WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FINDING A JOB IN MIDLIFE

Top advice from a recruitment expert on redundancy and job-hunting in your 50s

The numbers of out of work over-50s has surged. Recruitment expert and headhunter Amanda Reuben shares her insights on facing redundancy in our middle years and the very real challenge of finding a job when you feel like you’re on the scrapheap.

Pretty much on a daily basis I speak to women and men in their 50s who are struggling to find work. And the outlook feels pretty bleak. There are in particular many, many women who, as a result of the pandemic, are losing their jobs. And it can feel like a body blow. So here is my number one tip: At this stage in your life you are much more likely to find a job through someone you know than you are from a job board or an agency. If they know and value you, let them know you’re available. But first read this advice.

Redundancy

Being made redundant is hard in so many ways. We are very much defined by our job and career, so losing your job leaves you bereft. You do have to grieve for a bit. However much you know the decision isn’t personal, it’s hard not to take it personally.

If the confidence blow of redundancy has really impacted on you it’s not a good idea to throw yourself into the job interview process while you’re still reeling and your confidence is low. Even if your job went due to lockdown or cost cutting, you can still beat yourself up over every little thing they said, and you can start to go down rabbit holes of insecurity. So take a breather.

Be kind to yourself and maybe speak to a counsellor or a business coach. It’s much healthier and you’re more likely to get a successful result. Did you really enjoy that job? Some people have found amazing second careers so let yourself think more broadly about what you’d like to do next rather than dwelling on the job you’ve just left.

Don’t go straight onto LinkedIn because invariably you will end up seeing other people’s success and that is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Go for jobs too soon and you’re in danger of coming across as desperate. You’ll get dejected and rejected and you won’t necessarily get the interviews that you want.

Don’t keep talking to colleagues at your old company. Close the door on that chapter of your life. Separate yourself from that business and try not to dwell on why you were made redundant and colleagues weren’t – because you may never find the answer and it really won’t serve you anyway.

Job-hunting

Confidence tends to be an issue for women. Men are often quite ballsy and assertive about this, whereas women need to get good at pitching themselves and getting in front of employers. And if you haven’t had to do it for many years the whole process can come as something of a shock.

Finding a job is like one huge game and once you know the rules you can really get somewhere. You need to connect with everyone you know, crawl over LinkedIn like a rash, build your network and be clear about who you are and the value you can bring.

We often struggle with knowing what we’re good at and showing our expertise in all its glory. Ask yourself ‘What do people value in me?’ and have the confidence to turn that into a personal brand. Talk to people, past bosses and colleagues, but also friends and family and associates you know through networking, people that you trust, and ask them ‘What is it that you value in me? What is my real quality?’ And often it’s not what you think.

We know our stuff and have years of experience, but the problem is, we just do what we do without thinking about it and don’t know how to do it justice when describing it. Treat it like a sales pitch. Think about words that will sell you and your uniqueness on your LinkedIn profile.

Recognise that you are the age you are and really know stuff – and own it. Find a way to let other people know that there’s a value in what you do and work out how to repackage that for job applications. You need to create ‘brand you’, which means knowing what you’re good at and what value it has.

Applying for jobs

I hear time and time again about age: “Do you think age is a barrier?”. Of course it shouldn’t be. The thing is to act like it’s not. Get good at pitching yourself in terms of what you’re actually going to bring to the table compared to a twenty-three year old. You can bring an enormous amount of value.

When you go for a job, it’s not only them interviewing you – you’re interviewing them. Think about what you’re bringing to the table and remember they should be really happy to have you. Don’t undervalue yourself and drop your salary. Your years of experience and knowledge should be paid for.

The cultural values of a company are important. You need to know you would feel comfortable working there. Will you fit in socially and culturally? Is this somewhere you could comfortably go to work every day? You want to feel like one of the team. Don’t just think about what they think of you. You also have to look at them and think, Okay, what do I think of them? Ask questions and find out if this is the kind of place you want to work.

Going through the sometimes bruising experience of job interviews is hard, but you have to get real and get on with it. Everybody will get a job eventually, I do believe that. Not everybody can launch a business or become a consultant. So you have to work at making a good impression and coming across assertively, without being too cocky.

Don’t give up too easily if you get asked difficult questions at interview. We sometimes stand in our own way by backing down too easily. Show you are driven and determined.

And in the meantime

There’s a real value in being productive and doing something useful to the community, like working in a test centre or doing deliveries. People counting on you is valuable. And if you have financial pressures, it may be essential. It may not be what you want to do forever, but don’t forget that in the future employers will look favourably on the work you did for society during lockdown. But do bear in mind that such jobs aren’t always easy to come by, so ask yourself if your confidence would cope with potential rejection.

Think about retraining. What else could you do with the skills and expertise you have accumulated? Sectors like teaching and social care are crying out for the skills many of us have. Take a look at the info on jobs and courses at Restless.

Sometimes success is about working out how to package your value and your unique skills into a new career. What can you deliver with all your wealth of expertise and years of experience? What service will people pay for?

Having your own side project, whether that’s something that earns you money or not, can give you a real boost, when you’re going through the jobhunting process. Nurturing something that has meaning and gives you a reason to wake up in the morning can really help. And it might even turn into a business.

For recruitment advice and to find out more about Amanda’s next Jobhunting Fundamentals online course, contact her at www.bijourecruitment.com

Words: Marina Gask

Audrey Lives are a regular feature of the Audrey Members’ Club. A variety of monthly workshops and meet-ups that give you the chance to connect with likeminded women and access group coaching and advice – whether you want to retrain, explore ideas, get support in your work life or start a new venture. To find out more go to Audrey Members’ Club.