50 somethings – A vulnerable group
One of the most vulnerable groups in this or any other recession is the 50 somethings. This is not necessarily because they are poor performers, but usually because they are simply more expensive than junior employees. Severing a few senior execs or older employees can make an instant and positive impact on any organisation’s salary bill. Additionally, at this level employees are also costly in terms of perks and benefits, with company cars, phones, lap tops, health and pension plans and longer holidays etc all contributing to reducing a company’s overheads when they cease. So whether you’re pushed or decide to take advantage of voluntary early retirement schemes, there are lots of things to take into consideration.
So what can you do ?
The higher you are – the further the fall. Losing your job is hard for anyone, but being displaced from near the top of the chronological or professional pyramid can be especially tough. Quite often there are angry thoughts about how many years you’ve put in and perhaps how little time you have left in your career. Deal with the anger, grief and anxiety and any perceptions of failure you might have as effectively and as early as you possible. All of these challenging emotions will impede your ability to move forward. It’s important to be willing to let go old habits that might be keeping you ina rut.
- Set up some coping strategies: a structured daily schedule to support yourself through this difficult time. Online contact Sarah Robinson (aka The Maverick Mom) calls this structure “Walking the Grid” She uses this strategy when ..“ ..I really don’t know what to do next, where I feel like I am grappling in the dark …” It might be walking, gym sessions, talking to close friends and family, networking, job search activities, relaxing, sleeping and eating correctly. If you are sleeping erratically or self medicating with food,alcohol or other substances then make sure you are seeing a medical professional. I knew one Coachee who didn’t tell his wife he had been laid off until 3 months after the event and every day he left the house as if setting off for the office as usual. In fact he was just sitting in cafés and parks until he came home at the normal time. So if your own efforts don’t work consider seeking professional support or visit your doctor.
- Take stock: What do you really want to do? List your passions. How so you want to spend the rest of your career – your life? Consider personal development programmes: think about training in another field or updating old skills. An old college friend, Russell Lewis, an ex-lawyer has retrained in dry stone walling techniques and thatching– simply because he wanted to spend his post- retirement career working out of doors. What do you want to do?
- Update your CV: many older job seekers have not looked for a job or written a CV for a number of years. It is key to update it in line with current job search developments and presentation techniques, as well as to keep abreast of modern technology in this field. This is one age group which I strongly believe benefits from professional career support. You are no longer obliged to state your date of birth, or even the year you graduated on your CV, but most experienced recruiters are savvy enough to work out if you try too much camouflaging . Omitting it will get you past ATS.
- Identify your transferable skills: look at the challenges in your life and career and ask how these can be used in other fields or sectors . You have amazing life and career experiences to call upon, so make these your USPs.
- Update your professional skills: it is really important now to be on top of all the latest developments in your field, profession or sector. You may not be operational in all of them, but being out of touch with current trends dates you.
- Interim assignments: 50 somethings are quite often attracted to interim assignments, although this is a sphere that is challenging to break into because the Catch 22 applies that previous experience is quite often required. This is an ideal sector for candidates who are nationally or internationally mobile and have had experience of hitting the ground running as project managers during their careers. This is where a focus on transferrable skills is key.
- Networking: now is the time to really tap into your network. All those extra miles on the tires means lots more contacts on the Rolodex, which is a huge bonus. Maximise those connections. Make sure you attend all professional and alumni events. Sign up for news letters.
- Become familiar with social media: make sure you have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and any social media pertinent to your field. Start a blog. This is not just about raising your visibility, it’s also about being seen to be current! 50 somethings who dismiss social media and modern technology out of hand and do so volubly, are immediately indicating that they are not at least in touch with modern trends. As a minimum you need to understand what it is all about and how it functions. If you reject it, do so from an informed position. It means that you can communicate with the 25 – 45 age group without your eyes glazing over or looking panic stricken. An older employee rich in traditional skills, but is tuned in to up to date technology, is a great combination and brings instant added valued.
- Assess your image: now is the time to objectively (and tastefully) update your image and make sure your clothes, hair style and general appearance are at least from the 21st century.
- Look after your health: If you look healthy and fit (and hopefully are) you will appear energetic. Make sure you are getting exercise and looking after your appearance. Your complexion, hair condition and general demeanour all convey your inner energy.
- Interviews:there is a strong possibility that everyone in the process might be younger than you. Try not to let this bother you. Don’t assume that because you are older, you know more, or better. Your area of expertise is just in another area. Appearing flexible, current and open will be key factors to emphasise. Try to keep your points of reference relatively recent. Referring to experiences from 30 or 40 years ago, unless it is of specific value, dates you. So forget Flower Power, Glasnost, Thatcher, Mitterrand and Clinton and make sure you have a good general knowledge of recent national and international events plus general cultural developments. If you don’t know what an Ipod is you might be in trouble.
- Re-location: older employees are sometimes less tied to specific geographic areas because of young families etc. If you are able to extend your job search net wider, so much the better. Being mobile is a great asset.
- Volunteer: Not-for-Profit organisations are happy to have senior level volunteers. This is always helpful for networking, refreshing old skills or learning new ones.
- Become an Expert: Offering pro- bono consulting services is another way of raising your visibility and show casing your area of expertise. Write a blog or articles for your local newspaper or your professional newsletter, which also increases you visibility. Set up a web site. You have a lot to offer. There are certain areas where “Village Elder “ experience is invaluable. E-How offers the opportunity to make money on line by writing and publishing your own content.
- Anti – social hours: Consider working hours that younger workers with families won’t/can’t work.
- Is this the time to be self-employed? With your wealth of experience could you start-up your own business or join forces with someone else with complementary skills . You Noodle is a place to discover and support the hottest early-stage companies and university innovation. They develop decision-making technology and tools for the start-up world. Check it out.
- Be willing to change tactics : This demographic struggles with responding to change fast enough. I get mails every day saying I’ve sent out 20 CVs with no response or attended x interviews with no feedback. There is a clear message here that what you’re doing is not working and it might have nothing to do with your age. Review your strategy regularly. See a professional if you need to. But don’t wait too long. You’re not getting younger!
Some companies actually value expertise and experience. I hope you find them!
Six of the most costly words in life or business can be ” This is what I’ve always done.”
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All good advice and most helpful. There is an age bias that is not spoken about publicly because it is discrimination and yet, behind closed doors I have heard first hand people in the hiring positions express concern about someone’s age regardless of their vitality, good health, expertise and excellent recommendations. It’s the same kind of narrow-mindedness and prejudice that has existed for years in other dimensions, such as race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual identification, and religion.
Thanks Gary age bias is very commonplace at both ends of the spectrum. It’s time we factored that into our recruitment processes and made them bias conscious.