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Is age holding you back when it comes to your career?

By Emilly Parris

Although we’ve come leaps and bounds in eliminating discrimination in the workplace, age can still affect your career in a number of ways. Whether you’re a fresh-faced graduate looking to get your foot in the door, or a professional nearing the age of retirement hoping to stay in the workforce longer, we all face different challenges depending on our age and where we are in our career.

New graduates are energetic, enthusiastic and willing to learn but lack the experience. Older professionals have the experience, but their skills may be viewed as outdated and they are often too costly for employers to hire. Meanwhile, middle-aged workers may be enjoying the peak of their career, as they take advantage of a higher salary and more prestigious job title.

Research shows that once an older worker is out of work, they are far less likely to find new work than their younger counterparts. In a recent article on Australian Financial Review, Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson claimed that “[mature-age workers] will be out of work on average for around 76 weeks, which is 20 weeks longer than a prime age worker."

Younger workers may have the benefit of being quick on their feet, but they must still prove themselves in a highly competitive job market.

So how can workers navigate these challenges and strike the right balance to impress potential employers? Here are a few key tips to help you stay competitive:

1. Adaptability is key.

While younger workers are perceived to adapt more easily to new circumstances, the ability to adapt is not limited by your age. In fact, the Australian Financial Review article pointed out that managers aged between 45 and 54 had a greater ability to adapt to change than those in any other age group, which contradicts the stereotype that mature-age workers are less agile.

Adapting to change is important when it comes to the modern working environment because as society changes, systems must evolve to meet new challenges. That is why employers are seeking candidates that can keep pace with the changing tides. Don’t be afraid to learn what adaptability means for your industry and take steps to move in the direction that makes the most sense for your career.

2. Continue learning and developing your skills.

transferable skills concept

Whether you’re a young professional or someone with decades of experience under your belt, lifelong learning is essential if you want to grow into your career.

According to LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand managing director Matt Tindale, technical skills have an average life expectancy of two to three years. “It doesn't matter how old you are, you have to be continually learning," he said.

Transferable skills such as communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity and collaboration are in demand, but it’s also important to focus on key areas in your industry where you can learn something new and increase the value you bring to your employer. Not only does this make you more desirable to a future hiring manager, it also allows you to request a higher salary and other benefits.

3. Focus on what you do offer.

You can’t be everything for everyone. Focus on your strengths and be sure to make them clear in your resume and throughout the recruitment process. Young professionals may worry that they lack experience, but this can be countered by exhibiting a strong desire to learn and demonstrating ability to bounce back from criticism

Meanwhile, older professionals offer decades of valuable knowledge and are more likely to commit to their role and the organisation they work for. These are all essential values many businesses want and will offer competitive benefits to the right person.

4. Consider working for a company that values your strengths.

enthusiastic team high-fiving

Most job seekers apply for jobs as they appear in listings or job boards, but an estimated 70% of jobs are in fact, unlisted. This is why it pays to make connections and reach out to businesses that align with your values, regardless of whether they are currently hiring or not. 

Company culture is important when it comes to nurturing your career, so consider approaching an organisation that you know will not only accept you but where you will thrive professionally.

5. Understand your legal rights.

Age discrimination of any kind is unlawful, so it’s important to document and report anything that resembles discriminatory hiring practices, or if you experience an unfair dismissal. Each Australian state and territory have also enacted anti-discrimination legislation. More information can be found on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Are you ready to advance your career?

Career advancement can happen at any age and despite the hurdles, there is still room for older professionals to find fulfilling work even in their golden years. Upskilled offers a range of online courses in some of the most in-demand industries—they help professionals gain the right accreditation to advance in their career no matter their age. Have an obligation-free chat to one of their education consultants today by calling 1300 009 924 to discuss your next steps.
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*By providing your information, you agree to our Privacy Policy and to receiving email and other forms of communication from Upskilled. You are able to opt-out at any time.