Looking for work can be stressful at any age. Different challenges will arise at different life stages. As Canada’s workforce ages, the number of Canadians over the age of 50 looking for work is also increasing.
If you are over 50 and looking for work, it could be for any number of reasons. It could be because your company has downsized or closed, or perhaps you retired early and want to find something new to do with your time.
Stan K, a father of six who lives in a northern Ontario town, was faced with an entire plant closure at the age of 53.
A lay off, due to my plant’s shutdown brought many questions after the initial shock. The biggest question was whether to work now, or not to work now.
Older job-seekers face many challenges
One of the biggest challenges faced by those in their 50s looking for work is age discrimination. Although there are many myths about older workers, in fact, research shows that they are highly motivated, adaptable and good learners.
Another challenge is coping with feelings associated with unemployment, especially if being out of work is not your choice. Losing a job in midlife can be particularly difficult when your peers are enjoying promotions and looking forward to retirement. Stress, a feeling of loss, and even anger are not uncommon reactions.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help while coping with this transition. You will need to take steps to keep your stress levels down, your confidence up, and your relationships healthy.
First there is the denial… “this plant will start up again”. Ha ha! Then you think… “hey, finally a nice bit of time off… maybe I’ll never go back to work again… maybe I’ll retire”. Ha ha again!
Then reality sets in. You start to calculate, “I have so many dollars, and how long can the family last on this”.
Years of experience give older workers a soft skills advantage
Key steps to coping with the loss and to finding a new job are to have a plan and to focus on the positive — emphasize the skills and abilities that you have that can be transferred to a new job. Employers are looking for people who have both transferable skills — often called soft skills — as well as the technical hard skills.
Soft skills are those that you may not consider at first… Are you a people person? Are you a good communicator? How well do you work with others? Be sure to identify these strengths as something you can bring to your new employer. Give examples of where you were able to excel in these areas.
You may want to bring along reports you have written, programs from events you have organized, letters of thanks from customers.
Hard skills can be taught on the job — soft skills can be much harder to master.
Keep an open mind
When you make a decision to open the gates and look at all types of jobs, make sure you apply to them with a positive attitude. In any case and at any age, the main aspects of a job search are the same:
- Know what value you bring to the employer
- Identify opportunities
- “Emphasize the positive aspects of being an older worker.”
- Use effective job search techniques
- Keep a positive attitude
- Demonstrate your ability to learn new skills and attitudes.
Five top job-search tips for those over 50
- Set goals and work toward them. If you are looking for a new type of job, think about what interests you and what you enjoy doing.
- Emphasize the positive aspects of being an older worker — that you want to remain with the new employer for a long time, you are reliable, and have strong work values. Perhaps your family responsibilities are now less than they were.
- Show potential employers that you have the ability to learn and develop in the new position.
- Emphasize your advancements and progression of responsibilities at work over the years. You may also want to take a course from a community college or a workshop to show you can learn new tasks (as well as learn necessary skills to be more employable). Your volunteer work in the community will be an asset. Be sure to include these activities.
- Consider all opportunities — accepting a contract or term position will show your eagerness to work, and help to boost your resume. And who knows… the contract may even lead to a full time position.
When you finally get the official offer from a new employer, complete with salary quoted, the anxiety the family has been feeling (both spouse and children) turns to great joy.
Stress is very evident for those who refuse to accept the reality of the plant shutdown and cling to the flickering hope of a restart. However, not being willing to change is the real stress.
Courtesy Canadian Health Network