How can you make sure you’re not overlooked for jobs and other opportunities if you want to keep working in your 60s and 70s?
When Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a teenager, he probably thought he would be retired in his mid-to-late 60s.
Instead he has continued to work well into his 70s and will be 78 when he takes to the stage at Glastonbury 2020.
McCartney is not alone: things have changed since 1967 when the Beatles released the hit on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band.
Today more than 1 in 10 of those aged 65 is still working and the number is set to soar.
The scrapping of the default retirement age (which makes it harder to put us out to pasture) and an increase in the state pension age (which is set to rise to 67, and then 68), means growing numbers will be working until they are nearly 70.
There is only one problem: who will employ us?
Employment drops off from the age of 50, making the lyric ‘Will you still need me?’ take on a whole new meaning.
We all need to mind the age gap
While a lucky few might have quit the ‘rat race’ because they can afford to retire comfortably, many of the 3 in 10 in the 50-64 age group who are not in employment are not out of work through choice – the majority might not be able to work due to ill health, disability or caring commitments while others may struggle to find work because of their age.
Even among those still in employment, many are working part-time or in jobs that do not reflect their expertise and experience.
So how can you remain relevant in a world of work that still does not always value the wisdom of age?
De-age – from an early age
Age discrimination is illegal. But it happens – even if it is not deliberate but a case of unconscious bias.
So it is important to appear younger than you are if you do not want to be written off.
As it is easy to search for information about you online (yes – nearly every employer now checks out candidates before inviting them for interview), start thinking about what information is being posted about you or that you are posting yourself well before you hit 50.
- Never, ever put your age or date of birth on any job applications, CVs or social media profiles. Employers cannot ask your age, so don’t let them find out.
- Get rid of anything on your CV and online professional profiles that screams ‘ancient’. Change your qualifications from O Levels to GCSEs. Change your polytechnic to its new university name. Delete jobs from the 1980s and early 1990s.
- Clean up your social media profile and change your settings to private. A series of postings of you at your 55th or 60th birthday might inadvertently lead to a recruiter thinking you are ‘past it’.
- Also change your mindset. If you ‘think’ you are no longer able to go for that new job or that promotion, other people will think the same, too. One in 4 professionals over the age of 55 believe it’s too late to change things according to research from Think Forward Consulting – they are wrong. You just need to overcome the fear of rejection that often comes with age.
Get your words right
Job adverts often specify that candidates need to be ‘hungry’, ‘ambitious’, ‘energetic’, ‘driven’, ‘innovative’, ‘dynamic’ or other words automatically associated with youth. Include a few of these in your job applications and your personal statement to reflect the fact that you still have the passion to succeed.
At the same time avoid descriptions that sound ‘ageing’. Stating that you have ‘decades’ of experience is unnecessary. It is far better to detail what you have achieved not how long it took you!
Emphasise your adaptability
In a world of constant change, adaptability is a key skill yet one that is not always associated with more mature members of the workforce.
So, make a point of highlighting ways in which you have adapted to – or perhaps anticipated – change. Managing a transformation project, changing career path to reflect a change in the market or demonstrating how you have been innovative, will all prove to potential employers that you can ‘move with the times’ and remain relevant.
Show you can learn new skills
Forget the saying that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and prove that you can learn new skills. Make a habit of doing courses in the latest technology, remain inquisitive about new developments in your sector and demonstrate that you have a curiosity about the future – it will show the enthusiasm that employers are looking for (and associate with younger members of staff).
Have a Plan B (for business) . . .
One of the most popular ways to remain in employment later in your career is to employ yourself.
In fact, the number of self-employed people aged 65 years and older more than doubled between 2009 and 2017.
You can start with a sideline (provided it does not conflict with your day job), grow your venture and then do it full-time if it’s a success – or enjoy it as a part-time role if you plan to flexi-retire.
. . . Or be a master of your own destiny
While employers are often reluctant to hire more mature staff as full-time permanent employees, the same does not apply to consultants, contractors, freelance project managers, interim managers and non-executive directors: they are hired for their expertise, so the longer they have been being doing the job the better. In fact, 2 in 3 interims are aged 50–70+.
While you will have to give up the day job to start in one of these roles, the pay can often more than compensate for the lack of job security. Interims, for example, earn £500 to £1,500 a day. See the Institute of Interim Managers for more information: https://www.iim.org.uk/knowledge/.
So if you’re planning to carry on working well past when you’re 64 and into your 70s, like Paul, follow these tips to get your plans in order and make your profile attractive.