First things first – I’m not 50. I’m actually 20 years younger than that. But nevertheless, I’m appalled by the stories and comments I hear from clients, colleagues, and in newspapers and LinkedIn articles about the ageism from recruiters and hiring managers against mid-lifers.
Common unconscious biases held by hirers about candidates over 50 include that they are:
Unable to learn new knowledge, skills and approaches
Set in their ways
Unable to follow younger leaders
and these biases mean the older candidates often aren't considered, let alone offered, the role.
Well, my silver-haired friends, it’s time to fight back!
50 is the new 30 and here’s why:
People are living longer, so we really need to reassess our ageism. Retirement is a pipedream if you’re 45 or younger – you’ve still got 2 decades to earn your keep! You aren't going anywhere soon. If you did, the rest of the working population would have to dip into their pockets to fund the retirement / unemployment of over 50s for 20 years.
When I was 24, some of my best friends were in their mid 40s – and they out-partied me (they still do!). Age does not equal energy.
If you’ve got the Attitude, Skills and Knowledge, you’ve got just as much right to any job as anybody else.
What can you do as an over-50 job hunter to bump yourself up the candidate list?
#1 Keep yourself up to date with industry trends, skills, & information with a lifelong learning mindset
Don’t expect anyone to help you. So many older people get made redundant and are lost because they’ve been doing the same or similar jobs for years. Diversify your knowledge and skills in role, keep track of new innovations, embrace change and progress, and more than anything – have the attitude: always love learning. It will fuel your fire to keep chasing that windmill of ever-turning progress. And your enthusiasm will be infectious.
#2 Rethink your career identity
If you’re being told you’re overqualified for roles, instead of blaming the age bias of the recruiter/hiring manager, reflect on why you’re going for roles below you! It may indicate a lack of self awareness on your part of your true value, as all as pigeon hole your future to a role type and structure you’ve already outgrown.
You’re likely not packaging up yourself or your skills properly. Imagine if you took all those skills and decades of industry knowledge and experience, and instead of trying to find a permanent role, you positioned yourself as a consultant. An expert in your field. Because, my friend, with all that behind you, whether you believe it or not, you are an expert.
Consulting is a fast-growing industry globally – and Australia has the largest consulting market in the world. Take ownership of your career and get paid more by packaging up your skills to solve problems you’ve been solving in-role for years. Help others solve their similar problems faster and you might just find a second wind in the second half of life.
#3 Stay active
I’m not saying be skinny. I’m saying be fit – physically, mentally, emotionally. Ironically, many people don’t have “time” to exercise because they’re so busy working. So if you don’t want to exercise for your health, do it for your career. Your eyes will sparkle with energy and endorphins. And when you take care of yourself and show up vibrant and enthusiastic, you’ll shine and people will want you around. It will also reduce the risk of workplace injury, which is a real cost to organisations. Feel better by exercising your body and your mind with activity, problem solving, meditation, new experiences – whatever you need to be constantly moving, growing, expanding.
#4 Ensure your CV is a point in time
Some job sites and applications require your college or university degree information. Apparently, this can instantly age your application, conjuring up bias in the hiring manager. But the funny thing is, I graduated only 7 years ago and in this short time my degree has little direct relation to my current role.
So, it’s time to put your victimhood back on the shelf:
Go and do another degree to give you a more recent qualification to put on your CV OR
Only put your last 3-4 roles on your CV – just list everything else OR
Remove dates from the earlier roles you list OR
Group roles under buckets OR
Simply remove your really early roles from your job history – they probably have little relevance now anyway.
It’s up to you to err on the side of caution so that you don’t trigger unconscious bias – find a way to bring your CV into now and let irrelevant aspects of the past stay back there.
#5 Believe in yourself
This is always my last step – that’s always actually the first step. But if I’d put it upfront you wouldn’t have kept reading. Just like my previous article for overseas job hunters, the only thing holding you back is your perception of your age. It’s not a problem unless you make it a problem.
If you don’t have the belief in yourself, you’re going to be projecting that dis-belief in your own abilities through your job applications and interviews. Shifting beliefs can be hard, so you can always get help from a career coach like me. I’ve transformed people’s entire psychology just by re-writing their CV properly to make them shine.
So, silver-haired superstars, go out there and start taking the town. We all need you guys to keep working with us – and you need it, too.
I'm Lata Hamilton - Change Leadership and Confidence expert, Founder & CEO of Passion Pioneers, and the creator of the Leading Successful Change program.
Grab my free Underpaid & Overlooked Coaching Action Guide to learn how to change jobs and careers with confidence and earn your worth - download it here.