Practical tips to help older adults back into the workplace

Getting back into work is something some seniors find difficult to achieve. Employers often have some outdated ideas about what older applicants may be capable of. They may worry that older workers will be overqualified, stuck in their ways or that their skills may be outdated. Unfortunately, ageism definitely exists in the world of work opportunities.

What benefits do older workers bring?

However, seniors bring many positive benefits to companies who employ them . For example, in general, older workers tend to be…

  • Dedicated
  • Punctual
  • Honest
  • Detail oriented
  • Focused

In addition, mature employees tend to have excellent communication skills, plenty of tact and diplomacy coupled with the ability to remain calm. They also bring a wealth of experience to companies and can be an excellent role model for younger workers. Finally, they are less likely to change jobs as often as younger workers, meaning that the time and money spent on training seniors will make good financial sense. These attributes mean considering older workers is a vital part of modern businesses and can contribute to the success and profits of a company.

How to increase your chances of getting back into work

Whether you are looking to return to your previous area of expertise or seeking new challenges and opportunities, follow these 10 tips to get a head start in the employment race.

Create a relevant CV/resume  – While it is tempting to cram all your experience into your CV/resume it is better to be clear and specific by tailoring each version of the CV/resume to each individual job application. Don’t feel like you have to list every job you had since school or college. Instead focus on the last 10 or 20 years of relevant experience which will be enough to demonstrate your skills and abilities. Remember you do not have to put your date of birth on your CV/resume.

If there is a significant gap in your work history, perhaps due to illness or raising a family, employers may wonder if you are ready to work again. In order to make sure they answer yes to this question, emphasize the positives such as areas where you have learned new skills. Perhaps you were on a committee, learned a language or instrument, or where studying or doing voluntary work during this time. Whatever the reason was you took time out of work, play up the positive benefits

Use age to your advantage  – Emphasize the benefits of your maturity. You have lots of experience and a wealth of knowledge as well as key attributes such as a good work ethic, dependability, wisdom, and organisational and communications kills. Make sure you emphasize these qualities and show evidence for them.

Show that you are tech savvy – Many employers worry that older workers will not be familiar with the latest technology. While this is obviously a ridiculous stereotype, it makes sense to show it is not the case for you. Emphasize your proficiency with commonly used programmes such as Microsoft Office and Excel, as well as any more specific to your profession. Provide evidence of using technology and if necessary, brush up on your skills.

Join Linkedin – Having an up to date LinkedIn profile can also help you showcase your skills and experience while also demonstrating you are au fait with technology. LinkedIn has more than 15 million jobs posted and 350,000 employers looking to hire, so it’s a great platform for finding a job. Use it to brand yourself and build a network.If you aim to work in an area where social media is important then having a great social media account can be very helpful. However, you need to commit to this. Having lots of bare profiles on a variety of platforms can look worse than having none. So, choose one or two and keep them interesting and up to date.

Finally on this section, be careful to avoid references to old, outdated systems or technology.

Keep up to date with professional developments –With a constantly changing workplace, it is essential to show that you are up to date with developments in your area. Subscribe to relevant publications or websites, go to conferences or take a training course to ensure you are up to speed.

Counteract the ‘overqualified’ stereotype – If you are applying for a job that is not as high flying as some you have had in the past, make it clear to the employer why this is. Explain that you are looking for a change of direction or a new challenge. Unfortunately, stating that a candidate is overqualified is one of the ways ageism can surface, so head this conversation off. This is also where tailoring your CV/resume to each individual job can help as you can match your experience closely to the job title.

Another reason employers are wary of over qualified candidates is that they perceive them as stuck in their ways and resistant to change, so ensure you demonstrate being open to learning new things, perhaps by giving an example of a new role you have taken on in the past.

Tell them why you are worth the money – Employers may be concerned that more mature candidates will cost more to employ. If the question of pay rates comes up at an interview, be prepared to explain why you are happy to take a pay cut, or conversely, making it clear how your experience and skills will benefit the company and therefore warrant a higher rate.

Consider part time, temporary or voluntary employment – Older candidates have an advantage over younger workers in that they can sometimes consider part time work, contract work or even voluntary work. This can provide relevant experience to add to your CV/resume as well as potentially leading to full time work with the company. Embrace the opportunities that temporary work offers to brush up on relevant skills in your field.

Voluntary work also provides an opportunity to give back to society and can be a fulfilling experience. Exploring the voluntary opportunities available in your area of expertise can also boost your confidence and wellbeing, which can often take a bashing from the recruitment process.

If you are looking for a career change, voluntary work gives you a chance to explore the options to find out if the profession is right for you as well as boosting your relevant skills.

Learn new skills – If you are out of touch with the developments in your profession or are looking to make a career change, then brushing up on your skills is key. As well as learning new skills by volunteering, you can also take advantage of the huge range of training opportunities and courses available.

There are courses on every possible topic available locally or online. For example, you can take professional development courses, or a diploma or degree online. Taking courses shows a willingness to learn and embrace the changing world of work, meaning employers are less likely to see you as stuck in your ways. You can find training and learning opportunities at your local library, job centers or local education college and many of these are free or subsidised.

Put yourself out there – Put yourself out there and build up a network of contacts to be in with a chance of interviewing for these jobs. If you have existing contacts in the industry, make sure you use them. In addition, take every opportunity to build your network by attending professional conferences as well as career fairs.

If you don’t currently have any contacts in the field you are looking to enter, you can still get the word out about your knowledge and skills. Find relevant groups on Linkedin and join group conversations that are taking place. Ask people for help and learn who the industry influencers are. Once you find a companies that interest you, email them your CV/resume with a well written covering letter explaining that are looking for a employment opportunities in their industry. Speculative applications are always of interest to employers as it saves them paying recruiter fees.

How to prepare for interviews

Practice – Attending interviews can be a daunting prospect if you haven’t done them for a while. The key is to practice as much as possible. If you can, find a younger person who has some experience of interviewing and ask them to interview you and offer feedback. Recruitment consultants are often a good place to start.

Show how you can help the company – If you can turn your interview into a sample of what it would be like to work with you, then you will be a more memorable candidate. Use every opportunity to show how you can help the employer achieve their goals.

Leave your ego at the door – It can be tricky being interviewed by someone younger and with less experience than you. However, an interview is the perfect opportunity to show that you are comfortable working collaboratively with those around you no matter their age or experience. Avoid sounding like you always know best and try to come across as open and ready to learn.

Keep examples short and to the point – Avoid telling long stories about your past experiences. Keep examples short and succinct. Identify the challenge you faced, state the action you took and explain the results. Eliminate anything that does not help make your point. Practice these examples and try to make sure you answer any question in around 2-3 minutes.

General Advice – Whatever you have done in the past will have taught you skills that can be transferred to other roles. As well as paying attention to skills you have learned from previous jobs, look at other areas of life such as parenting, caring for an older relative or being active in societies and see what skills you have that would be relevant in the field you are considering. Remember,  it’s not just your previous employment which can teach you things as your life experience will have given you a wealth of knowledge and skills which can be of great benefit to potential employers.