SOLVE YOUR AGE PROBLEM
Smash the stereotypes when looking for work, Melanie Burgess reports
M ORE than a third of Australians cite ageism as a key barrier in their career but experts are reminding workers barriers can be broken.
ManpowerGroup Solutions polled 4500 global job seekers to find 37 per cent of Australians agreed preconceptions about age held them back, compared to 34 per cent of respondents in the UK and 26 per cent in the US.
Sarina Russo Job Access chief executive Dianne Fletcher says negative stereotypes are not based on facts or research but often one bad experience with one person.
She says stereotypes for older workers include that they are over-qualified, won’t work well with younger management, will have issues adapting to tech- nology, or won’t stay in the job for long because they won’t be satisfied.
Meanwhile, young workers are not immune, as those straight out of school or university are assumed to not have the right skills, always be looking to move on to the next big thing, be unreliable, lack appropriate phone manner, or be unwilling to buckle down and take instruction.
Fletcher says older workers wanting to show they can work with all age groups should highlight examples of them being a team player, flexible and adaptive. “Have something in your resume about being open to new ideas and feedback and those sorts of things,” she says.
“In your interview, it’s about saying work environment and culture (is more important than) who the supervisor is.”
For young jobseekers, trying to es- cape the stereotype of being inexperienced, Fletcher recommends highlighting skills rather than roles.
“You might be 19 and not have a huge employment history but might have done a few things through school that are employment-like, such as volunteering for school, after-hours activities or working as a referee,” she says.
“If you are a referee for a sport, you are developing and demonstrating your skills to manage an environment, manage parents, deal with conflict, make decisions and be able to explain those decisions, represent the school or club with your presentation, and analyse information to draw a conclusion and make a judgment call.”
Sue Howse, general manager for ManpowerGroup Solutions Australia and NZ, says employers who embrace candidates across a broad age spec- trum reap the rewards. To make it work, she encourages employers to be understanding of intergenerational differences and accommodate a range of work preferences.
Kingfisher Recruitment senior consultant Victoria Susans says some companies and recruitment agencies are working around ageism in the hiring process by using “blind CVs”.
“This means age, gender, name and other personal info are left off the CV to ensure there’s no conscious or unconscious bias made when following the recruitment process,” she says.
“Age is irrelevant when you compare it to skillset, personality, ambition, motivations and how the person will fit in with the existing culture.
“No matter your age you can be young at heart, level-headed or wise beyond your years.”
GETTING ON WITH IT: Personal care attendant Sue Fraser and debt collector April McNamara. Picture: STUART MILLIGAN