I don’t know what you look like, I don’t know what your family life is like, I don’t know what your personality is like, I don’t know what your values are, I don’t know where you live or what kind of house you have and I don’t know what you earn.
You however, think of me and in an instant you think you know who I am. You think you know exactly what I look like, you think you know exactly what my family situation is, you think you know what my personality is like, you think you know what my values are, you think you know what kind of house I live in and you think you know what my finances are like.
But you don’t really know me at all.
As a 62-year-old woman who has been unemployed for almost a year, I can say that the perceptions of what older workers are like is stuck into the minds of employers like nothing else.
We are perceived as grumpy and inflexible with limited skills that aren’t relevant to workplaces today. But, I feel differently about myself and all of the other over 60 job seekers out there.
You see the problem is that we are struggling. Not struggling to keep up with technology, not struggling to develop new skills, not struggling to converse with all ages, but struggling to make ends meet because we are dismissed by employers.
From 2010 to 2013, over 50s receiving the government Newstart allowance increased by 40%. This figure continues to increase and it means that older workers are struggling now more than ever.
The truth is that we aren’t who you think we are. Your minds are made up about whom we are but your perceptions aren’t right. I don’t know if we did it to ourselves, or if it’s just the way the world works, but our generation is so misunderstood by those younger than us and today I want to address some of these misconceptions…
We are flexible. We don’t have family commitments and we understand what it is like to work hard for long hours. We don’t mind staying back, because we don’t often have something to rush off to at 5pm.
We have a proven work ethic. We worked day in and day out to make a living for the family before government support was widely available. We know what it is like to really work… Not on a clock, not to a poor standard, but to have everything done and done the right way before we can call it done.
We might not have all the skills a younger person does, or the number of LinkedIn connections, but we have skills that matter. A study published in Nature Communications this week revealed that older people (over 55) have significantly higher cooperative skills than younger people and that we have the ability to evaluate situations from other perspectives whereas younger employees cannot.
We know the art of conversation. No matter how digital the world goes, the art of connecting with another human being on a higher level is something we can do… And boy don’t we do it well. Our relationship and inter-personal skills are more developed than most of the generations after us.
We want to work. It’s not about getting the paycheque at the end of the week, it’s about giving us a purpose. Our children have left home, we aren’t consumed by family commitments, and we can dive into our job and make it our mission to do it well.
You see employers, Australia isn’t getting any younger and if you keep choosing to view us as people who can’t be a valuable asset to the workplace, you’re going to run out of options before too long.
I’m not asking you to choose us over younger people, because there are so many of them who are hard working, positive and incredibly talented who deserve wonderful jobs and opportunities. I’m just asking you to open your eyes to what older workers are really like. Because if you’re not afraid to change the way you view us, you might find that we are actually quite alike.
Just another, unemployed, 62 year old woman.
How do you feel about the perceptions of older workers? Do you feel employers perceive us differently to what we are actually like? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below…