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Ageism – A New Approach For An Age Old Problem

Posted by: Matt

Compared with previous generations, our ageing population isn’t as likely to hang up their boots when they hit retirement age. Longer life expectancy combined with a more flexible work culture means older candidates are finding it easier to continue working past retirement and beyond.

Whether it’s continuing in the job they love, learning new skills, or opting for something part-time to keep physically and socially active, there are plenty of ways for older people to get out there and get some action in the jobs market. The question is, are employers as keen to hire older candidates as older candidates are to work? Does ageism exist in the jobs market?

In a word, yes. Just look at the number of tech industry job listings for ‘young, nimble start ups.’ According to the University of Auckland Business Review, discrimination is on the rise. But with over-40s making up around 44% of New Zealand’s population – and expected to increase to 54% by 2021 – it’s time we all understood the opportunities that come with an ageing workforce.

The University found that employers in New Zealand tended to view the over 45s as less adaptable, creative and flexible than their younger counterparts.

As life expectancy continues to rise around the world, ageism in the workplace is now a global issue. Internationally, older workers are less likely to be up-skilled or retrained, more likely to be made redundant, and in America, unemployed people over 55 can expect to face almost twice as long in redundancy as younger unemployed people.

Why Employers Are Getting It Wrong

Some of the common misconceptions employers have about older workers include:

  • They’re inflexible or lack creativity
  • They tire more easily
  • They don’t take care of their health
  • They’re less reliable as a long-term employee, as they’re nearing retirement age
  • They’re more expensive to employ

According to a study by London Business School researchers, each and every one of these assumptions about older workers is shown to be statistically untrue.

And employers hold misconceptions about younger workers too. The same study found that 58% of millennials expect to leave their jobs in three years or less. It’s estimated that nearly half of workers worldwide expect to leave their jobs just within the next year. The retention problem is acute across the globe, so the argument that older workers are less reliable in the long-term simply doesn’t hold water.

There are a few things the older candidate can do to improve their chances of finding work in later life. With the rise of freelancing and the gig economy, work is more flexible than ever and while this state of affairs may represent a lack of security for young workers trying to make their way in the world, those with experience – and, perhaps, fewer financial woes – can turn it to their advantage.

Get Networking

This is somewhere older workers have a distinct advantage: you’ve been around the block more times than your younger counterparts, you’ve wined and dined more clients, and you have a bigger network built up. Make the most of this. Getting a referral can help you bypass the traditional company screening process. So get on LinkedIn, talk to friends, and let people know you’re available for projects, consultancy work, or freelance opportunities.

The Gig Economy

If your lifestyle and income needs allow, and you have the skills to make it pay, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take your wealth of experience and put it to use under your own steam. Setting up your own business, taking on consultancy work or joining the ever growing community of online freelancers are all options open to you.

Keep Your Skills Up To Date

Whatever field you work in, it’s important to keep up with the trends and changes in the sector. Existing employers may be far more open to upskilling and offering you on-the-job training than you realise, as it can save them in hiring costs in the long run, and make for happier, more fulfilled employees. Show you’re interested and talk to management about branching out and learning new skills, or if you’re already retired, it could be time to head back to school for a short course, evening or part-time class to get you up to speed.

Know the Law

Not hiring on the basis of age is not just bad business, it is clearly illegal under the Human Rights Act. If you think you’ve been unfairly discriminated against due to your age, you are legally entitled to fight this decision.

Matt is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads the Engineering recruitment practice within the business. Originally from the UK he’s been living in New Zealand for 13 years. Matt is a retired ‘amateur’ athlete who has given up chasing great marathon times for chasing his young children around the park, a far more worthy (if not exhausting) pursuit.

At The Talent Hive we specialise in connecting IT & Engineering professionals with the right career opportunities. We encourage collaboration, socialising your success and sharing industry insight and expertise. Start the journey, connect with The Talent Hive today.

Categorised as: Career Development, Job Seeker Advice