by Greg Stephens
I’m an “older” worker. In the employment and career development field, we don’t use the word “older”; the preferred term is “mature”, defined by Service Canada as someone in the 45+ category. As you can probably tell from the picture, I have been in the “mature” category for quite a few years.
In our work, we have seen a steady increase in the number of clients 45 and older. Many found themselves in so-called “sunset” industries (industries in decline, usually resource-based); some are the victims of corporate restructuring or downsizing; still others are attempting to re-enter the workforce now that their children have left the nest. They very much want to continue working up to or past the age of 65, due to economic need or a sincere desire to keep contributing, but they fear their age is a barrier to employment.
Sadly, in some cases, they are right. Make no mistake, ageism does exist. There are companies that hang onto out-dated and at times discriminatory views towards older workers. The stereotype is they’ll want too much money, they’ll come in with a know-it-all attitude, they’ll cost too much to re-train, they won’t be productive because they’re just filling time until they retire, and they’ll need extra time off due to physical problems.
Employers who retain these beliefs do so at their own peril. The significant labour shortage that BC is experiencing is not going to disappear anytime soon. Forward-thinking organizations are recognizing what older workers can offer – a wealth of talent, experience, increased loyalty, responsibility – and are looking to them as a means of finding new staff. This trend is likely to continue. So how do mature workers take advantage?
Employment Tips for Mature Workers
Keep your skills updated. Read industry journals about what is required in your field. We often see individuals who have never had to learn how to use today’s technology. If you are computer-illiterate, take a beginner’s course. This will demonstrate to potential employers your willingness to learn.
Carefully analyze your past experiences. Know your skills, values, and attributes, and be able to give clear, specific examples of how they can be of value to a new employer.
Stay active physically. No one is going to expect you to be the starting shortstop on the company softball team, or run the Vancouver Marathon, but being in decent physical shape adds to your energy level. Pay extra attention to personal appearance and hygiene.
Stay “young” mentally. Challenge yourself. Do puzzles. Read. Keep the brain working. Never stop learning. Your “age” is only a number on your birth certificate.
Be open to other kinds of work. Many older workers are doing quite well in contract positions or self-employment. It’s not for everybody…do your homework, but it is an option.
Be flexible and open-minded. Employers won’t consider a candidate who insists the way he/she did something two decades ago is the only way to do it. Understand your new superior or colleagues may be 10 or 20 years younger with more recent training. Emphasize a willingness to learn from them, just as they will surely learn from you.
Be positive. No one wants to work with someone who constantly complains.
Get help. If you are currently unemployed, take advantage of the many services available to assist you back into the workforce.
A hiring manager for a large organization recently spoke to a group I was working with about what he looks for in candidates. He was asked point-blank about what he thought about hiring mature workers. His answer was instant and emphatic: “I love them. They show up and they work hard.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
About the Author:Mr. Stephens, a resident of Brookswood, is a Workshop Facilitator at the Cloverdale office of Landell and Associates Consulting Ltd. To find out about programs in the Lower Mainland funded by the federal and provincial governments that are of no cost to unemployed people, visit www.youremploymentservices.ca.
* reprinted with the generous permission of The Langley Times