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Not quite ready to retire and looking for a new career? Recently been made redundant? Want to get out and earn some extra cash in retirement, in addition to your company pension? Whatever your situation, finding work when you're older can be a daunting task. Job hunting is certainly no picnic and, perhaps now so more than ever, workplace ageism has meant that those over 50 often have to combat stereotypes and face fierce competition from their younger counterparts in order to find the ideal job.
While this type of ageism is certainly being challenged by a handful of companies pledging to champion older workers, we still have a long way to go. Have you ever been told you're "too old to work"? Us too. Here's what you need to know about finding a job over 50.
There are a million and one different routes you can take in terms of employment, whether it's a part-time job, freelance, consultancy or contractual work, self-employment or even a returnship. So it's important that you consider:
Understanding your signature skills and strengths is vital in all stages of the job hunting process, from initial searches and network building to the final interview. Think about the top four or five things that you are really good at, and what your areas of interest are, and keep those in mind when you're looking for work. Yet while it is good to be clear about what you want to do, also be open-minded about what opportunities could be suitable for you.
"There are plenty of skills we can fall back on, some of which we didn't even know we had."
"It can take a while to find new jobs, especially in some areas. Keep trying and perhaps widen your choice. If you're in the position of being able to manage on a part-time salary, then look around and see what else available outside of your chosen area that might actually be more fun."
This could be the time to move into a new field and, with 10 plus years ahead, it could be worth making the move. Your choices may not revolve around the highest income, but could focus more on what you're passionate about.
You may like to give something back or take on more of a development or mentoring role. There are so many options so remember to be creative and think about what you love to do and what people are likely to pay you for. Look at it as a new adventure and maybe even think about the career advice you wish you'd had at, say, 25 and put this into action - the perfect job could be at the intersection.
"Be kind to yourself, take small steps and look at all the options. You could perhaps think of this as an opportunity to change things. Was your job as fulfilling as you wanted it to be or is there some other area you would like to move into?"
"It is impossible to know just when a door will open or when there will be a chance meeting that leads to something."
This type of job could be ideal for you if you're looking to earn an extra wage alongside your pension, if you have a health condition and are unable to undertake full-time employment, or if you need to balance work with looking after your grandchildren or caring for a partner, parent or relative.
"Maybe a complete change of direction is needed. Working on the till in a shop would help you meet lots of new people every day."
"I heard a lady of 80-something on the radio the other day. She works part time at B&Q and absolutely loves it!"
"I would encourage anyone seeking a job to look for paid work with a charity. The pay is usually as good as in any other job. It's nothing like my last job - a steep learning curve, but I'm loving it. It's like a breath of fresh air!"
Returnships are a growing initiative in the UK, introduced by City investment banks in 2014, which help experienced professionals return gradually to senior positions following a break from work, although this may also be extended in the near future to include low- and mid-level positions.
Not only are they useful for full-time parents looking to rejoin the workforce, but they can also be extremely beneficial for older workers who have been out of employment for long periods of time. Those on a returnship programme are employed on short-term paid contracts and take on roles that match their skills and experience, helping them to ease back into working life, bring their current skills up-to-date through training and mentoring, build up their confidence and help them decide if full-time employment is something they want to commit to. See Women Returners for a list of returnships.
'Professional' apprenticeships combine work with study and are particularly useful for those who have not studied for a degree or other higher education qualification but who do have a diverse and valuable skillset. Apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes (and aren't just for young adults leaving school!), but have been most successful in the healthcare and public service sectors in addition to computer technology. See Gov.UK's apprenticeship guide for more information on how to apply.
Great alternatives if you'd like to reap the benefits of working in retirement, need flexible working hours, would like to work from home or want to plan your own work schedule. It will, however, be important for you to choose what kind of freelance or contractual work you'd like to do, create a brand and a portfolio of past work in your area of expertise, and promote yourself effectively, whether it's through networking and word of mouth or on popular websites like LinkedIn and PeoplePerHour.
"When I went back to work I started by catering for small occasions, such as christenings."
If we're told we might have to work until we're 70, we may as well go full force! If you have an idea for a business, one that perhaps you've been thinking about for years, now could be the time to make it a reality. Whether it's consultancy, a small shop or even making and selling things online through Etsy or eBay, the world is your oyster.
To start, it may be a good idea to create a solid business plan to help you carve a direction for your business and to talk to others who have been through the process themselves to see if they can offer any tips or advice.
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I went self-employed. It was very hard work, but I only had myself to answer to."
"I started my own business and I'm doing well."
"My friend, who had been made redundant, decided to not look for employment and made an income from eBay to supplement her pension. She scoured car boot sales in posher areas across the city for top quality items, the same with charity shops in the more well-to-do areas. It became her 'job' and she's been doing it for at least 10 years."
Jobcentre Plus help those who are unemployed and those who have been unemployed for long periods of time and want to get back into work. They provide support and advice on which job search engines to use and how to build a CV as well as offering IT and English Language training courses to improve your skillset. The government's National Career Service may be a good alternative here.
The Citizen's Advice Bureau also offer sound advice on all matters relating to employment, including how to find work. They will also be able to point you in the right direction regarding government employment schemes such as the Work Programme and the Access to Work scheme (if you suffer from a disability). And if, for whatever reason, you're deemed unfit for work, you will be able to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Recruitment agencies are also useful in helping you find work, whether it's temporary, permanent, full-time or part-time. They act as the middle man between you and a potential employer, matching you up with a suitable job based on your skills and experience for which you'd then apply (if you'd like to) with a CV and covering letter. Employment agencies are free to join and are legally prevented from charging you for their services. It is, however, worth joining an agency alongside conducting your own independent job search as not all jobs will be available through your chosen recruitment agency.
"If you go to your local Jobcentre Plus office they will help you through the process. Sometimes looking online is more daunting than actually going in and talking to someone. If you go to sign on for Job Seeker's Allowance you can also look at local jobs, so who knows you might find something."
"If you are in anyway uncertain about what benefits you may be entitled to, get an appointment with your local Citizen's Advice Bureau. I have asked for there help on a couple of occasions and they were wonderful."
"I retired early but really regretted it, so my daughter suggested I did temping as she had done it while at university. At 62 I thought I wouldn't enjoy it, but it was brilliant. I did it for about five years and met loads of nice people."
"I would advise you to register with a few agencies as, like everything else, there are good ones and not so good ones!"
"Try agencies - they are often a good way to get a foot in the door. I actually like the flexibility of agency work, working a couple of months and having a couple of months off, but I've just been offered a permanent part-time role at the company I am presently temping for and I'm considering taking it - I'm 64."
"I signed up with Reed and they got me continuous work. I then got a permanent job which I started after Easter and I love it! They saw my CV online and asked me to apply. Temping is definitely worth it. If you get it online with agencies you will get something quickly as you have transferable skills. Reed were brilliant for me."
It's important to make sure that your skills are up-to-date. Take short courses and improve your understanding of technology, if necessary, which you can then demonstrate by including your LinkedIn URL and other relevant social networking profiles on your CV.
If you find yourself out of work for a longer period of time than anticipated, fill the gaps in employment by volunteering or undertaking other projects to show that you're still learning and developing, whether it's a FutureLearn course, a computer technology workshop or even a language group. This will also help to keep your mind sharp.
It's also important for you to take a look at what skills might be needed for the line of work you'd like to go into and try to fill any gaps in your knowledge, whether big or small. This might be as simple as learning how to use a new computer software or practicing your presentation skills.
"Volunteering in the mean time is also good as it helps to show you are still keen to work."
Writing a CV can be tricky, especially if you've not written one for at least 30 years. CV writing has, unsurprisingly, taken a whole new direction, and will often be the deciding factor as to whether you get a job or not. With large companies receiving hundreds of CVs for one job alone, it's important that you ensure your CV stands out from all the rest. You can find useful CV templates online if you need some guidance - or perhaps attend a CV writing workshop if you're really struggling. Also be sure to ask younger family members who might be well-versed in what's required for a CV.
If you've been out of work for a while, don't fib. Have you been volunteering? Caring for a disabled family member? Doing extra-curricular activities? Any experience is good experience as long as you're able to pick out what skills you've learnt and how this has helped you develop as an individual.
Most jobs applications will also require a covering letter, a one-page letter detailing your relevant work experience and achievements. Try not to copy your CV word for word when you write this. A covering letter is a chance to expand on what's mentioned in your CV and a chance for a potential employer to get a sense of who you are and whether they'd like to invite you for an interview.
You don't need to include your age or your full career history on your CV – 15 years of experience is probably enough. Education dates become less relevant as we get older, so exclude those from your CV. We don't need to include O Level details or make a point of saying that our degree was from 1978.
"Keep you CV up-to-date and positive. It doesn't matter if you haven't done a job before - all your skills are transferable."
"I trimmed my CV down to the last three 'proper' jobs and removed dates of education, and then when I did get interviews I broached the subject of age by saying, 'Yes, I'm a slightly older candidate, but I have a lot of life experience in dealing with all sorts of people and situations, plus I'm extremely unlikely to need to take maternity leave!'"
"Remove your date of birth and education from your CV, and emphasise reliability and experience."
By our 50s we know lots of people. So instead of using traditional job searching channels, let your friends know what kind of job you're looking for and ask them to let you know if they hear of any vacancies. That could result in a job lead and you may not even need to wait for a job advert to appear online.
Use previous jobs or contacts to join networks that you want to be a part of to seek out opportunities. Be proactive! A lot of jobs aren't advertised online.
Having your own presence online, via LinkedIn for example, and being proactive in contacting companies directly is now just as important as looking for advertised jobs and registering with agencies. Be sure to market yourself well by building up a comprehensive LinkedIn profile, joining LinkedIn groups that you feel might be beneficial and being engaged and active wherever possible. LinkedIn is often a place where many job seekers are head-hunted.
Also take the time to Google yourself to make sure that there is nothing in your online profile that will damage your reputation and limit the possibility of you getting a job. Be aware of what's on your Facebook account and how you present yourself on social media - change your privacy settings for extra security or remove any comments or photos that could be potentially harmful when job seeking.
While we're continually being told that we're "too old" for such and such position and "won't find a job easily over 50", use your age to your advantage. Ageism in the workplace is something that we must seek to challenge and although there is often discrimination against older workers, it's important that you see your age as an asset and focus on the areas where you may have an edge over younger candidates. These include:
Over 50 can be the perfect time to take on a new challenge and to move into your later years with a greater sense of fulfilment. So if you are not ready to think about retirement, go out and find a job you love.
Be confident and 'perform' during interviews - interviewers like to see someone who is approachable, who knows who they are and what they want, and who hasn't memorised a two-page script about their past experiences and achievements.
It's important to engage in an actual conversation in the interview and avoid a simple question and answer dialogue that might make your answers seem a little impersonal and rehearsed.
It's almost important to be aware that the job climate has changed and that rejection is common, especially in fields that are particularly competitive.
Prime Candidate - a recruitment agency for older workers
Universal Jobmatch - linked to Jobcentre Plus
For more information on jobs over 50, see the Age UK and GOV UK websites plus our own work and volunteering forum. And if you're looking for work opportunities locally, be sure to find your Gransnet Local site.
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