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Tackling ageism

Written by: CABA
Published on: 22 Jul 2019

man with headphones

Pic: Ron Lach, Pexels


Since the compulsory retirement age of 65 was abolished in 2011, it has become more common for people to continue working into retirement. In fact, for many people, retirement can be the perfect opportunity to try something different and have a change of career. 

However, older professionals often face the barrier of ageism. While legislation has been passed in an attempt to help combat discriminatory practices and open up doors for people to carry on working past the usual retirement age, there are some elements of ageism that are more difficult to overcome. Age has tended to blind potential employers to the range of skills and experience offered by this group. 

Here are some tips to help you challenge employers’ assumptions about older professionals: 


1. Highlight your transferrable skills 

Some employers favour older workers for the experience they can bring to the workplace. Over your working life, you will have obtained many skills that could be utilised in a whole host of other jobs. 

Start by making a list of all the skills you’ve used in each role you’ve held. It can be helpful to ask a friend or former colleague to help with this. Think about the skills and attributes that naturally come with a long career. Employers often consider older workers to be more reliable but your work history can also demonstrate a strong work ethic, commitment, confidence and insight – to name just a few! Emphasise that as an experienced worker, you’d have the experience to take on responsibility straight away, without any hand-holding. 

If there are gaps in your work history try to include any non-work activities you took part in during those periods that would boost your soft skills – for instance, working as a volunteer might highlight your communication or team working skills. 

Once you have a list of skills, you can use it to build a tailored CV for each new role you apply for. 

You’ll also want to note down examples of work situations that demonstrate these skills and abilities. These pre-prepared scenarios will be useful in an interview situation. 


2. Be age-neutral 

Remember you don’t have to put your date of birth on job applications or on your CV (you don’t even have to put the dates you went to school, college or university, or when you qualified as a chartered accountant). Employers don’t have the right to ask you about your age at any point during the recruitment process, in fact, it’s illegal to do so. 


3. Manage your expectations 

Employers know that skills and experience come at a price so they will often choose younger and less experienced people with a view to training them up, rather than spending more on a more experienced employee. 

Being prepared to work for less money than you may have been used to will open up new opportunities. Make it clear to potential employers that you’re looking for more of a work-life balance and that money isn’t your top priority. 


4. Think outside the box 

Take time to weigh up your options. Don’t limit your job search to the kind of work you’ve done before. Branch out and consider passing on your experience and knowledge by teaching or consulting. To explore alternative roles, try searching for jobs by keywords and skills rather than job titles. 

Retirement could also be an ideal time to realise your dream of opening up a small business. Perhaps you could invest part of a redundancy payment or pension lump sum, which the business can pay off in the long run. 

Find out how CABA supports business start-ups. 


5. Be proactive 

Don’t just sit and wait for an opportunity to turn up in your inbox, go out there and make it happen. Here are some ideas that could help: 

  • Sign up with local and national employment and recruitment agencies 

  • Contact previous employers to enquire about part-time work 

  • Search online job boards on sites such as Total Jobs, Monster, Jobsite etc. You can also upload your CV to these sites for prospective employers to see. 

  • Explore opportunities for retraining. Does your local college or community centre offer evening classes? Or is there a mature student option at a nearby university? 

  • Join business networking groups 

  • Volunteer at charitable organisations to build skills in a new area 

  • Optimise your LinkedIn profile to ensure the right opportunities come your way. A presence on LinkedIn is also a great way to stay plugged into your network of contacts. 

  • Set up a blog or a website. You can use these online platforms to write about relevant industry events, trends or challenges. As well as demonstrating that you’re more than familiar with technology, this can be an effective way of adding depth to your professional profile, helping you to stand out from the crowd. 

If you need help getting back to work after a career break or finding a new job in later life, our career coaching services can help. Or, if you’ve been affected by age discrimination at work, our 24-hour UK legal helpline is free and confidential for information and advice. Get in touch for more information.