- The figures for redundancy rates among over 50s hit a record high in 2016
- Arguably experience now counts for less than being technologically savvy
- In a new book expert Kerry Hannon, shares her advice on landing a job after 50
- She advises marketing your age as a plus along with your network of contacts
No longer. For today’s fiftysomething (and even fortysomething), the world of work — and beyond — is a much more precarious place, characterised not by the gracious mentoring of respectful younger staff but the ever-present fear they’ll shortly replace you. For less money and with better tech skills.
Though no firm will admit it, ageism in the office is an undeniable reality: in 2016, the last year for which figures are available, the redundancy rate among over 50s hit a record high. While the number of people made jobless overall has fallen in recent years, the proportion of over-50s redundancies has risen sharply — a shocking one in three people made redundant today is 50 or older.
Expert Kerry Hannon, shared her advice on excelling in your career after age 50
In a fast-moving digital world, experience counts for less than technological savvy; indeed, in some industries, the more experience you have, the ‘staler’ you appear to recruiters. Recent research found that workers aged 49-51 received 19 per cent fewer responses to job applications than those aged 29-31. Older still and the odds recede further. Those aged 64-66 had 35 per cent fewer replies.
For women this can lead to real hardship. The age at which women can draw a state pension is retreating at a rapid rate: from 66 in two years’ time to 67 in 2028. The Government has hinted at a further rise to 75 for those currently in their late 40s. Those hitting 50 would be wise to plan to work for at least two more decades. If you can find a job, that is.
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Enter Kerry Hannon, a world-renowned expert on midlife work. A firm believer in the talent of 50-plus women, she has spent two decades researching and writing about the world of work and the older woman’s place in it. What we all need to start planning for, she says, is our ‘encore career’, a second — often more meaningful — act to our working lives.‘Landing a job after 50 does take research, soul-searching and swagger,’ she says, but it’s perfectly possible — indeed desirable — to start a new career in midlife.
So here, in an extract from Kerry’s brilliant new book, is how you do it . . .
Don’t dive into a second career on a whim. When you turn 50, start planning for an encore career you might kick off in another five years. Thinking about a second act forces you to confront how much longer you’re going to have to work, and that changes the equation about what you want to do. If you’re going to work for two more decades, you need to love that job.
- Look inside: What am I best at? What do I love to do? What don’t I like to do? What was my childhood dream? Ask friends and colleagues, too. They might see things you’re innately good at that you take for granted.
- Shape up your financial life. Starting again can mean a pay cut or forking out for the cost of a fledgling business or training. It’s smart to have a cushion of six months’ pay or more to cover living expenses, as well as unexpected emergencies, while you make the transition. Can you put the mortgage on a lower rate? Pare back spending elsewhere?
Kerry advises taking a considerable length of time planning your second career and being willing to seek education and training
- But remember to keep your hand out of the cookie jar. It’s tempting to dip into retirement accounts and tap home equity and other savings. Don’t be tempted to jeopardise your retirement security.
- Apprentice, volunteer or moonlight. Do yourself a favour — do the job first. Even if that means using your two-week holiday to do a work placement. It’s a great way to get in the door, see what goes on behind the scenes and find out whether it’s really right for you.
- Invest in additional education and training. Research the skills, diplomas or even degrees required for your new career. Add the essential expertise before you make the leap, and if you can, do it part-time while you’re still employed in career number one.
5 WAYS TO BEAT AGEISM
No one’s going to admit it, but ageism at work is a reality. Some employers will assume you’re set in your ways or that you lack the cutting-edge skills to do the job.
Others might surmise you have age-related health problems, or are likely to, and you’ll take too much time off. And, of course, there’s the nagging worry that you’re not in it for the long haul, even if that’s far from the truth.
Finally, the employer may think you won’t want to take orders from a younger boss who is probably making more than you. None of these are insuperable problems. If you change your approach, you can get that role.
Where once you had to give a potential employer a dozen reasons to say yes, now you have to remove their reasons to say no.
Kerry believes it’s important to be prepared for age-related questions when interviewing for new roles.
1. Look your best. Be physically fit and dress with an eye toward a vibrant, youthful appearance. Interviewers do judge a book by its cover. At the very least, freshen up your hairstyle with a good cut (but don’t do anything too radical the day before an interview).
2. Prepare for age-related questions. Your potential employer might think you’re overqualified, for example. Have a good answer for that. (‘What matters to me at this stage is having the opportunity to work with exceptional people in a company where my skills and knowledge can be used in a meaningful way.’)
3. Stress that you have the ability to work well with co-workers of any age. You look forward to learning from younger workers and vice versa.
4. Don’t hide your age. Never lie. Don’t leave the age question blank on an application. That makes it too easy to toss out the incomplete file. If it’s brought up in an interview, gently point out why it’s not relevant to the position, if it isn’t.
5. Market your age as a plus. Workers over 50 tend to be self-starters, know how to get the job done, and don’t need as much handholding as those with less experience. And whether you realise it or not, you have a network of contacts from many different walks of life.
Kerry claims it’s important to have a social networking presence to support your application and advises starting job searches online
VOLUNTEER — BUT DON’T CALL YOURSELF ONE
When looking at a candidate, employers surveyed by professional networking site LinkedIn said they valued voluntary work just as much as paid. So put it on your CV, but don’t use the word ‘volunteer’.
If you ran your school PTA or organised the village fete in aid of the local hospital, call yourself a ‘fundraiser’ or ‘project manager’. By defining it as a proper job, you give it the cachet and respect it deserves.
DON’T BE INVISIBLE
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked- In have transformed the job hunt. It’s on these platforms and dedicated job sites that you’ll start your search. But just as important is your own profile.
In today’s world, it’s a given that you have a social networking presence to support your application. Online networking and self-promotion through social media channels are increasingly important tools to finding a job. Many of us find it awkward, but with practice it gets easier.
Kerry believes rejection can sometimes be a form of protection as you may look back feeling grateful that you weren’t hired (file image)
Consider this: more than 90 per cent of recruiters say they view applicants’ social media profiles before making a decision. By building a strong online persona on Twitter, say, you demonstrate tech experience, marketing ability and a network. Be active on the platforms you’ve committed to and don’t be scared of trumpeting accomplishments: boasting online is not in poor taste.
If you already have a sizeable presence, do make sure it doesn’t say the wrong things. Scrub your social media pages until they’re squeaky clean: check Facebook posts you’re tagged in and untag yourself if you don’t want an employer to see them.
DEAL WITH REJECTION
The message I want you to take away is that finding a job today requires serious effort. Accept that and get on with it. Job hunting isn’t a piece of cake. But don’t be put off if you don’t land your dream job in your first week or even first six months.
Frankly, in my experience, rejection is often a form of protection. What you thought was the perfect job may have been a disaster. It might take time, but when you look back at it, you will be grateful you didn’t get hired.
Your best strategy for circumventing age bias — and a job market that’s rapidly changing — is believing with all your heart in your own talent to get the job done and shine at it. No one can take that away from you.
You can do it!
THE WEBSITES YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Apply for ‘returnships’ — placements that ease professionals back into work after career breaks (corp.womenreturners.com/uk-returnships).
- Take a free digital literacy course at the online Open University (open.edu/openlearn then search for ‘digital literacy’).
- Give yourself a ‘skills health’ check with interactive quizzes (nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/skills-health-check).
- Search volunteering opportunities near you to enhance your CV (do-it.org).
What are the do’s and don’ts to nail that job?
- Do stay current, and DON’T chatter on in interviews about successes you had ten years ago. Focus on what you’ve done recently.
- Don’t name drop. Refrain from throwing out names of powerful people you worked with decades ago. Often it just makes you seem ancient. And who really cares?
- Do believe in yourself. People dwell too much on the negative. Have faith in yourself. When you’ve been out of work for a while, you forget your value.
- Don’t badmouth past employers, even if you are bitter about being ushered out the door. No good will come from this and it will only reflect badly on you.
- Do pitch your age as a plus. You know people from all walks of life. Your children are likely to be more self-sufficient, so you’re free to stay late sometimes. You don’t need as much handholding as young people without experience. Reframe your age into a positive.
- Don’t be arrogant. If you want the gig, talk with passion about the company and what you offer it. No one wants to hire someone who thinks the work is beneath them or is marking time until something better comes along.
- Do be fearless. If you’re bad at blowing your own trumpet, ask people who know you well to write down your plus points — skills, personality, experience. Then, in the interview, you can say: ‘Well, people have said . . .’ Big yourself up! What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t get back to you.
Adapted by Alison Roberts from Great Jobs For Everyone 50+, Finding Work That Keeps You Happy And Healthy . . . And Pays The Bills by Kerry Hannon, published by Wiley and available from amazon.co.uk, £15.99.