‘Let’s shout about the value of a mature worker’

Leila Miller tells workingwise.co.uk about her experience of job searching during the pandemic and how she negotiates her fears of ageism in the recruitment process.

Middle-aged women in an interview

 

In November, we revealed the findings of our survey of older workers, which found 55% had encountered ageism in the recruitment process. Here Leila Miller*, a PR and marketing manager for an alternative health centre until 2019, talks about her concerns about ageism as she searches for a new job.

What is your experience of job search?

I have only recently begun my job search, so don’t have many experiences to report on yet. I did some online research about looking for a job in your 50s and concluded that much of the perhaps unintended ageism already begins at the recruitment agency and any automated screening processes they may use. I have tried to apply directly to companies, once I see something advertised online via a recruiter…..if I am able to easily find out who the client is.

So, I have purposely avoided the larger recruitment firms for now, although that might change. I definitely won’t ever put my age or date of birth on my CV and I have also not included some of my first jobs early in my career. Fortunately, they are not that relevant to the types of positions I am pursuing.

What has been your experience of the interview process?

I have only had one face-to-face interview as yet and still await the outcome. Age did not come into the mix at all. I’m an older parent of teenagers, so when I mention this, where relevant, people think I am younger than I actually am. I look younger than my years (57) and have also had to colour my hair to hide the grey and appear more youthful. Hopefully this will help! I don’t enjoy being 57 and having to job hunt again though, truth be told. I was hoping to be more of my own boss by now, freelancing etc, but that did not work out for various reasons.

What do you think the benefits of older workers are for employers?

I think the value of a more mature, seasoned employee should be widely shouted about everywhere. In the media, government, leading employers, industry etc. We have learnt so much by now about people and relationships and can contribute vital soft skills. We’ve tried many things and seen them either succeed or fail and can bring so much wisdom and just general life experience into the work situation. However, we need to be mindful about not being too ‘been there, done that’ – that we become too set in our ways. We need to remain open-minded and keep learning and also appreciate the energy and optimism of youth.

Several very big employers that I researched shout about inclusive employment policies regarding assigned gender, racial minorities and even gender identity diversity these days. Yet nothing about age inclusivity, sadly. Those who want to be seen as progressive, cutting-edge, very PC etc should also look at the age factor. Let’s break the mould.

How can employers address unconscious bias?

Perhaps we can find some champions and success stories of older workers in a younger team mix and promote these. It’s a bit of a PR, educational and lobbying exercise, I think. I’ve worked in PR and marketing, so this is always my go-to position.

*Not her real name



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