HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? Busting the Age Barrier

I have had successful career in management. However, I am now over 50 and for the past three years I have been looking for that next job, but no one wants me. The amazing thing is that I have only had three interviews in that time. When I was younger it seemed easy to get at least to the interview stage. I have plenty of drive and energy and am passionate about what I do but there just don’t seem to be any jobs.

Given the number of questions I have on this I can assure you that you are not alone. I have observed number of interview situations in this age group and often the person doing the recruiting isn’t even aware of their own thinking. Unfortunately, all too often they wonder if it would be better to give the job to younger person who has something to prove, is cheaper and has longer career ahead of them. Also they often appear to have hidden belief that older people have less energy and drive than younger person.
When the baby boomers retire there is likely to be significant shortage of skilled people available for the workforce. Potentially, this means that people in your situation will have the opportunity to return to work in perhaps interesting and new roles. However, it is important to maintain your skills in the meantime.
What can you consider doing? There are no magic solutions as society is changing and the outcome is unknown. The problem is you are caught in the middle of this change.
The best source for new role is contacts that you have built up over the years. Or you could consider going out to learn something new that re-skills you for future role. Another option would be to change from having just one job to building portfolio of different roles that add up to suitable income. Or you could consider turning hobby into job. This can often work because we tend to be passionate about our hobbies and this can carry through to new business venture or role. You could also consider becoming paid mentor or coach and enable people to tap into your wealth of management experience. Another option would be to consider changing from full time employment to contract work. This presents opportunities such as executive leasing or contracting back to your existing employer on project basis.
Finally, if you were prepared to take the risk you could just stand back from your present role and see what happens. It is often amazing to see what opportunities present when we stop trying to create them.
Younger people reading this should learn that in today’s world they must put something aside on an ongoing basis from an early age for their later years. They come more quickly than we think.

In our organisation we aim to have staff development plans for every employee. However, we fail to deliver on this and our managers only pay lip service to the process. I have looked at other organisations and find they are similar to us. Do you have any advice on how to approach staff development successfully?

Staff development is an absolute key contributor to the engagement of people in an organisation. Once they are on top of their jobs and comfortable with the direction of the organisation people will look for opportunities to grow and develop. If this need is not met they will generally vote with their feet and leave. We know that as the baby boomers retire there will be increased competition for talent and therefore this issue, although important now, will become even more important over the next few years.
When establishing staff development programme it is important to first consider the objectives. There are three key areas of focus with the third one being powerful motivator which is often overlooked.
First, aim to develop the person as much as possible for their current role. The requirements for their role should be defined in their job description and their annual objectives, which should be linked to the organisation’s business plan and strategy. critical element in achieving success here is to focus on “coaching” rather than “managing” for performance.
Next, help the person identify their development needs for their next role. This could include secondments and involvement in projects outside of their current job. It can be challenging to find enough real opportunities in an organisation to achieve this. One way of approaching it is to organise meetings of groups of managers across the organisation and for them to jointly review the performance and development needs of their people. This creates an opportunity to ensure common standards of performance measurement across the organisation and also creates the opportunity for managers to offer temporary development opportunities for other staff.
Thirdly, try to understand the person’s longer-term career aspirations and to provide mentoring and support for them to move towards their personal goals. This can be challenging as in the long term these goals may not include the present organisation. However, the employee will value your support and will likely become more engaged and stay for longer if they are supported in this way.
Finally, you should include progress against these three development areas in your regular performance reviews with the person involved.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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