Jane’s Story

Jane’s Story


I’m single.  As a baby boomer I was probably in the vanguard of what used to be called ‘career women’.  I loved work and the opportunity it gave me to learn and develop.  I was stimulated by the challenges, thrived on hard work and achievement, and appreciated the opportunity to travel and meet interesting people.   My career wasn’t traditional and not always ‘smooth sailing’.  Starting in public relations and gradually moving to general management I then enjoyed senior executive roles in insurance and finance, technology, emergency services and the not for profit sector.  I achieved a couple of ‘firsts’ – one of the two first women to be appointed to the board of the Country Fire Authority in Victoria, Australia; and the first women in Victoria to be appointed Deputy Director of the State Emergency Service.

In 2000 I was appointed to an exciting role.  I was ecstatic.  It gave me the chance to lead an organisation and put into effect all that I had learned in my previous roles.  As General Manager my initial task was to achieve efficiencies by merging similar departments from two separate agencies to create a new not for profit entity.  From there, as CEO, with a great management team, I merged departments of a third agency into my organisation, led it towards a more sustainable financial position, improved service to clients, and took the first steps towards utilising digital technology to ensure the future viability of the service.  I was really having fun, had long range plans for the organisation and retirement wasn’t even on the horizon!

When I was first appointed I remember well being told if this merger was successful the three larger agencies might consider coming together.  If anything, I was too successful!  In 2005 these agencies merged into a single entity and the new CEO was telling me that my newly forged organisation was to be broken up, I wouldn’t be required in 12 -18 months, and redundancies were not being considered.  I didn’t see I had any choice so resigned.  I was 55 and shattered.

Neutral Zone

I spent a year looking for a new role that would continue to challenge and develop me.  I wasn’t interested in devaluing my experience and skills by taking on any job.  When I couldn’t get an interview and it became clear I was ‘too old’ to be considered for the first time in my life I gave up, and retired.

What was I going to do to occupy me for the next 30 years?  I wasn’t ready for constant travelling, projects at home would come to an end –  and I needed to feel a valued, contributing member of the community, keep my ‘little grey cells’ working hard, and not just ‘fade away’ as old people are supposed to do.

Two pathways became clear: seeking directorship opportunities and taking on skilled volunteering projects.  To bring myself up to date for the first I completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors diploma course and examination and looked for openings on not for profit boards as a first step.  I prepared myself for the second by joining a Leadership Victoria ExperienceBank program designed to expose participants to a range of non-profit sectors and their respective challenges.

Beginning Again

I offered my operational and governance experience to the International Coach Federation of Australasia and within a year was appointed as a director and secretary for a three year term.  ICFA provided a truly supportive and encouraging environment that inspired me to introduce myself as a potential director to other organisations.  Now I am Vice President of the Ardoch Youth Foundation Ltd and of Greatconnections Ltd.  My longer term plan is to look for directorship openings in larger non profits, government or commercial boards.

My entry to skilled volunteering came via Greatconnections Ltd.  This organisation was established by Lynne Landy, the wife of a previous Governor General of Victoria, when she left Government House.  Greatconnections matches the knowledge and experience of retired, or about to retire executives and professionals, with non profit organisations looking for pro bono assistance with projects.  A brilliant concept at a time when ‘baby boomers’ will be retiring in numbers and looking for life beyond work.

I became an active volunteer in 2008 and now specialise in facilitating strategic planning, risk management and mentoring.  Mentoring, in particular, I find most satisfying.  These engagements introduce me to intelligent and capable people in executive roles who are keen to draw on the knowledge and experience I accumulated during my varied working life.  I can offer new insights, different perspectives, practical advice and a calm, confidential sounding board for executives who may not have many others with whom to release their stresses or discuss their challenges.  I can’t think of a better way to attach real meaning to the experience of work than passing on that knowledge to others keen to develop.  Now I seek out mentoring projects via Greatconnections or Leadership Victoria.

Mid 2011 I started to think about how I might be able to combine my growing experience as a mentor with a return to part time work.  I researched organisations offering mentoring programs and approached the principals at the Centre for Organisation Development whom I had known some years ago.  2012 will see me commence my first paid engagement as a CfOD mentor.  This is a new beginning for me and I am really excited by the prospect of being stimulated and challenged in this ‘third age’ role where I can play a part in growing mentoring as mainstream developmental experience.




January 2012






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