This is a subject very dear to my heart; alas! I am now in this category. Yes – I hit the big 50 a couple of weeks ago and it has come to my attention that there is quite a stigma in hiring “over 50’s”. Personally I feel fantastic but to the outside world there is a totally different perception. Are they looking at me as though I am too old and past it all now? Should I let people know my age as maybe they will treat me differently (a little late for this one).
Turning 50 is a significant milestone and a natural time in life to do some self-reflection, contemplation and goal setting. It’s the time in life to re-evaluate where you have been and where you want to go. I am definitely not saying that you are at the end of your career; in fact I think that it is a great time to get cracking and set up what you want out of the next 30 years.
A friend of mine reached her 50’s last year and one thing I remember her saying to me was she had only just gotten used to the idea that those many successful folk she saw in public life – those who, in her mind, appeared to be several years her senior – were in fact her junior. “Wow” she said “I have finally hit a different age bracket. No longer am I part of that 35 plus generation where I am still considered a young lady of potential. Now at 50 I am perceived in a totally different demographic”. As she put it – “it was a group she had not signed up to”.
She also told me that she had been working with the same group of people for some time and no one ever questioned her age before, but when she mentioned to her younger colleagues how old she was going to be, she was blitzed by shouts of disbelief. What shocked her was not because they thought she looked so youthful but because they just could not believe anyone that old actually worked with them (not at all flattering). For them, 50 had negative connotations. It was that moment she hit 50, she had not simply added another year to her age but she had now hit an entirely new club.
The trouble is that society looks at us as though we are past it – Are we? We are told that up until the age of 22 we are normally considered too young or junior for the role, but after the age of 45 we are considered too old, so with these statistics we have around a 20 year window to get our career up running, sorted and finished. Then on top of these 20 years if you are a woman in the workforce you could probably take out five years for family – so now we are down to 15 years for our whole career – Scary thought!
In my line of work I often hear candidates in their 50’s make this complaint “No one is hiring older workers”. Yes they are right; older candidates do have to work harder to overcome discrimination, and yes I agree it is not fair. But that does not mean that every employer is hell-bent on shutting the door on candidates over the age of 50. Personally I think it is the way you market yourself.
In my humble opinion when looking at the over 50’s there are two types of workers – those that enjoy working and those that have to work. Both types are great employees and both can be “loyal” employees. The over 50 employee can bring maturity to the office. I can hear you say “we have a young culture” and you worry that they won’t “fit in“. But have you ever thought that maybe this is exactly what your office needs. There’s nothing wrong with a little variety. Nowadays many Managers are managing up to four generations at once across multiple sites.
Another misconception is that they haven’t long to go in their working career (they only want to work another five years). The average tenure in a permanent role these days is around three years. So if you are looking for another five years of work – you are ahead of the eight ball. In our culture today it is very rare for a candidate to stay in a job their entire career. A lot of younger candidates want to move around to get variety – but we can offer that longevity and stability that some employers want.
Another problem that faces us is “culture”. I personally know some 30 year olds that are “old before their time” and vice-versa. Demi Moore, Elle McPherson, Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey are all in their early 50’s and wow they are hot .
“Experience” – By the time you hit 50 you will have loads of experience, not just at work but also in life. I often hear staff in the office say “wow you have done so much” or “how do you know that?” well that is because I am 50! A big question that is always asked of us is “are your job skills are up to date”? Make sure you have the latest skills required for your role; keep on top of the latest technology and industry trends and DON’T be afraid of change.
The most important bit of information I can share is: “Become a reciprocal mentor”. I read this quote recently and think that is something that at 50, we should all embrace and by this I mean find someone who is in their twenties who you can advise and in return, who can teach you a thing or two.
Research done in the USA concludes that “the graph of happiness” in a lifetime is U-shaped: it first peaks when we are 20 and then slumps to its lowest ebb at 50. But then something odd happens. It begins a steady, cheerful, upturn, reaching a point at 70 where it climbs right back up to the level it was at 20.
Once embraced, the possibility of this new era is immense and I am looking forward to the ride.
Alicia Sumich – Group Manager; Business Development