How to Avoid Ageism on Your Over-50 Career Hunt
It’s illegal for an employer to make a decision on a prospective employee based on their age, but let’s be honest, as much we like to think the archaic views of yesteryear are gone, it still happens. A highly insidious and often hard to prove form of workplace discrimination, ageism is alive and well here in Australia, with 1 in 3 employers admitting to having an invisible age limit when they advertise a new job.
We live in a changing world where the age of retirement is rising, the average age of uni students is 26 years old (not school leavers as you might imagine), parents are having families later and people on average have 5 – 7 career changes in their lifetime. But in these modern times where stereotypes are supposedly diminishing, where diversity and inclusivity are valued, we still come up against workplace and employment age discrimination – meaning the job search and interview process for a new role has an extra barrier to overcome.
The reality is, we change. We need different things at different stages of life and can’t be expected to run with the same work/life balance for the duration of it. Some older job seekers might be stuck in a rut, knowing we need to mix things up but not sure how. Or some might crave a career change entirely, and why shouldn’t we? At 50, we could still have a good 20 years of work ahead and some might argue that older workers are better employees, more mature, reliable and have our heads screwed on.
So Why Does Ageism Still Exist and How do Employers Still Get Away With It?
This article described agism as ‘rampant’ in today’s work culture and attributes a lot of it to how it is viewed so differently to other discrimination – easily explained away with an array of excuses, hiding the real problem with much more palatable ones.
A way of being a secret ageist might be to imply that only a person in a certain age group would ‘fit in’ with the rest of the team – and therefore be less productive. Or maybe they would lack the technical skills of that of a younger person. Sometimes the job descriptions themselves would speak solely to a particular age-group, discouraging anyone else from applying.
We are here to tell you that you can make that change wherever you like in life, but with work still to be done in ending this type of discrimination, you just need to know a few things first…
How You Can Make Yourself Ready For a New Career
For those that don’t already have a clear vision, deciding what you want your new career to be can be tough.
We all know that we need to make these decisions based on what our future looks like, ensuring longevity, security and earning ability that sets us up for when we do retire. In fact, we could be in the best position we ever have been in to realistically visualise (and accurately calculate) what we need in terms of income to the finest detail.
These pillars, together with choosing a new career suited to you (and one you will enjoy), are the starting points from where you determine whether to launch into full job-hunt mode, or spend some time upskilling in areas before you enter the job market.
It is also advisable to make sure your social media presence is up to date – especially on LinkedIn. It allows you to showcase your experience and recommendations, make connections with other people in the industry, lets recruiters know you are job searching and shows you are tech savvy.
For those wishing to retrain altogether, the number of mature adults entering into apprenticeships in Australia is increasing, and often the recognition of life and work experience can go toward shortening training duration. There are even incentives put in place for companies to engage mature apprentices, making these job opportunities a great option for those wanting to start in a new trade.
How to Update Your Resume
Make it look current aesthetically
Whether you use a template, hire some professional help, or you have an eye for it and can spruce up your resume, making your ‘first impression’ document look and feel current is integral to getting you noticed in a crowd.
Cut it down in length
People get bored easily, and with high volumes of resumes to go through, your potential employer or hiring manager might not even read an entire document. Cutting yours down to 2 pages and putting the most important information at the top ensures it will get seen.
Highlight only relevant work experience
Consider removing anything from your work history that doesn’t reflect any relevant experience relating to your desired future roles, especially if they are from a long time ago.
Highlight ‘younger’ skills
Make sure anything in your skill set that is typically associated with younger workers is clearly visible. For example, technical know how or networking skills – and make sure you add to your contact details section that all important LinkedIn profile URL.
Leave off dates of education
If you have education as part of your resume, the dates of your education are rarely relevant. Consider removing them especially if they were a long time ago.
What’s the best way to answer ageist interview questions?
There are always a few tough questions during a job interview – being asked your age or anything related to it shouldn’t be one of them. However, there can be subtle ways an interviewer might allude to age being a factor, and not being prepared for this may leave you flustered.
Articulating how your history and experience in the workforce is actually an asset to a prospective employer is a great way to go.
Having been through a number of challenging scenarios, having worked with a range of different personality types, having a strong work ethic and being adaptable to the change over that period all show the value you will bring to an organisation.
Highlighting your flexibility, adaptability and willingness to learn is a much desired attribute of any new employee, and putting yourself in the same place energy-wise as any younger employee makes you all the more an attractive prospect.
It's Not Too Late to Start Fresh
Although it can seem daunting, job hunting and getting yourself on a new career path shouldn’t be a negative experience. And, I doubt anyone wants to work for an organisation that is too willing to judge someone based on age when, quite frankly, their years of experience should be respected and seen as a huge benefit.
Work experience as an older adult is an emerging trend for stepping off on the right foot as you begin your career change. Find out why, and how you can secure a position for yourself.
In this guide we’ve compiled everything you need to know about changing careers as an older adult.
If you’d like to learn more about starting your career change, what it’s like to be a mature age student, picking a career path, or even writing career change cover letters, all the information you need is here.
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