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Finding a Job at Fifty

Image Dear Career Coach

How can a 50-year old find a job? Having worked for one employer -although in a number of different positions - for the last 25 years, I have recently been made redundant. With so many people in the same situation these days, I can't see how I can compete with a younger person. I know there are laws against age discrimination but from what I hear, employers don't seem particularly bothered about this. I can't afford to retire yet and, in any case, I still think I have a lot to offer. I would appreciate your advice.

Charles, Birmingham

First of all, Charles, let me point out that you are not redundant – the job that you were doing is no longer needed at your former company and you have therefore moved on. It might sound like just a play on words but it is important to remember that your skills and experience cannot be taken away, even if your job goes.

As someone I recently met pointed out, smart organizations recruit smart people – and recognize that such people come in a diversity of packages. Older people bring a wealth of experience, greater flexibility and often have a lower level of absenteeism from work.

If you have a question for our Career Coach, e-mail us at careers@ReConnectAfrica.com

We are in the midst of a dramatic shift in demographics in the UK. The working population is getting older and, as a nation, we are also working later in life. In 2006, there were 20 million people over 50 in the UK; by 2026, half the adult population in this country will be over 50. Progressive companies recognize this. In the UK, for example, B&Q is among the British companies that focus on recruiting traditionally excluded groups including older people. Today, more than a fifth of B&Q's 38,000 staff is over 50. The company recognizes the business benefits of employees that reflect their clients and say that "older workers have a great rapport with the customers as well as a conscientious attitude and real enthusiasm for the job".

As a senior professional, you do have a lot to offer: experience, maturity, gravitas and a proven track record. And the trick is to demonstrate this to prospective employers. You can do this by creating a strong CV that focuses on the technical, professional and people management skills that you have acquired during your career.

Working for the same company for most of your career is not a problem when you can clearly show career progression. Identify the key achievements in your career on your CV and show how you earned promotions or new projects.

Given the present state of the economy, it is important, no matter your age, to be as flexible as possible when looking at the job market. It may be a good time to look at doing something new and to consider training for a different type of job. In the UK, self-employment is an increasingly popular option for older people and even in difficult times, there are always opportunities for using your skills to work for yourself. Statistics from recent years show that 19% of people aged 50 and over in the UK were self-employed and self-employment was also more common in older men than older women.

Finding a new job takes time and hard work and you need to stay motivated and positive. One huge change in the job market in recent years has been the explosion in the use of technology and many jobs are now posted online. Developing an understanding of the online recruitment market will help you use this approach most effectively.

For senior professionals like you, the most effective way to find your next role is by using your network. At the executive level, particularly, a vast majority of the jobs are found through network contacts such as former clients or colleagues. As part of your networking, look at opening a Facebook or LinkedIn page; these sites can be a resource to help attract potential employers.

Never underestimate the value of your experience, even if there are younger candidates competing for the same job. Many employers value the maturity that you bring. Age-ism has not yet been eradicated but, rather than worrying about it, focus on what you can control and make sure that you are marketing yourself as effectively as possible and tapping into all your sources to get you into your next job.

All the best!

Need some help to solve your career dilemma? Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced careers coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you get back on track with your career.

From online CV checking to face-to-face coaching, presentation skills training to making the right impact at interview, our careers services will help you reach your goals.

Contact us now to discuss your needs: careers@reconnectafrica.com
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