A panel discussion of experts and employers, sponsored by Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and Now Teach, for National Older Workers Week shared tips and advice for older workers looking to progress or change their career plans.
On the last webinar for National Older Workers Week the aim was to help job seekers understand what motivates them and where to look for jobs that suit their skills and values and to provide advice on how to change career path and get the confidence to make positive changes to find the best job for them.
The first topic tackled by the panelists and the starting point for any job seeker was considering what your purpose is so that you can find a meaningful job. The advice coach and employment law expert Lorna Valcin gives to job seekers is to reflect on what your values and passions are now because “when you’ve discovered them, then you’ve got a clearer idea about what you should be doing”.
Valcin posed that question to herself not so long ago when she decided to become a qualified life coach after more than 30 years of work as a solicitor. She decided to set up a life coaching business helping people make changes in their lives and career so they can live according to their true values.
Another question Valcin suggests jobseekers ask, as they look back at their life so far, is: “What have I done that has really made a difference to me as a person and also to other people? What have I done in my life that I’ve been really passionate about?”
Starting from these questions, you start to visualise what you would like to focus on and how to make that happen as you look for a new job. “It’s now not just about getting a job,” explains Valcin. “When we were younger, we went into a job for all sorts of reasons, career, money… As you get older, you get wiser and it’s not that those those things are not important; they’re just not as high on the priority list.”
Another important aspect when reflecting on what the next step should be is giving yourself the time to do so. When Sara Wilce was made redundant for the third time at the age of 60, she also asked herself those questions, but to finally reach a conclusion that worked for her she had to allow herself to take a break from frantic job searches and think about what she really wanted from her life and career.
Wilce, who worked in the airline industry, decided that she did not want to go back into full-time employment and started her own project to helps others with their CVs. “It is difficult to stay positive, particularly if you are looking for a long period of time. But don’t just apply for everything you see, that can be so demoralising because you will get rejection after rejection,” she said. She added, that if possible, people should restrict the time they spend on applying for jobs. “Don’t spend all day job hunting as that’s also demoralising,” she stated.
She advised focusing on the options that seem a good fit and which add value to your life, then moving to your CV.
As you reflect on what you would like to get out of your next job, it is not unusual to find yourself outside of your comfort zone or what you might have identified as your field of expertise.
The first tip from John Lees, career transition coach and author of the UK best-seller How to Get a Job You Love, is to do your research. “I don’t mean desperate research, sitting all day at the keyboard. I mean talking to people, having conversations that really unearth what’s going on in the sector, what skills are really useful,” Lees said.
Doing so will show commitment and interest and Lees suggests that the same degree of energy is really important when thinking about transferable skills. “What a lot of people don’t appreciate about transferable skills is that the only person who makes transferable skills transfer is you and that’s because what you’re doing is translating them into the language of the new context,” he explained.
Translating skills into the words used by employers in a particular sector not only shows you understand the sector, but that you find it interesting. According to Lees, your interest is best expressed in your cv or cover letter which tell a story about your skills, backed up by evidence in the language that the employer expects to hear.
According to Lees, one of the reasons so many CVs fail to attract the attention of employers is that they put distracting information at the top. “The bits that really matter about what are you really good at, what you understand and what you can bring to work right now, that’s hidden away in different places,” he said.
Another issue relating to CVs for older workers is condensing many years of experience into one page, the opposite issue of someone who is at the beginning of their career. Making sure that the most relevant experience are at the top and easy to find can help to make your application stand out.
Some people also wonder whether they should include their age in their CVs and they worry they could be discriminated against for being “older”. According to Lees, there is no need to draw attention to your age because it is not the most important piece of information about you. He said: “It’s not the thing you want to bring to somebody’s attention […] So what you’re doing in the CV is saying, ‘What do I want to put in the spotlight, front and centre,’ and it’s usually going to be about skills that you can bring.”
He also suggested having positive-minded supporters when applying for new positions. These do not have to be professional career coaches, but can be friends “who remind you what you’re good at and help you deal with difficult questions”.
Similarly, Katie Waldegrave, Director of Now Teach, a company that supports workers who are transitioning into teaching, said: “We have ongoing support and a network because it’s a really weird thing to do to begin all over again. You have to, on an existential level, disentangle your personal and professional selves.” She added: “And to do that with another group of people who are already doing it and surrounding yourself with like-minded people is very important.”
Another panelist on the webinar who changed her career two years ago is Jo Bishenden, now Director Of Education at QA, sponsor of National Older Workers Week. Bishenden said: “My current career wasn’t doing it for me, it wasn’t driving me, it wasn’t making me want to wake up and work […] and I made a very deliberate decision that I was moving off the career ladder and moving to a career web. I needed to find a way that I could move around my career in the right way.”
That is when she applied for a role at QA. “I was a bit of an apologist for it at the time, I can remember going to QA saying, ‘I’m really sorry, I haven’t been in my last job that long, but I really want to come work for you,’ and that was because at QA there’s this idea that there’s a learning revolution going on and we need to break down some of these barriers to gaining new skills,” she stated.
One of these barriers is around technology and QA is now trying to break away from the idea that this is only new graduates who can learn about it and that innovation has to be something completely new.
Bishenden said: “Innovation can be anything that has been tried and tested elsewhere and brought into a new situation, and experience and transferable skills can also bring new fresh outlooks… Some new thoughts and new ideas from a different industry, regardless of age, is exactly what can turn innovation and turn that wheel forward.”
She also mentioned the importance of recognising different learning styles as an organisation and having a very agile and diverse workforce. With learners being at different stages, some might be looking for an apprenticeship and others for further up-skilling, she said.
Sue Eilfield, Vice President, People & Culture at Coca Cola Europacific Partners, sponsor of the event, said they also have a similar approach.
She said: “There are learning opportunities for absolutely everyone […] and there’s so much you can do even before joining an organisation to upskill yourself on what digital and technology aspects there are. But it’s also about just being curious, finding people and networks to connect to and building relationships.”
There are many ways to up-skill, whether you are in an organisation or not, but one trait that the panelists agreed was essential is curiosity and a passion for learning.
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