second chance career at Specsavers

A second chance at your career

Spectrum asked Phil and Caroline Shelton, a married couple from Specsavers’ St Andrews store, what it’s like to start a second career in your 40s.

When and why did you join Specsavers?

Phil: I joined in January 2018 as store manager. I’d spent 15 years travelling the length and breadth of the country as a regional manager for various companies and I was ready to stay in one place. My background is in retail and management but I’d never worked in optics, so it was something completely different and I thought it would be fulfilling.

Caroline: I joined as an optical assistant in February. I’d been working in a coffee shop for three years but I was looking to move on. I’ve worked in lots of customer-facing roles – in casinos, on cruise ships, in retail and hospitality – but I really wanted to do something that would benefit others; something I would go home and feel good about. Phil told me the store had a vacancy for an optical assistant and that Specsavers had great opportunities and career progression. It was a no-brainer!

What’s it like working together?

Caroline: It’s lovely! I miss Phil when he’s not here – he’s so cheerful and happy-go-lucky. We’ve been together for more than 10 years and married for nearly two, but it still feels like early days!

Phil: Caroline really is my best friend and soulmate. We understand each other and get on so well that it makes perfect sense to work together. We would spend every minute together if we had the chance.

What’s surprised you about Specsavers?

Phil: Specsavers is offering things that, at 47, I hadn’t expected. A major thing is that people here actually ask, ‘What do you want to do with your career?’ Caroline and I had both wanted something more from our working lives before it was too late, but we couldn’t afford to take time out from our previous jobs to study or retrain. It’s lovely to know that Specsavers doesn’t typecast; it gives anyone the opportunity to broaden their horizons.

What are you enjoying about the job?

Phil: It’s a fast-moving business, and I love being kept busy and not stagnating. St Andrews has given me lots of great challenges – for example, I launched the electronic NHS system in the store. It took three months but it’s now working perfectly and has made a massive difference to the store and the cash flow of the business, which is very satisfying.

We’ve got an exceptional team here and they all work really hard. We were audited for health and safety compliance in the store recently, and through hard work we’ve ended up getting the Platinum Two award [for passing various health and safety criteria for six years in a row].

Caroline: I enjoy that it’s all totally new to me and every day is varied. I’ve learned pre-testing and now I’m learning to dispense, which is exciting. And the people I work with are lovely.

Do you wear glasses or contact lenses yourself?

Caroline: Phil wears glasses – quite a low prescription. I don’t need them. I thought I’d better have my eyes tested when I started here and it was lovely, at 46, to be told that I have perfect vision.

What training have you had?

Phil: I’ve done a lot of self-directed modules on our e-learning portal iLearn. I also went to the in-store trainers’ roadshow in Glasgow and found that very interesting to learn from other people. There were workshops all day using all sorts of techniques, from high-tech to one-to-ones and group sessions. Even though I’ve been in the retail game a long time, I still picked up some different ways of doing it and have used them since.

We focused on the customer for much of the day, as we should – talking about how what what we could do differently every day in-store and how we could improve.

The roadshow had a stand with information on how to become a Specsavers Partner and that’s something I could be interested in in the future, but at the moment I’m still happy learning about what the customer needs.

Caroline: I’ve done some training about frames, lenses and optics on iLearn and have also been to Glasgow for a dispensing training day. I’d like to continue training and progressing my career, perhaps working my way up the ladder and becoming a dispensing optician, or going down the retail route. A major attraction is that I’ve got options.

Optical management at Specsavers…

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