Most of the participants of a series of Employability Workshops I ran recently had experienced first-hand the impact of ageism as they continued to try and break back into the elusive labour market. It’s hard to argue with people’s experience.
It is against the law to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their age (young or old) – so says the Equality Act of 2010. Applicants are not required to display their date of birth on their CV or reveal their age at interview. They are also no longer required to retire at 65. We all know though, that the law can only take us so far. Attitudes and stereotypes continue to abound.
Back in 2015, research by ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) found that 60% of the managers they surveyed assumed that the over 50s have lower desire, and potential to progress despite clear evidence to the contrary. They scored the over 50s at 46% for keenness to learn, develop and progress whereas the group rated themselves at 94%.
More recently though, evidence suggests that the tide is turning. Last month, a report by Citi showed that age discrimination is not the default position of employers. The largest growth in employment has been with the over 50s – 93% of the rise in employment has been in this age group over the last 10 years. Rejection from job applications has been shown to have multiple causes and not always about age – which can be seen as the exception not the rule. Employers themselves report that they respect workers with age and experience. And there’s more – Matt Gingell, a partner at Gannons (a law firm with specialism in commercial and employment law), writes:
“Government figures show that an estimated 13.5 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years but only 7 million young people will enter the labour force. A management skills gap is therefore looming. Employers would be foolish to disregard the talent of older workers” (cited by the Telegraph July 2017).
But how are applicants to know this when individual feedback from Employers is at an all-time low? Getting any feedback from employers is elusive, and most applicants are often left to assume they have been unsuccessful. This silence undoubtedly feeds into their fears that they have been unsuccessful because of their age and further compounded as their searching continues. When asked as a group what assets or strengths they had that directly related to their age and experience, the group cited the following: valuable experience of life and types of work, positive attitude to work, reliability, commitment, more reflective with people skills with those from all walks of life, common sense/wisdom, being a reassuring and cohesive presence within a team, keen to learn and desire to progress and with the added advantage of good community networks (often unlike young people).
With little or no control over employer responses (although I did challenge them to ask for feedback more often than they do) the workshop participants found that addressing their own attitudes and beliefs held the key to staying positive and active in the job market. It turns out that ‘you can teach an old dog new tricks’ – and those tricks include being savvy about the hidden jobs market and upskilling in IT and social media. More of this next time!
A final thought. It is always right to channel our best energies into those things we can change rather than languish victim-like at the mercy of things we can’t. However, there is one positive thing we can do – where we come across an employer who does welcome the more seasoned workers and do what they say they will (ie. report back about outcomes and provide positive, helpful feedback) – let’s give them a boost by passing on our thanks and let the world know in any way we can.
Sources: Independent article 18th June 2015; The Telegraph 11th July 2017 Career Coach: Age discrimination isn’t the default for employers