Looking for a job is difficult and stressful at the best of times, but when the world’s economies are battling a recession and you’re past your prime, the difficulties are compounded. People are considered ‘mature job seekers’ when they hit the big 5-0, but some experts say that your age starts to count against you when you reach 45; an age that in this era of longevity should be considered your prime. Those of a ‘mature nature’ enter the job market for a number of reasons: they are bored with retirement and want to find a constructive way to occupy their time, or they find that retirement is far costlier than they had anticipated and need to return to work to make ends meet. It’s even possible that they were never retired and had to rejoin the job market because of downsizing.
Just as there are reasons behind mature job seekers re-entering the job market, there are reasons behind the reluctance or unwillingness to hire workers over 50 years old. Older people are perceived as being set in their ways as well as rigid, inflexible and averse to change. In addition, employers have to weigh the potential costs of hiring an older person over a younger one. These costs are associated with the likelihood of illness and absenteeism. The cost could also relate to productivity. Time could be lost as older employees may need to undergo training to be brought up to speed, and there could be conflict within the work environment as different generations adjust to working together.
On the other hand, many companies value the experience, wisdom and cool heads of older employees. Older employees may be perceived as calmer under pressure, more reasonable and rational, more cautious and less prone to reckless or careless decisions. Workers above a certain age are also perceived as ‘old school’, which means that they are thought to be more loyal, dedicated and reliable; it’s believed that their work ethic is beyond reproach.
As with all arguments, there is an element of truth to both sides. It is, however, undeniable that ageism does exist and that many companies practice it, albeit covertly. The problem has become so severe that many mature job seekers in the US and Canada, are resorting to plastic surgery to give themselves a more youthful appearance. But there are less drastic measures that can be taken to disguise your age, or at least the effects of advanced years.
For instance, many people trim their CVs; they cut the dates from their school years and eliminate work history that dates back more than 15 – 20 years. While this method is not entirely fool-proof, it will at least minimize your chances of being dismissed out of hand and may even land you an interview. The interview, of course, then becomes of paramount importance. You need to pay careful attention to your appearance now more than ever before. You may want to update your hairstyle, especially if you’ve had the same one for the last 20 years, and it may be worth investing in a new business suit, rather than wearing the same outfit you wore to your high school graduation.
How you conduct yourself during the interview is also critical. Bear in mind that you will in all likelihood be interviewed by someone who is younger than you, so don’t take offence at the line of questioning or any perceived condescending tone. Answer questions carefully, especially loaded questions that refer to grandchildren, health and retirement age. It’s also a good idea to anticipate some questions and address the issues before you’re asked, for example, issues such how you feel about reporting to people who are younger than you. Try to keep the focus on your knowledge and skills, and make sure that your knowledge is as up to date as possible, so that they can’t use your ignorance as a reason to pass you over.
These days, with age becoming an increasingly important factor in the job market, there are many niche job sites online that cater exclusively to mature job seekers. Many conventional job sites also offer services aimed at the mature job seeker market. Some experts recommend that older job seekers make use of a career coach, but so long as you keep your wits about you, and use your knowledge and experience as leverage, your chances of conquering the job market are as good as anyone else’s.