Older workers can face significant barriers to re-entering the workforce—and moreso as time away gets longer. According to a recent article in The Age, people over 50 spend an average of 61 weeks on the unemployment queue, compared to 37 weeks for all other people.
61 weeks! And those numbers aren’t getting any better.
A federal government program designed to support older Australians who are getting back into the workplace debuted with much fanfare a year ago, yet has been declared by some as a complete failure after helping only about 5 percent of 32,000 intended beneficiaries. The program provides a wage subsidy of up to $10,000 to employers who give jobs to people aged over 50 who have been unemployed for more than six months, however not many took advantage of it and the problem still exists.
One has to wonder, why are employers and employees age 50+ not taking advantage of these programs?
The employment landscape has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Older job-seekers often struggle as they find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Hiring practices are vastly different and employer expectations have changed with less time spent on orientation training and more emphasis on just finding your way—the type of environment that may cause discomfort to the older worker.
Adaptation is necessary, but where to start?
While federal programs and corporations attempt to work it all out, there is plenty that can be done at the individual level by those who are over 50 and seeking employment.
Instead of relying on job advertisements, try a new approach by finding ways to put yourself live and in-person in front of decision makers at companies you are interested in. Who do you know? Now find out where those people are. And plan legitimate ways to interact. Business networking, awards dinners, assemblies and volunteering opportunities are all positive ways to interact with the people who have the most potential to help you move forward.
Break out of traditional thinking. Are you willing to leave the world of office suites and suit-and-tie employment for an entrepreneurial life with multiple income streams? Life is full of people who are successfully doing this. Would you consider consulting? Temporary or contract work? Recently a person started up a Facebook page because she liked her local supermarket! That page now has 91,000 ‘likes’, a regular and thriving community and the supermarket is paying her to keep up this positive brand of marketing for them! This success allowed her to take on a business partner and start other similar business ventures. Sometimes it just takes an idea to make something work.
61 weeks is a long time to be unemployed and if you’re over 50, it’s a scary, emotional ride that erodes motivation.
Shaving weeks off this average is desirable, so it’s time to take charge. Talk to people you know, work your LinkedIn profile, meet with recruiters, friends, colleagues, former employers, and make plans that take advantage of the wonderful new advantages today’s workplace offers.
Whatever you do, don’t wait another minute, today’s the day to get started!