Sue Ellson is a dynamic person who does not believe in the ‘R’ word (retirement). Her grandmother slowed down (a little bit) at age 90!! Sue is a Hyper Local Marketing Specialist, writer, author, founder of the ‘Newcomers Network’, trainer, consultant..and so much more.
What’s the experience been of creating the ‘Newcomers Network’?
Setting up an online social enterprise in 2001 was considered innovative at the time – and I am very pleased to see so many more online social enterprises around nowadays. That said, I have had to find funding from other sources to keep the enterprise alive as the internet has created a sense of ‘online information should be available for free.’
As I didn’t want to be associated with charity or government, I also needed to be an independent publisher of information and in some cases, provide information about my competitors! It has been interesting to develop an enterprise that goes against the typical tenets of business. I did it all again in 2012 when I set up Camberwell Network!
Did you ever see that it would expand to several states?
Yes, I did – and I organised volunteers to host monthly events interstate for several years. However, the internet and mobile technology has created an attitude of ‘no commitment.’ Volunteer hosts received multiple registrations and sometimes, up to 100% of those people would not turn up!
So I had to ‘downscale’ the live events but I still have information online for the other locations. I have been running monthly events in Melbourne for over 13 years for newcomers and 5 years for people who live, work and network in Camberwell.
What are some of the challenges running such a Network?
Keeping it dynamic and relevant to the changing issues facing newcomers and the different cultural and generational ages of movers. Many other networks have ‘died’ over the years because once the network founder’s needs were met, the network would dissolve. I have also had a lot of competitors turn up at my events and I have had to deal with those issues politely but firmly.
And the great experiences?
The huge number of great outcomes – friendships, relationships, employment, business, careers, cultural exchanges, kindness and humanity. Hearing from people many years later and receiving referrals from past newcomers.
One of the greatest stories was from a man who moved to Melbourne, started working, then developed his own business and came back to me eight years later looking for newcomers to work for him! Another two single people met at one of the Christmas Day Picnic Lunches, married a few years later and now have a daughter!
With your Human Resources background, what do you think keeps people wanting to work? (ie: not just for financial necessity)?
My favourite quote of all time is ‘Occupation is the necessary basis of all enjoyment’ by James Henry Leigh Hunt. I spent three years reading books on careers, purpose and doing what you love in my early 30’s.
What I finally realised was that if we understand our highest values, we can create a decision-making framework that helps us decide what we want to do and what we don’t want to do. In my view, the most successful and happiest people are those that are very clear about their highest values and they are willing to say ‘no’ to what is wrong for them. ‘Work’ can be anything from caring through to crusading! I have never regretted setting my values as my priority rather than my finances.
Have you seen examples of ‘older-preneurs’?
Absolutely. Many of my clients are in their 70’s! Unfortunately, I also have friends in their 50’s who aspire to ‘full time retirement’ which is definitely not in alignment with my future aspirations. My grandmother lived to 98 and I asked her when she noticed her abilities changing and she said when she was 90 and stopped playing lawn bowls!
I don’t ever want to retire, but I would like to spend more time writing, so for me, life is about making sure my lifestyle matches my highest values.
What do you think makes an older-preneur?
I have noticed with most people, that as they age, they become less tolerant of bullsh*t.
So for me, older-preneurs are the people who see a need and they believe they can make a difference – so they do something about it!
In my view, it is never too late to learn, and I have found that these older-preneurs are also willing to learn new tricks (even if it is just one trick at a time) and they have an underlying resilience and commitment for achieving their goals.
Fortunately in Australia, there are a huge range of support services available through councils, libraries, business associations, mentoring services etc and digital competency (not just literacy), is becoming essential. No matter how small, I encourage people to have a go, even if they start by helping someone else with their project. All of my initiatives have started with a zero budget.
Is there one key(s) attribute of successful job seekers?
They use multiple concurrent strategies to find work and they view a ‘no’ as a good sign (not the right fit), rather than as a rejection.
They also look for organisations that have the right cultural fit (and value their skills, knowledge and networks) rather than organisations that have a different set of priorities.
They describe their value in the language that the employer is seeking (guru not a dinosaur) and refrain from any reference to ‘years of experience’ (extensive experience).
They are also willing to learn and maintain an interest and commitment to study or professional development (low cost options are available, formal qualifications are not always required).
They also have realistic expectations in relation to capability and salary (very senior professionals may need to consider a lower salary for a lower level part-time role).
Read and listen to more of Sue’s work via the following links.
Yes, setting up an online social enterprise can be demanding. It can also lead to many other opportunities.
Articles of Interest
Tough love for unemployed job seekers over 50 years of age
More podcasts, publications and presentations are here