Old dogs and new tricks

The Weekend West. 6.8.16:

Mature-age jobseekers urged to use online networks to get ahead

Mature-age workers are often their own worst enemy when it comes to getting a job, according to University of Notre Dame careers counsellor Kim Shaw.

She said rich networks gathered over more than 30 years were often thrown out of the window when workers over 45 sought new employment.

“Mature-age workers seem to think when they are doing a career change or they are transitioning from one area to another that they have to go back to the drawing board. It’s just not the case,” Ms Shaw said.

“They have a rich network that they seem to turn their backs on. That’s a major hurdle for them – the assumption that they have to do it in a certain formal way, when in fact most jobs aren’t advertised.”

She advised them to reach out to a network, even if those people weren’t in the particular field of employment being sought, because inevitably they would know someone who was.

Career Development Association, of Australia spokeswoman Rebecca Fraser said there was a perception older candidates were out of date, partic ularly in the area of technology, or unable to keep up with a fast-paced work environment.

To counter that, she recommended mature-age candidates set up an online presence, including having a Linkedln profile, as a demonstration of technological awareness.

Ms Fraser said reverse discrimination could also occur where older individuals treated younger recruiters with disrespect.

She said mature-age workers needed to accept generational differences and do away with the attitude of “I can teach you a lot of things and you-should respect me because I am older”.

While employers often had misconceptions about older workers, those myths were sometimes perpetuated by the candidates themselves.

“In my 13 tears of experience mature-age workers tend to undermine themselves before anyone else has a chance to, which is a shame really, because there are so many good skills there,” Ms Shaw said.

She said even though some workers felt they were too old for a career change, it was never too late.

She also said, to a point, mature-age workers needed to let go of their past.

“They think they need to submit a 10-page resume because my past is important but instead that needs to be translated into a small document with only what their customer (the employer) needs to know,” she said.

There is a perception by some that mature-age workers will cost a business more because of their experience, but good retention rates could save money and, as Ms Shaw pointed out, sometimes the candidate’s expectations needed to shift.

Ms. Shaw advised those seeking a career change should do their research by speaking to people in the job or online as to what the starting salary was to align their expectations with reality. There was also a perception that mature workers were more prone to health problems.

Ms Shaw said this was not the case. “If anything, mature-age workers are less likely to get sick. That said, they are more likely to push themselves harder so management needs to be mindful of that to make sure they won’t burn out,” she said.

Ms Fraser said she had seen employers’ attitudes towards older workers changing as they recognised ‘mature-age workers’ commitment to work and face-to-face communication skills.