Not retiring: The confidence conundrum

It’s not just age discrimination that holds many older workers back in the recruitment process. Confidence can be a big issue.

Recruitment: People seated waiting for interviews holding CVs


We know from countless research that it can be difficult trying to find a job if you are older. But what about if you have moved to the UK and are trying to start all over again? A friend has been out of the UK for over a decade and living in an entirely different culture where word of mouth is still the currency for getting a job and technology hasn’t yet permeated every interaction.

He has returned to the UK and is step by step trying to apply for jobs. His confidence was low at the start of the process and has deteriorated ever since. It’s not just that he has to find a job and that it can be difficult to get qualifications and other things like driving licences recognised or renewed. It’s that every process seems to involve filling forms in online and technical glitches [for instance, a safeguarding certificate wouldn’t print out and there was no obvious way of contacting the administrator]. It all seemed a bit faceless and like jumping into a dark, bottomless pool.

It doesn’t help that he also needs flexibility due to his caring responsibilities and he is in a sector – education – which has not been renowned for flexibility despite massive teacher shortages. It’s easy to lose heart and to downplay all his achievements to date, for instance, being able to teach in two and sometimes three languages. Meanwhile, the financial need for work is increasing the pressure.

One of the most difficult things in the recruitment process is the lack of human feedback. Often he seems to be sending off his CV into a black hole through various recruitment websites. Usually there is no reply at all. It makes you feel invisible. And this is a person with all sorts of qualifications, who has built their own house and adapted to a totally different culture and to a very tricky economic outlook where everything is uncertain. You’d think those were skills that could be useful in a rapidly changing and global work environment. But who is screening his CV and what are the algorithms that are safeguarding access to employment?

Nevertheless,  it may not be totally the fault of technology. Confidence is also key. How do you rebuild confidence in a way that recognises all the skills you bring to the workplace? Younger people also often face confidence issues. I’ve spoken to many who have no idea where they are going these days. A lot of people seem to be in danger of slipping through the cracks and to need support to find their way or their way back. For older people returner programmes can help because they recognise the confidence issue. Some even recognise the need for sessions that address potential confidence barriers to even applying to returner programmes. The world of recruitment also needs to retain that vital human element. Automation may be efficient and cheaper than sifting through lots of CVs, but it can weed out so many individuals who just need that boost back into work to rebuild their confidence and restart their careers.

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