This is a question I discussed recently with Dr Ros Altmann, the UK Government’s Older Workers Business Champion. It is also a question I hear regularly from our Network, particularly those who have paused their career for health reasons or in order to look after elderly relatives.
While it might be true that some organisations fail to recognise the great value and benefit of hiring older workers, quite often the returners themselves are creating self-imposed barriers that need not exist. It is necessary to develop the right mindset where your age is to your advantage.
The women I speak to who are hoping to return to employment, regularly tell me that organisations are only looking for younger people or those who have worked their way up a career ladder. It is easy for them to fear that they are too old and too out of touch, to be considered employable. They worry that they won’t fit into the office environment and that their prior experience, expertise and qualifications are no longer relevant.
Instead of looking at what is missing from your CV, it is much more helpful to notice what your years of experience, both in and out of the workforce, have given you. As Michele (who found full-time work in her 50s, following a divorce) says:
‘I was attractive to my new employer because at my age I was reliable, I brought a wealth of different experiences which meant I could talk to anybody and I was serious about my work. At the same time, I wasn’t going to take his clients and set up on my own. And, I wasn’t going to get pregnant which made a big difference in a small company.’
A Harvard Business Review article, 3 years ago, which highlighted the concept of internships for returners mentions that such internships ‘… allow [companies] to hire people who have a level of maturity and experience not found in younger recruits and who are at a life stage where parental leaves and spousal relocations are most likely behind them. In short, these applicants are an excellent investment’. (HBR November 2012 ‘The 40-year-old intern’).
You may know that we have been working hard for the past two years to introduce such ‘internships for returners’ into the UK. Up to now, these programmes have mostly existed in the financial services sector but shortly more will be announced in a wholly new field and I hope there will be more during 2015.
It is also the case that the ‘internship for returners’ route is only one of many ways to return to work and I list below the links to other relevant articles we’ve published. However you plan to return, you can help yourself by remembering all the qualities described above and knowing that you offer future employers commitment and stability. You know you will stay a long time if you enjoy your work and are valued for what you bring to the organisation.
Dr Altmann has been tasked with making the case for older workers within the business community and challenging outdated perceptions. She will be reporting to the Government in March with her recommendations on what Government policy needs to be to enable older workers to continue to be productively employed. We hope that her work will help to dispel the fears of the over 50s that they are no longer employable and lead to more opportunities for older returners.
Author: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.