly, often I would end up employed. This is quite remarkable because there was truly no one shyer than I was, plus I had a very bad stammer when I was nervous! To my credit wherever I worked I gave more than 100 per cent of myself but was very easily bored and moved on — a lot.
Later, I decided to improve my education, which was rewarding, but I still only searched for work by knocking on doors and with some degree of success. It still amazes me because as I said earlier, I had no confidence at all, but I guess I was sort of an appealing young man, keen, fairly obviously gay and had a certain charm — a charm which did not serve me well later in some serious situations, but that’s another story — and a very sad story at times.
Years later when I landed in London, I was told there was no work in theatres anywhere — my favoured area of employment. Not deterred I put on my best vest and was off to every theatre in the city. Within a few days I ended up working in a big West End theatres box office, which is where I had some experience from my time in Australian theatre. Later I also worked backstage on a West End hit just by going to the stage door and enquiring. They asked if had any experience on props and I said that I had not, but that I was a quick learner and it turned out remarkably well. For me the highlight of those experiences was meeting and working with some of the nicest persons I have ever met; to this day I am in touch with some of them. I just fell in love with the British people I met and was moved by kindness, sense of humour and their generosity of spirit.
Now in my mid-70s I am still working and for me it is the most rewarding period of my working life. I only work two days a week in an arts centre where I can be myself, which is a precious gift. I was once told that the older one gets the less active their filters become — I think my filter disappeared quite a few years ago, but it is tolerated much more when one reaches a ‘certain’ age shall we say. I hate phony and dishonest people and find it nigh on impossible to suppress my feelings — without hopefully intentionally hurting anyone. At 74 I believe I have earned the right to be totally true to myself and if others find it hard to accept so be it!
So, the point of this is to suggest that you never stop knocking on doors in life. Behind one door one day there just might just be something that can turn your world around in an exciting and often life changing way. For persons over 60 I hope you may be able to somewhere, somehow work, in perhaps if need be in a voluntary position, even if only for a couple of days a week. For me work inspires me because I truly love meeting new people and I think I am probably quite a funny person — not always intentionally and there is nothing people like more than being able to laugh.
The Hollywood actress Debbie Reynolds once told me of a trick she learned at MGM. She told me to look in a mirror at my face in serious mode and then turn on the biggest smile and notice how years seem to fall away. I wish they would fall away and stay away, but the difference is amazing. I find that by greeting people with a cheery smile can change the way they might be feeling. I see it work daily, though it’s not always easy mind you. It costs nothing, but the smiles you receive in return are priceless.
I have been blessed to have been able to continue doing what I truly love. I have the unswerving love of my husband, very dear and much valued friends — many I have not even met yet!