job hunting over 50
About the Author
Corinne Mills is a career coach and author of the UK’s no 1 best-selling CV book “You’re Hired! How to write a brilliant CV” and ‘Career Coach’.
Corinne is on Twitter @corinnemills
Job hunting over 50: the 5 things you should know...
Employment statistics reveal it’s a tough time right now to be over 50 and looking for a job. The Resolution Foundation recently reported this age category has seen nearly double the drop in employment compared to those aged between 25 and 49. No wonder mature candidates have a gloomy view of their prospects, with survey findings from the website “No Desire to Retire” showing that 1 in 3 of over 50s workers have abandoned their job search.
Despite an increasing number of enlightened employers, it seems that mature candidates are still easily overlooked especially in a job market flooded with candidates.
However, it’s also true that there are many individuals still thriving professionally well into their 50s and into their pensionable years. This includes many who are at the top of their game as most board members, senior managers and community leaders are in this age bracket. In addition, many have found new ways to work that suit them better, developing a portfolio career of income generating roles and passion projects, or even changing career altogether.
As a career coach, I’ve helped many mature job-seekers to successfully land a new role. There’s no point pretending that age discrimination doesn’t exist, sadly it does, but there are tactics you can use to ensure you are judged on your merits rather than your date of birth.
1. Be confident about you
I’ve worked with coaching clients at every stage in their career who worry that they might be the “wrong age”. Those who are early-career, worry about their lack of experience for getting on the career ladder. Mid-career individuals, fear they’ll be overlooked for promotion because they’ll be younger than the teams they manage or because an employer might think they will take maternity or parental leave or have caring responsibilities. There are challenges at every stage, so it’s not surprising that those later in their career can feel disadvantaged too.
The reality is that of course you can’t do anything about your age and while some employers may have biases, the vast majority are simply interested in hiring the best candidate for the job. Focus solely on celebrating who you are and what you can offer so that you present the best, most confident and capable version of yourself. This is always the way to persuade recruiters to hire you.
2. Challenge negative preconceptions
At the same time, it’s also useful to lean directly into some of those unhelpful stereotypes about mature workers and directly challenge them. For instance, lazy assumptions about older workers having lower energy levels, tech-savviness or openness to learning should all be addressed.
You can do this by emphasising on your CV any recent training you’ve undertaken to show how up to date you are, especially if it’s related to new technologies. Sprinkle your CV with high energy words like “created” and “improved” to give your CV a more dynamic, energised vibe. Share examples of your work achievements where you’ve helped bring about positive changes, such as improvements in systems, repairing a working relationship, solving a problem, increasing profits, reducing costs or enhancing quality. Talk about demanding targets and deadlines that you’ve met or exceeded. They are much more likely to hire you if they see you as an asset to their business rather than someone looking to coast towards retirement.
3. Downplay dates and emphasise relevant experience
You can’t hide your age, but you don’t have to emphasise it. Leave your date of birth off your CV. Don’t include the dates for your early education or for your first few jobs. Focus on your recent career experience, going back perhaps 20 – 25 years in detail. Then group all of your earlier career history together under one heading such as “Previous Career History” where you summarise your employment without including dates.
If an earlier career experience is very pertinent to the jobs you are applying for, then use a functional CV where on the first page, you provide a bullet point list of your relevant experience which can be drawn from any time in your career. This list does not need to include dates. You can then include a scaled down version of your employment history and dates on the second page. This allows recruiters to focus on your talents and suitability for the job and downplays the chronology of what you did when and how long ago.
4. Use personal and online networks
One advantage of being older is that you’ll have built up many contacts over the years, including school and university friends, former co-workers, employers and customers and extended family. Your contacts may be able to signpost you to opportunities they’ve heard about and recommend you to other people. It’s perfectly acceptable to get in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time, especially when social media sites such as LinkedIn have been set up expressly for this purpose.
Your visibility on the LinkedIn network is essential. Recruiters will directly approach candidates on the platform when they are looking to fill vacancies. When someone receives your CV they are also likely to check your profile on LinkedIn too. If you’re not on there, they might think you are old-fashioned in not using social media or that you’ve something to hide.
5. The benefits of being the age you are
Mature workers offer employers so much. They’ve acquired a lifetime of skills, learning and wisdom that can be easily deployed, often needing less hand-holding than inexperienced workers. They bring a much needed balance to younger teams as well as insights into dealing with older customers, the fastest growing segment of the population. They also tend to have a strong work ethic, a good attendance record and are less likely to job-hop. There is a lot to recommend them. Use these positive traits in your favour, contradict the negative stereotypes and show what a great candidate you are in your applications, and you may find that age matters less than you think.