Every job search comes with its own set of opportunities and barriers. The same is true of career transition for the mature worker, those over 50. Just a decade ago, many experts warned of labor shortages in the United States as the Baby Boomers marched into retirement en masse. But with an aging population facing the prospect of living for decades on shrunken retirement funds, mature workers plan to keep on working.
But the world is not all rainbows and there has been a mixed response in the workplace, as some hiring managers and organizations have a variety of misconceptions about the older worker. Many employers perceive them to be costly and troublesome to hire.
Data shows that individuals over the age of 55 find it harder to land jobs than their younger counterparts, even though age discrimination is illegal. A recent AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that the average duration of unemployment for job seekers ages 55 and older was 54.3 weeks, more than five months longer than the 28.2 weeks that younger workers typically remain unemployed.
On a more positive note, though, some far-sighted companies are working to recruit, retrain and otherwise engage mature employees, as they recognize the value these older workers bring to the workplace. Mature employees with a lifetime of experience can leverage job knowledge, interpersonal skills, business contacts and problem-solving skills in ways that younger workers can’t. The goal of the mature worker is to leverage these advantages and minimize any negative perceptions, recognizing that the world of work and expectations of workers continues to evolve.
There are many stereotypes about older workers that prevent employers from hiring and making good use of older workers; however, many of them are simply myths.
Myth: Older workers cost more than younger workers and are less productive on the job.
Reality: Studies show that older workers use less sick days overall than their younger counterparts and have fewer dependents enrolled in medical benefits. Older workers also have superior interpersonal skills, more inclusive workstyles and deal better with customers.
Myth: People at or near retirement age tend to lose interest in their jobs.
Reality: Research finds the opposite is true, with numerous studies showing that employees who worked past retirement age became more, rather than less, engaged and satisfied with the jobs.
Myth: Older workers in the workplace won’t stay long-term with a company
Reality: The average job tenure in the U.S. today is 3.7 years and one recent study reports that 58% of millennials plan to leave their current job within the next year. Older workers have already built their career; they tend to be more loyal and willing to stick with an organization and less likely to job-hop.
So, what can an older worker do to stand out in today’s competitive job market? Here are some career transition strategies and job search tips mature workers over 50 can take to leverage their strengths:
1. Identify and promote the advantages that come with age and experience, particularly interpersonal skills and problem solving.
2. Leverage your professional network, which is typically more extensive and will facilitate access to a wider range of companies.
3. In your resume and interviews, emphasize your accomplishments, not years of experience.
4. Be relevant and current. Ask a trusted younger friend/relative for an assessment of anything that may be unintentionally aging you.
5. Show social media savvy with LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other topical platforms.
6. Seek out and target employers who are age-neutral or proactively hire mature workers.
You have a great story to tell as a mature worker, and much to offer a company. Identify how you can leverage and communicate your best attributes and press on!!
Vice President, Senior Executive Services