Recently a client of mine wanted to hire an administrator. We had several candidates booked for interviews, but two cancelled because they had taken another job by the time of the interview. Both these candidates' CVs had been online for only a week, and both were nearly sixty. (They volunteered the information!)
Is there anything surprising about this story? Thankfully, not so much today, but I wonder whether this would have happened ten or fifteen years ago. Today, many people in the over-50s age bracket are seeking new careers, moving fast to get them, and finding their age and experience to be a help, not a hindrance.
This was not always the case, but the world has changed. It now feels quaint to assume that anyone over 50 might be winding down their career (though a lucky few might be). The over-50s take a progressive view of their careers, and this candidate demographic is probably in the strongest position it has occupied in living memory.
Older workers always had a lot to offer, and in today's challenging markets their experience can exert a powerful draw for employers: they possess institutional insight, are practised at getting on with people who have different agendas to them, and have perspective. Businesses badly need these qualities.
Transformations in the global economy, human lifestyle and longevity mean that career expectations have changed for this age group. People now expect to have several careers, reflecting the different needs and values of each chapter of their life. The situation is well summed-up by Ric Edelman, author of "The Truth About Your Future," who believes that "instead of working in one career for 45 years and retiring for 25 years, individuals will have multiple careers and return to school multiple times over the course of their lives."
By 2020, Millennials will constitute almost half the world's working population, the state pension will climb to 66 as the government tackles the ageing population, and a third of Britain's workforce will be over 50. That's a big demographic and one that UK employers cannot afford to ignore. With many 50-plus workers contemplating another fifteen or twenty years of work, many are changing careers in the search for increasingly fulfilling jobs.
Nearly half of UK adults over 50 believe they are not too old to find their dream job or start a new career, with a similar number having more life goals they want to achieve than when they were 30. Over a quarter want "more job satisfaction" in their career move. The rising age of retirement and accompanying changes in attitudes means that, ironically, ageism feels increasingly like a relic from a different era.
Many over-50s are now taking apprenticeships in preparation for the second, third or fourth act in their career. In 2016/2017, over 30,000 apprenticeships in the UK were taken by people over 50. The over 50s are now a mobile, changeable, flexible workforce who seek fulfilment and reward, whilst bringing a lot to the table as candidates.
In the last couple of years I have seen a lot of 50-plus candidates start to think very differently about work, make significant career changes and walk into jobs. As a member of Generation X – the older of whom are now in their fifties - I know that we thrive on challenge, responsibility, diversity, independence and loyalty. Many of us are looking for stability and good tenure in a role, and can be extremely loyal if we believe in our employer. We like to be seen as undemanding, are highly committed and take pride in our work.
Millennials are renowned for wanting to make a difference. But I believe this is also important to an older generation. People of my own vintage have been around long enough to see the failures of institutions and are experienced enough to have strong opinions about what's right and what's wrong. We also want to believe!
Employers should never make assumptions about any candidate because of their age – whichever end of the spectrum they're at – and candidates should never let age hold them back. As in life, so in work.
Ageless: A brief guide to future-proofing your career and staying current regardless of your age
- Keep your skills current by maintaining an interest in technology.
- If you're considering a substantial career change in order to feel more fulfilled, you may well have to drop several rungs on the career ladder and sell yourself into a role for which you have little experience. So consider making a skills-based CV that highlights your transferable skills, achievements, projects and knowledge rather than a chronological synopsis of your career. You can find skills-based CV templates online or ask our consultants for advice!
- Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and current and ensure it matches your CV.
- Maintain (and nurture) a list of "connectors" – people who can help your career and connect you to other useful people and opportunities.
- Network and sell yourself into organisations that you want to work for – don't wait for vacancies to appear.
- If you have lots of transferable skills (for example, inspiring team mates, completing projects or overcoming obstacles) practise talking about examples where you have been able to apply them to good effect, in readiness for competency-based interviews.
- As for all candidates, it's a good idea to register with job boards and create job alerts for the kind of roles that interest you.
- Develop a great working relationship with a trusted recruiter who understands what you're looking for and what you can offer. And of course, we suggest you look no further than 1-1Recruitment for that!