Grim news about jobs and unemployment as it pertains to older workers during a pandemic is everywhere.
Consider the following:
- 2.9 million older workers have left the labor force since March. These workers are at risk of having to retire involuntarily due to increased health risks coupled with decreased job prospects
- If the rate of labor force exits continues over the next three months, we expect an additional 1.1 million older workers to leave the labor force, adding to the 2.9 million who already left.
- Older workers who lose their job take nearly twice as long to find a new job compared to young workers.
*Source: The New School, Retirement Equity Lab
What these stats and articles failed to mention was that the average age of a successful entrepreneur is 45, and that entrepreneurs 50 and over are more than twice as likely to succeed. When building a business, seeing the potential risks and having experience matters. They also fail to mention that there are several companies that would love to hire experienced professionals who could help lift their companies out of a pandemic that has depleted revenue streams. Now’s the time to reassess and ask: “Am I curious? Dedicated to learning? Open to change?” If so, the chances of finding employment increase substantially.
At illume hire, we’ve discussed different ways a mid-career professional can stand out and land their next job or take steps to create a business. Here are three actionable steps to help move forward and break through the barriers of age bias:
Be A Sponge & Be Curious:
Katie Couric once said, “The reason I’ve been able to spot trends is because I read so much”. My 54 year old friend agrees with this sentiment so she carries her kindle with her everywhere. “I’m a bit obsessed”, she admitted, “If I’m not able to read 2-3 hours a day, I go nuts”. She sets reading goals regarding topics she’s always been curious about. Currently, she’s learning about virtual reality and the impact it’s having on people to cure depression. If books or time consuming courses aren’t your thing, there are mini courses too. There’s an online course called “curious.com” that helps improve one’s curious quotient or “CQ” as many HR professionals refer to it. It has an interactive wheel of topics allowing you to choose your top interests. Then experts will provide answers and the specific information needed via email or text - taking up to 30 minutes per day. Another site called “GoHighbrow.com” offers mini courses for two weeks at a time and is only 5 minutes per day. If you’re interested in business trends, check out free industry reports such as McKinsey & Co. and research published by Price Waterhouse Coopers. If learning something academic is more your thing, consider TED-Ed of the infamous TED talks. The key is to dedicate a certain amount of time learning something you’ve been curious about that could benefit your career and could lead to additional ideas.
Pursue Something Challenging:
Stepping out of a perceived comfort zone isn’t easy but doing so builds confidence, since taking risks, struggling and failing, and eventually mastering something, is rewarding. It’s also one way to illustrate your passion through storytelling about accomplishments and failures during an interview. Public speaking, creating a Shopify storefront, creating a landing page or taking a technology course are a few examples. When it’s a stretch, our brain adapts and this is known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the process by which our brain can create new relationships between neurons. SharpBrains.com defines it as “the capacity of the brain to change with learning.” This process starts while we are still in the womb and can continue for all of our lives. Running towards a challenge is also an opportunity to explore a new version of yourself.
When we face a challenge, we have to dig deep to find the personal power we need to rise above and do something different. Challenges also teach us resilience when unexpected obstacles arise. When we don’t challenge ourselves, we tend to succumb to self limiting beliefs and a life of mediocrity, full of regrets and what-ifs. One benefit of getting older is that we tend to care less about what others think of us. Who cares if we fail at something? If someone has made a concerted effort to be challenged and learned something along the way, that is so much better than being an apathetic couch potato.
Network with Younger People:
With so many webinars taking place, look for younger experts on platforms such as Eventbrite. Oftentimes the speakers will connect through LinkedIn. There are all kinds of digital communities that offer a different way of networking. A 55 year old friend of mine signed up for LunchClub.ai to connect with other people who have similar interests. He was connected with someone in Talent Acquisition from a start-up in Seattle and they talked for over an hour. He connected her two professionally established people who could help her achieve her career aspirations. One connection has her PhD in Organizational Psychology and helped her with a course she was teaching internally at her company. Many younger employees realize the value of connecting with well connected, high achieving older professionals but older professionals might be reluctant to reach out to their younger counterparts. Multigenerational workplaces are here to stay and helping each other and learning from one another helps mitigate damaging age bias.
It’s an unusually difficult time for mid-career professionals. However, it’s also an opportunity to reinvent oneself and be prepared for opportunities that may not have existed before the pandemic.
Reviewed & Recommended:
Inc. Magazine: “How Learning a New Skill Helps Your Mind Grow Stronger”
Highbrow: “Bouncing Back from Failure”
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Emily’s vision for illume hire developed as part of her journey from a startup-curious sales and marketing professional to co-founder and CEO. Her passion is to provide the tools and community to support other mid-career professionals to maximize their mid-career momentum. In addition to her work with illume hire, Emily is part of the founding leadership team of Age Equity Alliance, a non-profit focused on age diversity in the workplace