Over the hill … and into a new job.
Call it a mid-life crisis, or perhaps just a long overdue epiphany, but at the ripe old age of 50, you’ve decided it’s time for a career change. Or perhaps, less graciously, you’ve found yourself facing redundancy after 20+ years of service (read: servitude?).
Either way, the sheer thought of having to hit the job trail again has got you checking and rechecking your retirement fund, just to make sure that bowing out really isn’t an option. You can’t remember the last time you updated your resume, let alone attended an interview, and what about all of those tech-savvy Gen Yers you’ll be pitted against?
Take heart – as a mature-age job seeker, you still have plenty to offer. And, you’re in growing company. The number of older workers (defined by the Office for National Statistics as those working beyond State Pension Age) has almost doubled over the past decade, and there are estimates that the Australian workforce will see 85 per cent of new employment growth come from those aged over 45, by the year 2016.
In other words, mature-age workers still occupy an invaluable space within the employment sphere, even if some recruiters don’t yet realise it. Here are a few tips for climbing back to the top of that proverbial hill, and showing all the doubters that you’re far from over it.
Get your facts straightContrary to popular belief, older workers aren’t all washed-up Luddites who’ll leech company resources and quadruple training costs, all while cramping the ‘cultural vibe’. In fact, it’s quite the opposite:
- Workers aged 55 and over are five times less likely to change jobs compared with workers aged 20 to 24
- Statistically, mature-age workers are the least likely group to take days off due to illness
Age is just a numberYes, that old cliché. And here’s another one: act your age. Draw attention to your assets and remind your prospective employer that you’ve got more than your fair share of experience under your belt. Thanks to years of hands-on learning, you’ve got a wider skills base and broader experience, greater wisdom and maturity, a solid work ethic, a capacity to speak your mind and take action and you’re reliable, dependable and loyal to your employer. How’s that for a winning combination?
“There are many ingrained prejudices associated with employing older workers. These barriers need to be overcome – whether they are real or perhaps perceived. Diversity of skills and experience in a workforce can provide competitive advantages. Organisations need to free themselves of such biases in order to obtain and retain the best talent from the available pool of potential workers,” writes Robert Critchley in his paper, The ageing workforce – to rewire or rust.
Self-perception is criticalWhilst we wait for businesses to come up to speed in better recognising the value of hiring mature-aged workers, it’s also a fitting time for some meaningful self-reflection. As with many things in life, when it comes to seeking out new employment opportunities, we are often our own worst enemies. Letting self-doubt creep in will do far more to date you than any unfamiliarity you might have with the latest iPhone operating system, or the number of followers you have on Twitter.
“The thing to remember is self-value and self-worth. Mature-age workers have just as much (if not more) to offer an employer as younger workers. The trick is ensuring that you present and articulate your key strengths in a manner that represents you as a person and as a professional,” says recruitment consultant, Stephen Gunther.
These sentiments apply to just about everyone – in the workforce and beyond – but it can oftentimes feel trickier for older job seekers to gain a handle on their own worth. Try compiling a list of your strengths and achievements, and remember that even if you’ve worked in only one industry for a long period of time, your skills will be transferable.
Some final pointersThe average person finds little joy in preparing their resume, and when it’s been a good 10+ years since you last updated yours, the difficulties are only compounded. Some of these handy tips should help soften the blow:
- Combat age discrimination by keeping your resume age-neutral – omit birth dates, graduation dates, marital status and anything else which could leave you open to unfair judgement
- In general, restrict your list of previous jobs to the past 10 to 15 years (unless preceding ones have been exceptionally relevant)
- Ensure that your resume is cleanly formatted and easy to read – use bullet points, a legible typeface and subheadings
- Emphasise the breadth and transferability of your skill set
- Use dynamic, succinct and punchy language
- Employ relevant industry keywords
- Proofread! And then proofread again