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Getting a job after 50

Getting a job after 50

Posted on was a simple request: “Im age 67 yrs and refuse to retire. I need a carreer [sic]”.

Here, on a digital billboard, is the lament of the middle aged.

Another digital odd-jobs platform, Airtasker, is currently promoting its “grey army rocking on”. There’s Steve from Melbourne “who’s better than most with a computer and a dab hand with the paint brush”. Then there’s Craig from Sydney, a permaculture practitioner “with a wide variety of gardening and hard yakka skills”.

It’s a tribute to these men that they’re out there, but so many of those who once had careers and trades are now resorting to menial tasks. Nobody told the baby boomers it was going to be like this.

Is this a simple case of out with the old, in with the new? Can we blame the GFC, social change or just plain old age prejudice for so many being put out to pasture?

What’s been your experiencing getting a job – or hiring someone – over 50?

Once prejudice sets in, it is hard to leach out. In the construction industry, it is said to be extremely difficult for anyone over 40 to be considered for employment. It’s believed they may be carrying “damage” caused earlier in their careers when current safety procedures did not exist. As one contractor confides: “Many companies believe older men will bring a claim against them. They might have pre-existing medical conditions such as hearing damage or a back injury.”

Brian Maguire, principal of Sydney-based mentoring firm Absolute Clarity Communications, is now writing a book titled You’re not done yet. Maguire says many in their 50s apply for the same jobs as 30 years previously and wonder why the rejections keep coming. They are up against a recruitment market which is conservative, risk averse and template driven. “They think that if you hire a young person and they’re mediocre, the template is to blame, but if you hire an older person who doesn’t fit the template, you get the blame,” Maguire says.

Maguire says only 25 per cent of placements are made by the recruitment market, the rest by networks. List your portable skills and target the companies, he advises. “Don’t ask people for a job, just ask them for advice. Ask them: ‘What do I need for an insight, what do I need to bring to the job?’

“That person will give advice and might say call this person and so on. Before you know it, you’re building a network. Don’t go looking for a job, just ask the right people the right questions.”

Ted Longhurst, 59, was a national project manager for a big pharmaceutical company before his job was made redundant in 2009. Two years and more than 200 applications later, he landed a job as a regional sales manager with an ophthalmic surgical company. It was, he admits, not as senior a position, but he has no regrets.

“People have to accept that the highlights, that the highest role or highest salary might have happened at 35 or 40,” he says. “It’s not a failure to transition to a different phase of your career. The secret is to create new highlights in that next phase.”

Longhurst says he probably tried too hard to emphasise his skills and abilities during interviews.

“I probably over-talked the situation,” he admits. He advises not to present as bitter, lost or offended. Indeed, remove the ego altogether. “Get over it. There will always be a situation where they want a dynamic 35-year-old. Put your best foot forward. Less might be more when it comes to your CV.”

Sometimes the best foot forward is impossible. Not only has the job become redundant but the industry itself. Chris O’Shaughnessy, 61, worked for many years in broadcast television, then set up as a recruitment specialist for TV and radio. He found that setting up on his own became increasingly untenable as the permanent jobs market for broadcasting died.

“They used to employ hundreds of people. Nine had permanent staff, as did Seven and Ten. These businesses no longer produce their own TV – just breakfast shows and news. Everything else is shrink-wrapped by third party production houses and sold to the highest bidder – and they only employ contractors,” he says.

Could O’Shaughnessy, who now works in the charity sector, not apply his recruitment skills to another marketplace? “They say they’d sooner have someone who knows their specialist space and has a client list with 40 names on it. I might be able to get a job, but only if I could bring along my TV client list. The problem is that most of the names on it are retired, out of the industry or dead!”

Some simply reinvent themselves. Andrew de Souza, 50, who runs Sydney’s Northshore Business Coaching, found himself made redundant in early 2011 when the big US bank he worked for decided to downsize its foreign exchange trading desk. It had been the only kind of job de Souza had known for 25 years.

Within six months he had retrained as a business mentor and hasn’t looked back since. “If I can earn a six-figure salary coaching and mentoring people within the next two years, that’d be great,” de Souza says. “There’s a lot of satisfaction and pleasure in seeing people and businesses benefit and grow. Sure, I may have been paid better at JP Morgan but I can’t remember any of that kind of satisfaction.”


*Original Article by Adam Courtenay: