Blog # 3

By Tony Devine 

Addressing Ageism when looking for work.

 In my work both voluntary and through The Grey Matters Network I come across this fear of being viewed negatively due to your Age when looking for work. It must be said that this fear is not shared by all and indeed many rightly leverage the distinct advantage that their experience gives them.

I often find myself reminding people of the time they were looking for their first job when the challenge was a lack of experience. The purpose of this article is to address the fear, real or perceived, of ageism when looking for work.

Unconscious Bias, focus on your value:

You can anticipate that organisations will check you out (online or based on your CV information) before considering inviting you to interview. You may be worried that they are already forming an opinion. This may also be a worry for you if you have got through the first loop and have landed and interview. As human beings we all suffer from forming unconscious bias.

This is difficult to address in the other person, you can only own what you can present of yourself. You cannot radically change the other person’s bias. What I would encourage people to do is to understand and focus on your value to the prospective employer.

Place the emphasis on their needs of you and the context relevant experience that you have accumulated. Very often we encourage the biased perception by being self-deprecating, by how we turn up, by how we present ourselves.

There is a genuine awakening in the workplace to the real value that the mature worker can bring to any team. Besides the functional and sectoral expertise, you can bring to the employer you will also, in general, have more advanced relational skills, greater capacity for empathy than your younger self.

Will I fit in?

Will I fit into an organisation full of Millennials and Gen- Z’s?

A common euphemism for age that is used by some to reject an older candidate is that ‘we don’t feel you would fit in here’.  I believe this becoming less common these days as the demand for labour and capability is starting to rebound as we look towards a post pandemic world.

I would again encourage people who are worried about this issue to focus on their value.

It is well established that there is value in age-diverse teams. You bring the perspective of your experience, of your generation, which is very likely a major portion of the organisation’s customers.

Demonstrate a willingness to learn:

There is that perception out there that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

This needs to be addressed as it’s a basic requirement of most jobs that you will learn new skills. It is therefore important that you demonstrate that you continuously learn new skills. You can do this by showing courses you have attended, new skills you have learned recently. These don’t have to be work-related.

Place more emphasis on what you’ve done rather than what you are planning to do. Most organisations for most roles look for people with a Growth Mindset and tend to avoid those they perceive to have a Fixed Mindset. Check out Carol Dweck’s writings on this subject.

Your work arrangement and the post-pandemic workplace.

In many cases the older worker or the returning worker needs a flexible work arrangement to provide care for family members, parents, or children. Organisations have mostly been reluctant to embrace this in the past. I believe the Coronavirus might have that one silver lining, that it will have been established beyond any doubt that for many jobs it is possible to work remotely.

Working part time will continue to be a challenge and depends on the employer’s broader structure and work policies. It is important that an interviewee does not confuse want and need when it comes to discussing a flexible working arrangement.

Consider working as a contractor.

Do not limit yourself to looking for the traditional permanent job. Mature workers can often be very well suited to working as a contractor. Organisations are less concerned with age with engaging a contractor and more concerned with your ability to get the defined job done. The value you can bring to an organisation will accumulate with every assignment.

Any concerns become insignificant as you there to deliver on a task rather than be part of a long-term structure.

#Ageism #UnconciousBias #FlexibleWork #Inclusion

#Diversity #Collaboration #FutureofWork #FitforPurpose #Experience


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