Employers can not afford to ignore older workers

Dear Working Wise:I am 64 years old, in good health, a professional engineer and willing to work camp jobs, but the best chance I now seem to have for job appears to be truck driving. Is there no room in the energy industry for people over 60? — Energetic Engineer

Dear Working Wise:I am 64 years old, in good health, a professional engineer and willing to work camp jobs, but the best chance I now seem to have for job appears to be truck driving.

Is there no room in the energy industry for people over 60? — Energetic Engineer

Dear Energetic: Employers can not afford to ignore older workers. The number of mature workers aged 55 and up has doubled over the last 10 years. And 190,000 of these mature workers could retire in the next decade.

Our aging population, low birth rate and growing economy could leave Alberta short at least 77,000 skilled workers within the decade.

One solution is to tap into the pools of under-employed Albertans, including youth, aboriginal Albertans, persons with disabilities, immigrants and mature workers.

The government of Alberta released a mature worker action plan this past spring to support mature workers who choose to remain in the workforce and help employers attract and retain this valuable human resource. You can read the action plan for yourself at http://employment.alberta.ca.

Some beliefs about aging can actually give you an advantage when you are applying for work. Surveys show that many human resource professionals believe older workers are reliable, committed to their jobs and have a strong work ethic.

Still, there may be times when you have to convince employers that some negative beliefs about aging do not apply to you.

Here are some tips to help revitalize your job search:

• Get the interview — Do not reveal your age. Most employers use application forms or resumés to screen job applications. Don’t make it easy for them to guess your age from your application.

If you earned a credential a long time ago, let employers know you have that qualification but leave out the date you earned it and only include your more recent and relevant work experience (e.g., the last 20 years).

• Get the wardrobe and attitude — First impressions are extremely important in job interviews. Make sure you look energetic, confident and up-to-date. Your clothing, shoes, grooming and energy level say a great deal about you.

Be enthusiastic about your work. Talk about your interest in new techniques and technologies. Describe situations where you have successfully taken informed risks.

• Get the job — Try to address the employer’s concerns indirectly. Although employers may have concerns about your age, human rights law prohibits them from asking about it.

You can let employers know their fears are unfounded in many ways, including:

• Provide evidence that you are a productive worker;

• Talk about your performance record and any formal recognition you have received;

• If the job is physically demanding, discuss similar physically challenging tasks you have recently completed;

• Provide examples of how you have learned to worker smarter over the years;

• Let the employer know that you are keen to learn new skills and talk about the new skills you have recently learned;

• Emphasize your commitment to your career and your excellent attendance record;

• Stress your teamwork skills by mentioning times when you have worked very well with people younger than yourself.

You have a lot going for you. All you have to do is help interviewers look past the grey hairs and see the energetic, experienced go-getter sitting in front of them.

Good luck with the job hunt!

Working Wise is compiled by Charles Strachey of Alberta Employment and Immigration (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca) for general information.

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