Despite a jobs market geared towards the young and fresh-faced, the government’s proposed changes to the nation’s retirement framework mean that most Australians will be forced to work well into their old age.
Earlier this month, the Federal Government’s budget papers outlined a plan to raise eligibility for the age pension from 65 to 70 by 2035. Then this week, Treasurer Joe Hockey flagged his intention to further lift the super preservation age – the age that workers can access their retirement savings – beyond the current increase from 55 to 60 (depending on your date of birth).
Whether or not it’s deliberate, there is a tendency to believe that mature age people lack those capabilities relative to younger workers
But how do mature age workers stay relevant and compete with their younger counterparts?
Greg Parker, national manager of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA), says that mature age workers face three main challenges in the workplace: Their skill set; their health; and, unfortunately, discrimination.
“It’s a changing landscape,” Mr Parker says.“Growth jobs in the future require certain qualifications. Whether or not it’s deliberate, there is a tendency to believe that mature age people lack those capabilities relative to younger workers.”
Here’s how to circumvent those challenges and stay in the game longer.
Perfect your resume
Sidestep the mature age stigma early on by keeping your resume fresh, relevant and brief.
“Getting to the interview stage is often hard for mature age workers, due to mainly unintentional discrimination,” says Mr Parker.
A long list of prior jobs tends to emphasise your age. Instead, omit any details that aren’t relevant to the position.
Greg Goudie, executive director of employment organisation DOME, warns that it’s important to explain any breaks in your career.
“Gaps in your employment history leave things to the imagination,” he says.
“If you’ve spent a lot of time at home bringing up children, just put one line in your resume to explain that period of unemployment.”
Use the stereotype to your advantage
Getting on in years may come with some downsides, but older people often have qualities that their younger counterparts lack.
Statistically, mature-age workers have three main qualities on their side: Consistency; reliability; and loyalty. As a general rule, older employees make fewer errors, take fewer sick days and stay with the company for longer than their younger colleagues.
“A younger person will often jump around for financial or self-development reasons,” Mr Parker says.
If you’re a parent, be sure to highlight your experience raising a family with prospective employers.
“Most employers are sensible enough to know that if you’ve raised children, you know all about budgeting, counseling, transportation, crisis management and scheduling,” Mr Goudie says.
Forget that old chestnut about teaching an old dog new tricks – being clueless is no longer an option.
Technology is constantly evolving. Remain abreast of current trends and get actively involved in them.
This means maintaining a strong social media presence on sites like Twitter or LinkedIn.
Work well with younger people
As an older worker, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll have to deal with younger people in your workplace.
Rather than avoiding them or feeling intimidated by the age gap, bear in mind that your younger colleagues may feel just as uncertain about how to approach you. Be relaxed and seek to open up lines of communication with them.
Remember what it’s like to be their age – and rest assured that you can probably relate to them a lot better than you might think.
Building and maintaining an extensive network of professional associates – both within and outside your own industry – is crucial if you want to remain a feasible employment option.
Networking is not only great for your social life – it keeps you update-to-date with developments relevant to your area of expertise and front-of-mind among the people who could be your future employers.
Look for related occupations
If you face physical limitations, seek to apply your skills to another area within your industry.
“While you might no longer be capable of bricklaying, your experience will allow you to will better understand the job,” Mr Goudie says.
“With a bit of training, you could easily transition to a supervisory role.”
Your longevity in the workplace depends on your health, so be sure to prioritise your own wellbeing.
Maintaining your physical fitness is crucial. If you can afford it, invest in a weekly personal training session, join a regular exercise class or sign up for a gym membership. If you’re on a budget, schedule a daily walk or jog.
Keeping your mind active is also key: Train your brain with problem-solving puzzles and regular reading; manage your stress levels with hypnotherapy, meditation or yoga; and try to ensure that you get sufficient sleep.