Beat ageism to secure a job

November 2005

Training roomAfter a decade spent overseas, Alan Oxley resigned from a post in his mid-40s to return to the UK. Following only a few months of job-hunting, he was offered a position with London Guildhall University (renamed London Metropolitan University) as a senior lecturer in computing. In this article, he gives some tips to older workers on finding work and hints on how they can promote themselves.

Strategies for finding a job

One strategy for older workers to find a job is to get in touch with people that they have networked with over the years, particularly those in the same situation. It can help to prevent them feeling isolated to know that there are other older colleagues trying to find work.

These friends and acquaintances will themselves have contacts and may know about vacancies that exist. The older worker could even ask their contacts to forward their details to any companies with which they have dealings.

Another strategy for finding work is to become an independent contractor. This can sometimes lead to a permanent position.  

When searching for a job, it is worth targeting certain sectors that are more likely to recruit the older worker than others, such as the not-for-profit sector.

Exploiting contact details gives a head start

Many advertised positions give details of a person to contact for further details or to discuss the vacancy. One can take advantage of this by talking with the contact, who is often the future line manager. It will give the impression of being self-motivated and it is also a way of finding out, in more general terms, the company's needs over and above the specific position being advertised.

This proactive approach should help to overcome any age bias that exists in the employer.

Free time allows more research

Older workers who are out of a job can spend more time researching the companies that are being applied to, keeping them one step ahead of other job applicants who are working.

Keeping up-to-date with developments is vital

The older worker must show that they are keeping abreast of current IT developments, including experience with current hardware and software. The notion of 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks' needs to be dispelled.

Experience must be highlighted

Age has its benefits, which the older job hunter must spell out to potential employers. For example, older people are more experienced at solving problems, managing (including leadership), and communicating with others. Giving examples to a prospective employer of problems that one has resolved, as well as examples of man management experience, should help.

The older person is more likely to have modelled scenarios, written reports, been awarded professional certifications, and have been highly trained.

Older job hunters need to think 'what skills do I possess that younger applicants do not?' They could remind a potential employer that they are less prone to errors than less experienced people, avoiding delays and loss of money. To hire a younger person, on a relatively low wage, could be a false economy.

Older workers need to sell themselves with dynamism. They need to focus on recent experience, rather than dwelling on the past. Companies are interested in what is happening now and in the future.

Low self-esteem puts off employers

It can be difficult to remain confident if one is continually knocked back with job applications. It is easy for the applicant to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that age is the problem. Older workers need to avoid a spiral of self-doubt. It is not conducive to job-hunting, and interviewers perceive lack of confidence and self-esteem as negative traits.

The older job seeker must therefore try to remain confident and maintain high self-esteem.

This article was writen by Alan Oxley in November 2005.