When you’re getting towards the latter part of your career, or returning to work after many years out of the workforce, it’s not uncommon to feel like prospective employers are suddenly oblivious to your talent and experience!
It’s no secret that older job seekers find it harder to compete in the job market … but it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are our “Top Tips” for how to approach job hunting as a mature candidate.
Enthusiasm knows no age:
Take time to think about why a younger candidate might sound more attractive to an employer. We often associate youth with energy, passion and a willingness to learn, but these attributes are not exclusive to the young — and don’t let them be! You’ll likely have these traits in spades, so make sure your CV and cover letter reflect this.
When you get the opportunity to be interviewed, bring your enthusiasm for the role and the organisation with you. We aren’t saying you need to be over the top, but if you give the impression that you already know all there is to know, you aren’t demonstrating a willingness to learn new things or get to know a new organisation.
Take advantage of your advantages:
Your considerable experience, and the ability to apply it from day one, can be very attractive to an employer. And your willingness to impart your experience to new or younger employees can make you even more valuable.
Being older often means having larger networks and contacts, so use them to your advantage. Younger candidates can often be considered flight risks, so use that to your advantage too.
Get tech savvy:
Whether true or not, older candidates are often associated with being technophobes or lacking tech skills. Technology in the workplace today is inescapable and basic computer skills are pretty much essential. Highlight the skills you have, so potential employers can see them. But if you feel you’re lacking in this area, there are some great courses available — lots of them are free! We’ve added some useful links at the end of this article.
It’s also important to make sure you’re visible online. Have SEEK and LinkedIn profiles that are up to date and ensure your profiles are connected to a current email address, so if an employer or recruiter does reach out … you’ll get the message!
Mind your language:
It can be easy to guess a person’s age or generation by the way they talk and the language they use. Prevent any potential bias by using contemporary language in your application and interview. For example, there are very few “secretaries” these days but there are a lot of Personal and Executive Assistants. Also remember that unless it’s an extremely physically demanding role that you are applying for, there’s no need to talk about your age or how many years you have “left in you”.
Always play nice:
It is quite possible that your potential managers and colleagues will be younger than you. Don’t ever give the impression that you feel superior to them or are going to struggle taking direction. Approaching the application process with any preconceived notions about a younger generation’s abilities will not endear you to anyone.
Keep it recent and relevant:
Where possible, use recent examples when answering interview questions. Focus on your skills and experience in general, rather than your seniority or lengthy career. Of course, the level of role you are going for will come into play here. If it’s a senior executive or leadership position, then your decades of experience will be of benefit. However, for other positions you don’t want to give them the impression that you’re “old school”.
The same goes for your CV. You don’t need to include your entire work history or the date that you graduated secondary school. Try to keep it within the last fifteen years and as relevant as possible to the position you’re applying for.
A drop down isn’t a bad thing:
If you’re not having much success with your job hunt, you may need to re-evaluate the salary or job level that you’re aiming for — particularly if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while or have been with the same company for a long period of time. Sometimes you have to move down to then move up. Get your foot in the door … and then prove just how valuable you can be!
It might feel like you’re being rejected due to your age, but ask any recent graduate, stay-at-home parent returning to work or new immigrant, and you’ll quickly find that there are many people out there who are also finding things tough.
By automatically assuming it’s your age holding you back, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The job market rises and falls. Approaching it with a negative frame of mind won’t get you far, regardless of your circumstance.
Finally, it goes without saying that no matter how old you are or how many times you have done this before, always do your research before applying for a job. Even if it’s an industry you know or with an organisation you’ve worked for previously, there are bound to be things that have changed.
Good luck. Stay positive. And remember … it’s only about your age if you make it about your age!
Kirsty and Nikki