Baby Boomers still have something to offer the workplace

Some of us Baby Boomers are lucky to hold onto a full-time job stable enough to see us through to retirement.

But for many, the instability of today’s job market can leave us jobless and struggling to even get a job interview, let alone hold down a job that’ll help pay the bills.

For those Baby Boomers stuck in the decade before they can get the age pension, it can be like being stuck between rock and a hard place.

All too often we hear from the Starts at 60 community about the challenges of getting a job as a Baby Boomer.

If you’re one of those people struggling, then you’re not alone.

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A survey commissioned by the Australian Human Rights Commission last year found 33% of Australians over 50 who had experienced age discrimination gave up looking for work.

In fact, 32% of Australians aged 60 to 64 reported some form of age discrimination in the workplace in the past two years.

Among the age discrimination experienced by older Australians in the workplace includes the perception older workers were slow to learn or had outdated skills (44% reported experiencing this), limited opportunities for employment or training (52%) and jokes or derogatory comments from managers (42%).

And, the survey also found that age discrimination caused stress or lower self-esteem in 60% of those surveyed and negative effects on relationships, career and money in 49%.

At the time the survey was released, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan told the Australian Ageing Agenda that society needs to break down age discrimination in the workplace “so older are not only retained but also hired”

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“I continually receive representations from older Australians who have worked all their lives, are experienced, qualified, eager and open-minded, yet who can’t get a look in when it comes to paid work,” she said.

So, that’s what the statistics are telling us.

But let’s face it, as a Baby Boomer struggling to get into the workplace and hold down a job until you’re ready to retire, you want to feel like more than just another statistic.

Don’t let the statistics make you think you’re unemployable or lack skills.

In fact, there are many who argue the opposite and say that as a Baby Boomer, you’ve got far more to offer in the workplace than you’re given credit for.

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We’re used to hearing about how as a Baby Boomer you ‘can’t keep up to date with technology’, ‘can’t be trained’ or ‘learn slowly’, and while some of these are issues you might face in the workplaces, let’s face it, you have plenty to offer!

The USA Business Review argues that as a Baby Boomer there are several benefits you have as a employee.

The first is experience. Many Baby Boomers have a strong background in employment and set career fields that allows them to bring unique and valuable perspectives to the workplace. Your 20 or 30 years of retail, hospitality or other field of employment is far more valuable than many employers will admit.

Another benefit you can bring to a workplace is dependability. Many argue that as an older worker, you’re more likely to show up to work on time and work hard, and you’re also likely to be loyal and flexible.

Your experience and dependability as a Baby Boomer in the workplace can also make you a great leader. The article in the USA Business Review argues that as a Baby Boomer you’re more likely to take on projects, manage your co-workers and give some direction.

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But with all that in mind, there are still workplaces turning their backs on workers on you if you’re over the age of 50.

So, what can be done to encourage businesses to hire older workers such as you?

Ryan told an address at the National Press Club in 2014 that employers needed to hire “the best person for the job” not someone they’re “judging by the number of birthdays he or she has had”.

“When you look at the numbers of unemployed people in their 50s and 60s, the numbers of people who are willing to train, who are willing to move for a job,” she said.

“You have to ask yourself, are employers looking at our local talent pool of mature workers before they decide they need to import labour? I don’t think the answer is yes in every case.”

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While we wait for a shift in the age discrimination amongst Australian employers, there are some things you can do to help you get a job as a mature age worker.

Seek, the job searching website, offers six tips for mature age workers.

The first is to not put too much focus on the dates in your resume. In fact, the advice on Seek suggests that you focus on your experience and not how long ago that experience as. So instead of writing that you got your degree in 1976, just state what your degree was and the skills it brings.

The second tip is to list your skills, knowledge and experience, particularly those things that younger workers are less likely to have.

If you’re a bit tech savvy, then you can try networking to help you get a job. Try adding your old business or work connections on social media or joining a networking site such as LinkedIn.

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 You should also do your research on organisations and businesses that hire mature workers, look at what they want in an employee and go in to any interviews well prepared.

 Perhaps the most important tip is to go into a job application or interview with a positive attitude, believing you’re the right person for the job and keeping confidence! There’s no use going in thinking the employer “will probably give a job to someone younger than you”.

What do you think of this issue? Do you think there is an unfair bias against Baby Boomers in the workplace?