This is a tough one. HR Directors and (most) recruiters will tell you that age makes no difference, 50+ people who have lost their job will say the contrary.
What is the truth? Are you really professionally finished as a 50+ for a corporate career?
Alyssa from the US writes “I think the field of expertise is an important variable, and in some cases, somewhat negates the ageism. For example, my 60-year old brother is a mega-star XYZ with credentials hard to find in the U.S. He has NO problem with employment. In fact, he is constantly pursued by employers and has never been laid off. He just makes more and more money. In his industry, the pool of qualified candidates is very small so they cannot afford to discriminate on age.”
But Nadia in the Middle East tells me “I have been searching for a job for a while now. Instead of asking 10% more than my previous salary, I am willing to accept 70% less and roles lower than my actual level but that still does not help. I cannot progress to a higher role and I can no longer hold the same roles as before. I have concluded from my interviews where line managers are younger than me and less experienced that they are frightened by my age. I am able to reconsider the elements that I can influence but I am not able to do anything about my age, gender ornationality. What would you advise me? Most of the job advertisements in this region set an age limit, and are allowed to specify gender and nationality. I discovered sadly that women have no chances after 40 and I don’t know what to do. Shall I go for an operation to become man??”
Myth and Truth about baby-boomers:
Whilst prejudices say that 50+ workers are less flexible or tech savvy and more often on sick-leave, statistics show that older employees have in fact a much lower sick-leave level and are 5 times more loyal than their peer group in their twenties. Regarding performance, an OECD survey concluded that verbal skills, communication and intelligence remain unchanged as a person ages. And it has been proven that 50+ are more efficient than their younger “competitors” when it comes to problem solving, people management and good judgment. The fastest growing group of Internet users is over age 50. According to a recent Harvard University study, the ability to use an accumulated body of knowledge keeps rising throughout the lifetimes of healthy people. Older employees have more skills and are more experienced which leads to better quality and better decision-making. Regarding innovation, a Harvard University and Babson College study supports the statement that age-diversified work groups enhance innovation. And – this was a happy surprise for me – the largest and most successful group of new entrepreneurs are over age 50, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity!
About 94 percent of employers say they think it is important to keep older workers because their companies need their skills (Bloomberg). The trend is clearly in favor of baby-boomers and if talent shortage is already a problem today, it will severely endanger the competitiveness of organizsations tomorrow. According to the US bureau of labor statistics, employment of workers 60 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over) from 1977 to 2007. It is a fact that in many countries such as USA, Canada and most European countries, the unemployment rate of 50+ professionals is 30% lower than the one of entry-level candidates. In Canada, the majority of men aged 55 to 59 were attached to the labour force in 2006 (76%) (www.statcan.gc.ca). This number will increase in the future (for you too, ladies, but I don’t have the numbers).
I agree of course with Martin an Vince who commented on my teaser before this posting was even written that one can be hired or refused at 20, 30 or 50+. The work force is changing in many countries and along with talent shortage, employers will (have to) change their mind-set.
It is all about competitiveness: Do meaningful things, choose your employers and the industries you work in wisely, update your skills regularly, be good and work hard and it will work out, fingers crossed.
PS: stay tuned (or better yet: subscribe to my newsletter) and watch for my upcoming blog posting which will offer “10 strategies to find a job when you are 50+”