Did you know that if you’re over 40, you’re classified as a ‘mature-age worker’? It’s sad but true, not just in terms of labelling, but also the challenges faced in finding employment.
The biggest challenge of all
The biggest challenge in job searches faced by the over forties is…ourselves. We’re our own worst enemies and I often hear my clients say things like: ‘Employers wouldn’t want me because I’m 40/50/60!’ or: ‘They’ll want to hire a younger person….’
Prejudice and bias is part of the human condition. They apply not only to age, but also to things like gender, ethnicity, and sexual-orientation. Unfortunately, we can’t control how people respond to us and all we can do in job search is present our best possible selves. If someone doesn’t want us because we’re a certain age, another employer will gladly welcome the maturity, wherewithal, and stability we offer.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (June 2016), the median age of the Australian population is increasing, and is presently 37 years. There’s also around 7 million of us aged between 40 and 64, which is a sizeable chunk of the population of 24 million. It could be argued that age bias will become even more of a business disadvantage in the future. Employers simply won’t be able to ignore us, because we’ll be in the majority!
We’ve all heard the expression that ‘It’s a young person’s world’ and it’s fair to say that when we’re young, we don’t really think about getting older, and nor do we consider the perspective of older individuals. To illustrate this, I once coached a client in his late forties who was working with a young recruiter. This whippersnapper asked my client if he had a computer at home, perhaps believing he still used a feather quill and an ink pot! While humorous, this example in some way reflects the bias (younger) employers may have about us.
Ways to negate the mature-age effect
- Stay current – be aware of trends and developments in your profession or industry. Continue to learn, read books, blogs and attend seminars.
- Be accepting of new ways of doing things – don’t be closed-minded or say things like ‘We used to do it this way…’
- Be tech-savvy – have a LinkedIn profile and use sites like SEEK to apply for jobs, and Glassdoor to research companies.
- Don’t have a 1985 resume – a dead giveaway of age is a resume that includes things like your middle name, date of birth, a work history that goes back to 1985 or beyond, among other things. A contemporary resume should highlight your skills via quantifiable achievements and aggregate your earlier and less relevant experience under a header like ‘Employment prior to 2007’. So, for roles eight to 12 years in history, simply show the company you worked for and your job title, leaving out associated dates, as it’s all captured under this header as being prior to a certain date. It’s also not necessary to list each and every job you’ve ever held. Think about which companies and roles are relevant and include those.
- Network – around 70% of job placements happen via networking or word-of-mouth. If you’re looking for work, don’t be afraid to tell people your circumstances. There’s no stigma associated with this and it opens up many more opportunities you’d otherwise not find.
- Presentation – you don’t want to dress like a 20-year-old, but similarly presenting in outdated clothes or hairstyles put you firmly into the ‘old and out-of-touch’ category. Dress and present yourself in a contemporary, tidy, and professional manner.
- Sell your value – stability, life experience and a breadth of knowledge a 30-year-old can’t hope to have is to our advantage. Have real-life examples that illustrate the knowledge and value you offer.
People like Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and actor Samuel L. Jackson all achieved success beyond their 40th birthday. Don’t let age stand in your way as you approach job search. Good luck!
Wahroonga-based Paul Di Michiel is the author of Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s. Find out more about his career coaching business, The Career Medic, at: www.thecareermedic.com