Expertise Trumps Age: Experience is a Valuable Commodity
By Sharon Graham.
Age is relative and the definition of an “older worker” is expanding. The labour market is dramatically shifting into a new phase, with the percentage of Canadians in the workplace who are over 50 doubling every decade. Older workers are quickly becoming a valuable commodity in a market that needs the expertise.
Ageism is an issue we have dealt with over the years. Older workers have experienced deep-rooted societal and cultural discrimination. However, as our pool of experienced professionals starts to dwindle, we should consider the laws of supply and demand.
Consider the older worker as a product and the employer as the purchaser of that product. In the past, older job seekers reported that employers seemed discriminatory, in that they appeared to favour younger candidates over more mature ones. But this is all changing.
There are two key forces in action that are shifting employers’ perception of older candidates:
- The supply of experienced workers is decreasing. As boomers retire from the workforce in greater numbers, we are creating a talent drain within our labour market.
- The demand for experience in the labour market is increasing. The talent drain is creating an unprecedented need for people who have applied knowledge and expertise.
As the pool of knowledgeable workers is dwindling, people who are skilled and qualified through actual work experience are quickly becoming indispensable. According to a labour force projection study published by Statistics Canada’s Canadian Economic Observer, although many baby boomers will retire from the workforce by the year 2021, we can expect the proportion of people in the labour force who are 55 and older to double what it was during the mid-1990’s, to up to 20% of the workforce. This dramatic increase will predicate the future potential of this key demographic within the Canadian job market.
As employers realize the greater need for older workers, they are working hard to find new ways to address gaps in their own business requirements. Deloitte’s 2013 Human Capital Trends Survey of 1,300 senior business leaders globally reveals that companies are in danger of losing their “best and brightest.” Looking specifically at Canada, the war to develop talent is on the rise. This is because one third of Canadian employers can’t find skilled workers.
This phenomenon has been growing in force for a number of years. In an earlier study, Deloitte performed a survey of more than one hundred human resource executives across Canada and found that most companies were having a tough time dealing with the retirement of highly experienced professionals. Many executives reported critical shortages in key areas within the organization. As a result, for most of these companies, hiring and retention of key people was becoming an issue that needed to be addressed.
The laws of supply and demand tell us that if there is a shortage of highly experienced employees, then a mature candidate is worth more to employers than less experienced workers. Older workers are now heading from a buyer’s market into a seller’s market where they maintain quite a bit of power. The excess of demand over supply in the coming years will work in their favour.
These laws of supply and demand naturally put older workers in a better position to negotiate employment terms, compensation, and benefits. They offer an excellent return on an employer’s investment. By hiring an experienced professional, employers will decrease the costs associated with recruitment, training, and turnaround. Plus, the employee will be able to create almost immediate results in increased productivity and profitability because he or she knows the job so well.
Tip Sheet to Combat Ageism
If you are an older job seeker, employers want to hire you because you offer many qualities that younger workers cannot offer. There is great value that comes from maturity. You have much to offer the current Canadian marketplace:
- Experience from a lifetime that a younger worker simply cannot possess. You have successfully overcome many hurdles in business that beginners have yet to encounter. When responding to questions, give the interviewer strong examples that come from your vast body of experience.
- Adaptability that can only come from the transitions that people go through in their career. You have seen business go through many changes, and you have successfully adapted to them. Describe to employers how you have handled changes that have occurred during your career.
- Expertise that comes from a deeper understanding of your job and industry. You know how your job can be done efficiently. Show by example how you can incorporate the things that you have learned to benefit your new employer.
- Professionalism to present a favourable first impression. Dress in a current and upscale way that is appropriate to your age. Think progressive and classy when you select your interview attire. Don’t make the mistake of trying to look like someone much younger than you are. If you do, you are missing the point entirely. You risk the employer thinking that you are a desperate “has been.”
- Maturity to deal effectively with tough business issues. Employers value the emotional stability you bring. You have gone through many life experiences that younger people just have not had the time to learn to handle effectively. You can take things in stride and focus on getting the job done. Don’t underestimate how valuable this is to the employer.
- Leadership to mentor other employees and set a good example. You know how to listen and when to communicate. Remind your recruiter that as a mature professional, you don’t focus on frivolous gossiping and backstabbing. Instead, you create a work environment that is conducive to teamwork and results.
- Integrity that is displayed through your honesty and values. In a world that puts more emphasis on getting ahead than on being truthful, you can stand apart from the rest. If you are a highly ethical professional, you must let the employer know. And, if pride in a job well done is more important to you than just looking for the next move up the ladder, then express this.
- Dedication and understanding of the importance of reliability. When talking with employers, explain your intention to dedicate yourself fully to your next employer. As a mature worker, you might be more likely to stay later to get the job done, have better attendance, and be more punctual than younger workers. If this is true, then focus on your strong work record.
- Commitment to stay in the job and maintain loyalty to your employer. Employers may be concerned that you anticipate retiring soon when in fact, younger people in particular tend to leave jobs for new opportunities more often than older workers. If you are not planning to leave any time soon, remind your potential employer. Show that you are proactive and think ahead by discussing what you can do in the longer term for the company.
- Vitality that comes from loving the career enough to stay in it for the long run. It is likely that you offer many things that dispel pre-conceived notions about age. If you are in better shape than many others, express how you can effectively complete the physical work involved. Empower yourself with your optimistic and upbeat outlook, and you will find people are more likely to pay attention to your qualifications than your age. Smile during your interview. Studies show that smiling builds rapport by making you look pleasant, younger, and full of life.
Source: Career Professionals of Canada
Employers are working hard to find new ways to find and retain older workers. This makes them a valuable commodity with a powerful voice. Organizations will listen and create appropriate jobs to take advantage of the amazing value that comes from experience, maturity, and expertise. This will not only fill a gap in the current and future workplace, but will also give us all a richer and more diverse workforce.