There is a lot of negativity surrounding the ability of older people to get jobs in the new age that is upon us. In fact, the talk in the media makes it feel as though nobody over 50 can ever possibly get a job! Rest assured, that is simply not true and there are plenty of success stories when you look around you.
If you find yourself in the position of having to look for a job once you are over the magical age of fifty, you may think it is difficult, but here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you along your way.
Before we start the list, let me say this is not a theoretical list. I have seen every one of the situations I am describing in this article in real life either as an employer or because I made the mistake as a job candidate.
It is natural to want to take a small break after you have quit a job, been made redundant or lost a job for some other reason. There are a thousand reasons for taking a break. All those household chores have mounted up and you want to finish your personal “to do” list so you can concentrate on your new job when you get it. Or perhaps you want to take that world trip while you are still healthy and able to enjoy it.
These are all great reasons for taking an extended break before looking for the new job, but you will be surprised how fast you will be seen as ‘out of touch’ by potential employers. Naturally, it varies from industry to industry, but anything over four or five weeks of a “much earned break”, could put you on the back foot in the job market.
There is a lot of truth to the saying that it is easiest to find a job while you still have one, and by extension, it gets harder to find a job the longer you have been out of one, even though it may be for excellent reasons.
So what do you do if you did take that long, six-month break? Many candidates will address the break by explaining the reason behind the break. Unfortunately, it is not the reason for your absence from the workforce that the employer is considering. The employer really doesn’t want to know what a good time you had on your break or that you managed to get the garden shed built. These reasons, although excellent personal objectives that were carried out, do not entitle you to a job. What the employer is thinking about is the impact of the break on your morale and self- confidence, your performance ability, the continued relevance of your knowledge, the impact on your level of energy and commitment to being employed. These are the issues you must respond to when addressing the long break between jobs.
Only a very small proportion of jobs are advertised through the newspapers these days and most job opportunities are found on the internet. However, be aware that just going to a job advertisements website is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of locating jobs on the internet.
Go also to the forums and industry specific websites for your area of specialisation. Then join the various internet groups for your job area and participate, so you become known to the web community in your job role and industry. In a small number of cases, this may actually lead to jobs coming your way rather than you always having to chase the job.
“Going to a job advertisements website is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of locating jobs on the internet”
Beyond internet networking, the old wisdom that many jobs are filled through an employer’s personal network still holds good. Figure out who you know – make that list and then let it be known that you are actively looking for a job. It is always surprising how many people are looking for a job, but for some reason will not tell their friends, neighbours, relatives and professional acquaintences.
Gone are the days that employers would rely almost entirely on your prepared CV and an interview to get the information they need about you. These days, if your initial CV sparks a little interest, the recruiter will be on the internet looking for your profile on Linkedin or other forum. He can straight away get a secondary confirmation of the jobs you claim to have done, the type of network you have and perhaps what your peers, customers and suppliers you deal with think about you. If you have no digital profile or if you only have a one line profile … next candidate please!
I know people who simply don’t even try to find a job because of the negative atmosphere that is generated by the media about the difficulty of the over 50s landing a job. Don’t believe it!
In fact don’t believe it at two levels. First, if you know you meet the job criteria, then it’s against the law to discriminate on the basis of your age. All you have to do is get to the interview and you know you will excel if you have the skill, maturity, experience and work ethic. The employer wants the best for his team and age very seldom comes into the equation unless it physically prevents you from doing the necessary tasks.
“You know you will excel if you have the skill, maturity, experience and work ethic.”
On a specific job level, sometimes people get put-off by the very long list of criteria and experience required. It is important to realise that often, this is simply the employers “Wish List”, it does not mean that there are twenty other candidates out there who actually are perfectly matched for the wish list – there may be none. So don’t put your self out of the running by not even applying.
So you’ve found that job opportunity – don’t mess it up by applying in the wrong way or sending the wrong message in your first communication. If the advertisement tells you to call in person because it is a telesales job, then sending an email is just not going to cut it.
More and more you will find that the employer asks for applications to be made on-line. You need to follow this instruction. This is because sometimes the on-line application is not being vetted by a human being on the other end. It is a program weeding out applicants if they do not have certain key words or attributes in their application. This is particularly so where a job is expected to get a huge number of applicants. If your application was not made online, then it did not even get through the first hurdle.
If you get the opportunity for an interview, sometimes there is a bit of juggling to do for setting a convenient timing for the interview. No kidding – these are actual comments we have had. Make up your own mind as to whether it would make the employer eager to meet you:
“Sorry I can’t come on Tuesday because Tuesdays is my bowls day”
“We have some interstate visitors, so it would have to be after that – I’m sure you understand, family comes first”
“Well I’m waiting for a reply from another interview, and I believe in being honest, could you give me a call in a week to see if I got that job, because I think I’m more suited to the other one?”
My favourite – “Can you send me an email with your best offer and then I can see if it’s worth coming for the interview”
Be prepared for web-based interviews. Get ready for this – not all first interviews are face-to-face any more. Get used to working with web-based meetings solutions like Skype or GoToMeeting. If you have not used these applications before, it is essential you become comfortable with them long before the interview. You don’t want the employer having to tell you how to use them during the interview. You may get the lesson, but you won’t get the job.
Some things have not changed even in this internet age. If the only thing you ask about at an interview is the hours and the pay, you are not demonstrating a great desire to be a constructive and vital part of the team you are applying to join – instead you are signaling loud and clear that you are a clock watcher with little interest in the job itself. Of course you need to know what the package is, but find out about the job first.
In your 50s and 60s, history and flexibility can be a block when coming to negotiating a package. If you were on a great package in a top management job and have just been made redundant, it will do you no good to be explaining to the new employer what you “used to earn”. It has little relevance to the job at hand and your suitability for it. Concentrate on the value proposition you are bringing to the table and the package will get negotiated accordingly.
In your fifties and beyond, what you bring to the table in addition to technical skill, are attributes that only come with life experience. You bring to the table your maturity in dealing with clients and colleagues, patience, years of thinking on your feet to resolve problems and the inner strength and perseverance to just keep going when things are not working out as you may have expected them to. You have a lot more to offer a company than you may think.
By following the tips in this article, we can’t guarantee you’ll get a job, but the challenge should be easier. Good Luck in your search.