The coronavirus pandemic forced hundreds of thousands out of work with growing concerns that Australia’s older workers will find it even harder to get back in.
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According to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, by the end of June, around 400,000 Aussies aged 51 to 65 had lost work or hours as a result of the pandemic.
The late Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan in August said Australia has seen “ever-present ageist ideas” playing out over the course of the pandemic, and particularly in the workforce.
And the Government’s JobMaker package has also raised concerns it will see older workers struggle to find work as only those younger than 35 are eligible for subsidies.
Tips for mature workers
SEEK head of customer insights and strategy Elyssia Clark said older workers need to understand they have an edge that they, or others, may not have appreciated.
“They’re experienced, reliable, have a strong work ethic, have potential to mentor younger colleagues, have existing credibility with customers, and are statistically less likely to take a day off sick,” Clark said.
Clark said older workers should tap into their transferable skills, and highlight these when looking for work.
“If you want to make the most of your transferable skills in your resume and cover letter, then focus on what you bring to the role - not what you don’t have,” Clark said.
“By showing how your skills link to a new industry you also demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. If you’re unsure about the transferable skills you have and how you can apply them, you can access our checklist to help identify some of your key transferable skills.”
Career expert and founder of Corporate Dojo Karen Gately said another way to assess your transferable skills is to consider the outcomes at previous roles.
For example, former flight attendants may think their skills were in food service and emergency procedures, but their transferable skills are actually significantly greater than that.
“This group of workers deal with people who are highly stressed all day every day - nothing makes people more fearful than getting on a plane,” Gately told Yahoo Finance earlier this year.
“So, they’re dealing with highly tense situations and they’re having to obviously remain composed themselves if things go wrong - there’s a whole host of character traits and interpersonal engagement skills, but also an eye for detail. You don’t get to say, ‘Oh sorry, I forgot to lock the door.’ There’s a real system and process you have to master.”
The same goes for ex-servicepeople: they bring accountability, a respect for compliance and discipline to their work - something often sought after in engineering, operations and production.
The next option is to consider doing an online course or training. SEEK research provided to Yahoo Finance reveals that two-in-three candidates across all demographics are still interested in upskilling or retraining over the next six months, with 42 per cent very interested in taking part in Government-subsidised short courses.
Clark said if older workers have the time or money to commit to study, there are many online courses that will help workers grow their skillset.
“Another option is short courses which offer you the competitive edge in your CV, showing a willingness to learn, or gaining the basics of the skills you’ll need in a new job or field,” she added.
The Government’s Skills and Training Incentive is open to workers aged 45-70 and is aimed at helping them build skills for the future, while the Career Transition Assistance program is also pitched at helping mature workers build their confidence and skills by identifying transferable skills and improving their jobsearch.
Volunteering might not be the first choice for those who’ve lost paid work, but it is nevertheless considered a credible way to build skills and find out more about certain industries.
“SEEK research also found that 95 per cent of employers agreed that volunteering can be a credible way of gaining real-work experience to add to your resume,” Clark said.
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