Golden age for plus-40s Blend ac­tion and out­look

Older work­ers are too valu­able to ig­nore, writes Kate Southam

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

ex­am­ples from their ca­reer his­tory to demon­strate their abil­i­ties.

Byrne urges can­di­dates to look be­yond their age if they want po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers to do the same. ‘‘ I say to them, ‘ what if it wasn’t age, what else could it be? You can­not change your age, but you can change your re­sume or your at­ti­tude or your approach.’ ’’

Dick­in­son says em­ploy­ers need more ed­u­cat- ing and can­di­dates must be pos­i­tive. ‘‘ We have placed an older can­di­date in a job as a stable hand at an Ara­bian horse stud in Vic­to­ria and an­other as funds ad­min­is­tra­tor at a ma­jor in­vest­ment bank in Syd­ney,’’ he says. ‘‘ If some­one talks about age, fo­cus on your skills. Skills are king. Be­lieve in your­self. And don’t give up.’’

Dick­in­son quotes the late au­thor and gra­zier, Sarah Henderson: ‘‘ All the strength you need to

IAN BLAIR is 69 years young and some­thing of a ‘‘ poster boy’’ for ca­reer-minded job hunters aged over 45 — the def­i­ni­tion of a ‘‘ ma­ture age worker’’. Af­ter a year spent look­ing for work, Blair se­cured a per­ma­nent job as a se­nior con­sul­tant with Melbourne-based Prima Con­sult­ing, which pro­vides soft­ware so­lu­tions for cor­po­rate and gov­ern­ment clients.

‘‘ I am told there are not many 69-year-olds in the IT in­dus­try,’’ he says. Not that Blair is a Lud­dite. He was us­ing a com­puter to an­a­lyse farm­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity in the 1960s. He was an early in­ter­net user and ‘‘ there at the be­gin­ning’’ of soft­ware lan­guages such as SQL and in­te­grated pack­ages such as Mi­crosoft Of­fice.

He says work­ing with tech­nol­ogy again ‘‘ is like visit­ing old familiar faces and places’’.

Blair had an un­bro­ken em­ploy­ment record be­tween 1962 and 1990 with 10 dif­fer­ent em­ploy­ers. A decade of con­tract­ing, self-cre­ated em­ploy­ment and odd jobs fol­lowed.

His Prima role came af­ter hun­dreds of ap­pli­ca­tions. His in­ter­view rate had risen af­ter he made changes to his re­sume (see Blair’s tips) but he was tir­ing of the re­jec­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, when the ral­ly­ing cry first went out for ma­ture-age can­di­dates to re­turn to the work­force a few years ago, the em­ploy­ment sec­tor was not ac­tu­ally ready for them.

As a re­sult, many of them are now an­gry and ex­hausted from ap­pli­ca­tion fa­tigue — just as real change is start­ing to hap­pen.

Paul Dick­in­son of Plus40, Julie Mills of the Re­cruit­ment Con­sult­ing & Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion, Ca­tri­ona Byrne of Adage, Stephen Moir of the Moir Group and Ben Cass of Link Re­cruit­ment — who placed Blair — are among those warn­ing of the eco­nomic per­ils of age prej­u­dice.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, ma­ture-age work­ers make up one-third of Aus­tralian work­force com­pared to only one quar­ter two decades ago.

Be­tween 1998 and 2016, it es­ti­mates only 7 per cent of new em­ploy­ment growth will come from those aged be­low 35, 8 per cent from those aged 35 to 45 and 85 per cent from those over 45.

‘‘ Con­sul­tants still need to build skills around hav­ing the con­fi­dence in their choice of can­di­date, which means not al­ways al­low­ing the client to drive the de­ci­sion but to take the so­lu­tion to the client and pack­age it up as the best so­lu­tion,’’ Mills says.

Her as­so­ci­a­tion has urged mem­bers to au­dit their own em­ploy­ees. ‘‘ We say, ‘ do your own anal­y­sis on what your in­ter­nal staffing looks like. What sort of peo­ple do can­di­dates see when they come in your of­fice door?’ ’’

Moir, who heads his own ex­ec­u­tive re­cruit­ment com­pany, has cre­ated a course tai­lored to older can­di­dates which he teaches at Syd­ney Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion.

In ad­di­tion to tips on pre­sen­ta­tion and re­sumes, Moir uses role play to help can­di­dates pre­pare for job in­ter­views.

Moir be­lieves older can­di­dates are not com­fort­able with the idea of sell­ing them­selves, nor are they familiar with ‘‘ be­havioural’’ in­ter­view tech­nique where the can­di­date uses spe­cific Ian Blair’s tips:

Have more than one re­sume if mar­ket­ing dif­fer­ent skill sets. I have two re­sumes, each is 13 pages long. Put ev­ery­thing in your re­sume and use bold type to high­light spe­cific skills. I list my key skills and work ex­pe­ri­ences us­ing a ta­ble for­mat, so mod­ern re­sume­search tech­nol­ogy can find the key points.

Keep phys­i­cally fit. I’ve rowed for 50 years and run for 50, in­clud­ing four marathons. Life is more de­mand­ing and seden­tary now. If you don’t keep fit at home, you won’t keep fit at work and you’ll drift off into obliv­ion. Ex­er­cise does two things: it com­bats de­pres­sion and builds en­ergy lev­els. You need that when you get knocked back on the job-hunt.

Keep skills up-to-date. I read vo­ra­ciously — a book a week— busi­ness, science and mil­i­tary his­tory . . . Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Sir John Monash, Bri­gadier Arnold Potts and Genghis Khan were all fan­tas­tic man­agers, op­er­at­ing in life-and-death sit­u­a­tions and they were suc­cess­ful. It’s good train­ing for busi­ness life.

Un­der­stand the new su­per­an­nu­a­tion rules. I will save more in the next five years than it took me 40 years to save be­fore. Pay­ing off a house, rais­ing the kids, es­tab­lish­ing a fam­ily lifestyle, left lit­tle for su­per con­tri­bu­tions. Now, I put ev­ery­thing into su­per.

You need to be grate­ful for a sup­port­ive fam­ily. My wife, two grown-up chil­dren and now twin grand­chil­dren, have been a won­der­ful in­spi­ra­tion and de­light, and kept my spir­its up when the out­look was bleak. achieve any­thing is inside you. Don’t wait for the light to ap­pear at the end of the tun­nel, stride down there and light the bloody thing your­self.’’

Blair knows this all too well. If he had given up, he would have missed out on us­ing his hard-won ex­pe­ri­ence to be­come Prima’s of­fice ‘‘ sus­tain­abil­ity guru’’ — a role he loves.

‘‘ My wife is so happy that I come home at night with a smile on my face,’’ says Blair.

Pic­ture: David Crosling

Knowl­edge base: Ian Blair was in IT from the very be­gin­ning

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