Mature candidates – still being overlooked?
Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for many companies. As progress is made to advance minorities and women into professional ranks, one demographic which continues to struggle is mature candidates in the 50-ish age group. Experienced and more mature candidates complain constantly that they are overlooked. I asked our older readers to name the biggest challenges they face and this is how one contact responded.
“I have worked in my sector marketing communications for over 25 years in highly ranked Fortune 500 companies. I took minimal maternity leave. I have accrued great experience, but after being laid off last year at the age of 48, I am struggling to find permanent, full-time employment. I have been offered projects and freelance work, but it’s not what I’m looking for.”
Generally the career progression in any business is to start as entry-level and rise through the ranks to become a manager by your early 30s and a Director by 40-ish. Older women job seekers, who have their child-bearing years behind them, expect to believe the damaging “hiring risk” label is history. At a more senior level they usually also no longer pose a risk of being a job hopper. Yet mature candidates still face many hurdles.
Here are my 8 top tips for more experienced, mature candidates.
1. Network, network, network
85% of jobs are not advertised and therefore networking is hugely important. It should be your ace card compared to younger candidates who are just starting out. Leveraged correctly, your network can be a huge boost. If your network isn’t as strong as it should be, start attending events and arranging lunches or coffees. NOW! Don’t ask for a job but just re-establish contact. Have business cards printed with your USP and all contact details, including your LinkedIn profile url. It’s a discreet way of sending out your resume. Pay full attentuion to your complete personal brand including the smallest details like your email set-up.
2. Re-purpose your CV
Re-create your career summary with a focus on your most recent career history. For older roles, more than 20 years prior, just put the job title and the name of the organisation. Leave off personal information as well as the dates of your further education. However, that can be an immediate red flag to most experienced recruiters. It is tantamount to saying “hey I’m over 50.”
In many ways it’s self-defeating. You may be asked in an interview for the year you graduated. This is an under hand way of asking how old you are. Most recruiters can add up.
3. Highlight your achievements
Be proud of your accomplishments and highlight them rather than apologise for your age and accrued experience. In uncertain times, that experience will count. Few companies will want a 20 something in charge during a crisis. Energy and enthusiasm are important but depth of knowledge and strength of experience will carry the day.
“I like who I am now. Other people may not. I’m comfortable. I feel freer now. I don’t want growing older to matter to me.” Meryl Streep
4. Get digital
You may never have the same flexibility and fluency with technology as your Gen Y counter parts. But you do need to have a firm grasp of basics and be current on some of the major trends. Many industry sectors pivot on apps and platforms and a good knowledge is critical. Social proof is the new testimonial, so you need a good cyber foot print. You HAVE to have a complete and strong LinkedIn profile.
5. Be source-able
This is probably a foreign word to most candidates. But the process by which potential candidates are identified in an executive search process is called sourcing. By that I mean creating an online trail where people who work in recruitment can find you. These will probably be people you don’t know. They can be located anywhere in the world. Whether it’s on LinkedIn, in women’s groups or professional associations make sure you come up in Google searches for your professional activity. Use key professional words on all your social media accounts – even Facebook. I know. get over it.
6. On-going professional development
Make sure your qualifications are up to date and you are abreast of the latest trends and developments in your area of expertise. Attend conference and seminars. This can be expensive but there are many online events which are either free or very inexpensive. Think of it as an investment.
Another way to go would be to do something completely different. There are millions of tech jobs currently unfilled and companies are open to looking for older hires to fill these gaps. Would you be willing to learn completely new skills? It could set you apart from other mature candidates.
7. Be flexible
Freelance or project work may not be the ideal prospect but it is better than nothing. Try and leverage these assignments to create other opportunities. One of the reasons why companies avoid senior established candidates is salary expectations. Get a good understanding of where your requirements lie on the market. Emphasize your added value but also be clear that non-financial considerations are equally important. Do this without selling your soul and negotiate hard for fringe benefits. At this age you can offer a high level of flexibility which younger employees might not be able to bring to the table.
8. Update your professional image
Always a difficult one, but make sure your professional image is up to date and age and sector appropriate. The most important thing is to look vibrant, resilient and healthy!
It can seem difficult for mature candidates. You don’t have the same problems younger women face and yet you’re still overlooked. Try these tips and believing in the value of your experience can help you jump some of these hurdles back into the workforce.
In an era where most people are going to have to work until they are in their late 60s, this type of ageism is misplaced. But candidates also have to recognise that they may have to make changes too.
Don’t focus on trying to hide your age, instead, own it!
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