Beyond the classroom

I am 65 years old, and I will soon be leaving my job as an English teacher. I also have a qualification in management, and have worked as a trainer. What are the prospects for getting freelance work, and what are my options?

Freelance work is very much a matter of exploration. First, to look at what you have to offer, and then research those markets. As a mature teacher, your first thoughts could centre on the possibility of private tuition: you could advertise in the local press or use your teaching contacts to build up a client base. This will take time and effort, but once established it is easier to gain recommendations through word of mouth and build up a reputation.

You could also explore training options with local providers, making use of your experience. The careers consultant Mike Cox, who has in the past worked on career-planning programmes aimed at getting unemployed adults back into jobs, says you should contact local Connexions offices, Employment Services offices and further education colleges to find out where training is being offered to young people and adults locally. Providers will, he says, often contract staff to deliver programmes on an ad hoc basis; they look for people with experience to support and mentor.

You will also have contacts and knowledge of services offered within colleges – use those. Don't forget to set yourself up as self-employed, too: for help and advice on this, contact the Inland Revenue or go to Business Link at

So tough to find a job

I am a 52-year-old lone parent who got out of the poverty trap by gaining degrees in technology innovation management, science and technology policy. I worked as a contract researcher and extended my knowledge into business services, focusing on corporate responsibility. But, since the end of my last contract, I am finding it impossible to get a job, or to get work as a consultant, and money is running out. Any tips?

Your letter sets out the many obstacles you face in getting back to work. There are too many to deal with here, but it helps to break them down one by one.

Separate your immediate short-term needs from your longer-term goals, and concentrate on the things you can change. It's understandable that you focus on the barriers to re-employment – being overqualified, and your age – but this in itself can prevent you from focusing on the positives. If you know others who have set themselves up as consultants, seek their advice.

In the meantime, look into possible job options that would enable you to earn money in the short term. They may not be your ideal career choices, but they don't have to be; at least they would keep you solvent for the time being and provide you with the wherewithal to continue the hunt for your ideal job. Depending on how much money you need, they don't even need to be full-time. Once you're free from the worst financial pressures, you could sit down with a careers consultant and work through the detailed issues to find a positive, practical way to work towards your goal.

Careers adviser: David Winter, careers consultant, C2 Careers Group, University of London

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email to