Older Workers Can Benefit From Work-Ethic Stereotype

by Rolie, M.A., CVC, Linda K. Friday, November 09, 2007
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One of the fastest growing segments of the work force is people aged 55 to 68. Many of these individuals are transitioning because of some kind of personal or organizational change. A smaller percentage is dismissed from jobs due to performance. Some are returning to the work force after a period of retirement, homemaking or letting go of a business. Others are looking for work after divorce or death of a spouse. Some seek relocation, a better opportunity, or semi-retirement. The future trend is workers between the ages of 18-82 will work side-by-side and to expect a shortage of young workers.

Various opinions exist about whether age-related biases negatively impact older workers' employability. Many mature workers feel they are discriminated against due to their age, but employers express willingness to hire older adults, especially for their work ethic, self-management and supervisory skills, including reliability and experience that younger workers may lack.

Organizations need skilled older workers possessing good work ethics. The question, "What is preventing you from upgrading your skills?" is pertinent for any job seeker to answer. It is important to convey to an employer during an interview that you are currently involved in some type of a skills upgrading program. This reflects that you have professional goals and makes you more competitive versus an equally qualified candidate.

Don't try to look younger than you. A frequently asked question about age and job search is "Should I dye my hair to cover the gray?" Consider what image you want to project which matches the job. An older worker may not be a good match in a loud music store designed to attract the younger listeners, but may be a good match for a customer service position in another type of company. Consider investing in a make-up session or new hairstyle. You don't want your appearance to look out dated and old-fashioned. Fitness may add a competitive edge over an equally qualified candidate. Fitness overrides attitudes about aging. Also, the single most effective method for enhancing mature appearance is a teeth-whitening process.

Factors that contribute to the selection of more mature workers include skills, confident first impressions, well-prepared resumes, loyalty, productivity and talking about yourself and skills as meaningful to the employer. It may feel uncomfortable looking for work as an older worker but the emphasis is about putting your best years of knowledge and experience to work.

Each work group faces certain stereotypes and biases. For example, some men think they were not selected for positions filled by women, while some women think they are disadvantaged because it is a man's employment market. Some workers think they are discriminated against due to their sexual preference or lack a college degree. The X-Generation think they lack the skills mature workers possess, while mature workers may think youth is desired.

Merely landing a job is not necessarily the challenge for all mature workers; rather the difficulty lives in negotiating a satisfactory salary in light of their experience. Mature workers are more likely than their younger colleagues to have held positions in management that pay higher salaries.

Mature workers may take longer to find a job, especially one that meets their requirements. There are mature workers who acquire work quickly and receive earnings commensurate with their abilities. In light of the mature worker's experience and connections, networking is a common source of securing new employment. Younger workers are not likely to have formed these networking connections and capabilities.

Older workers may require Career Counseling assistance to better market themselves and improve chances for acquiring an interview. Repeatedly, older workers tend not to accept help erroneously thinking that job search methods used in the past will land them a job again. It is important for older workers to learn new techniques in job search skills. A competent Career Counselor can provide job leads and job search strategies as well as assess suitable goals.