For many people, being made redundant doesn’t just mean losing an income. It can lead to a loss of confidence, identity and purpose, making it feel impossible to get back on your feet.
The pandemic has seen many people lose their jobs. Although the majority of those affected have been younger, middle-aged workers have been impacted too. Older workers who lose their jobs are more likely to slip into long-term worklessness, with over 50s who are unemployed twice as likely to be out of work for a year as younger workers.
Losing a job is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when the job market is flooded with people looking for work. So how can you bounce back after being made redundant in mid-life?
“Losing your job at any time is likely to present people with significant internal and external barriers. Confidence being a big one. But there also tends to be an assumption that it might be bad to lose a job at this age,” says Anna Baréz-Brown, co-founder of the organisation Shine for Women.
“The world is changing so much, and the systems and pace are very different to when 40 to 50 year olds were entering the workplace. Advancements, particularly in tech, mean that positions have evolved and now rely heavily on new approaches that you may not be familiar with or have little understanding of.”
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Career coach Judy Bullimore says it can be difficult particularly for people who are used to progressing in their careers internally, or haven’t had to ‘sell’ themselves. “For many, their work has ‘spoken’ for them and they haven’t needed to be prepared for this level of competition and scarcity for similar types of roles,” she explains.
“In middle age, many workers will have demonstrable skills and experience. However, the difficulty lies in the way this is presented to employers. Many struggle with the concept that having skills and experience isn’t enough to have a competitive edge or stand out right now, the most important thing will be to present their unique ‘core’ offer. This is made up of more than skills and experience, but passion, personality and added value.”
Another major difficulty is the level of confidence and resilience the person may or may not have. Job loss or redundancy is known to have a devastating impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing, affecting their self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
“Employers, recruiters and interviewers seek out confidence in candidates because they want to feel secure that they can trust that their role will be invested in the candidate that can deliver,” says Bullimore. “However it might only take one rejection at application or interview to knock an individual’s confidence, so it requires great inner confidence and resilience on the part of the jobseeker to bounce back.”
Ageism is another problem facing more mature workers. Although the 2010 Equality Act defines it as discrimination, the problem is that there is a marked difference between active age discrimination and implicit bias in the recruitment process. Often, decisions are made on first impressions, so if the recruiter already has a certain person in mind for the job, this bias may mean others lose out.
“I totally believe that discrimination is rife within the employment sector, but masked in glossy statements, job descriptions and equality and diversity policies,” says Bullimore. “The very nature of the job application process is biased to the employer getting to decide on who they believe is the ‘right fit’ for their organisation.”
That being said, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of getting back into the workforce.
Learn to think like an employer
“Researching the employer is surface level,” says Bullimore. “The secret to career success is to understand the hidden assumptions, biases, expectations and problems the employer really wants solving. The art of a strong application and interview is to speak to what they aren’t saying as well as what they have stated they require.”
The key is to know the employer and what makes them tick. You can do this by scouring their websites, social media, speaking to people in the sector or looking at reviews of the company on Glassdoor.
Remember your worth
“This age group is often undervalued but they can bring a huge amount to an organisation, so it is important not to lose sight of that,” says Baréz-Brown. “Be confident and see it as an advantage, because it is! If you have children they’re likely to be older so you’re not sleep deprived and you’re being a role model to them.
“You will have far more refined skills, particularly in people management and nurturing the team that younger candidates will still be developing. It is these attributes that make a team successful and thrive.”
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Turn experience into compelling impressive stories
The process of reflecting on employment history can be an empowering process and great for building confidence.
“It’s essential to do this before updating a CV, writing an application or interviewing because experience is the passport to a job offer,” says Bullimore. You know you can do the job, but presenting this effectively to an employer is essential.
“Knowing how to impressively present it at the very beginning will make the way the candidate writes or speaks about their experience more engaging and memorable,” she adds. To do so, gather your strongest, tangible examples. This might be a project which achieved an amazing result, or led to a quantifiable increase in sales.
It’s tempting to try and ‘fit in’ to a company to improve your chances of landing a job interview or an offer, but being authentic is important. If you’re a mature worker, showcase the experience you can bring to a company and why this will benefit the employer.
Work on your confidence
It’s easier said than done to simply ‘be more confident’ but learning to recognise your own abilities, skills and achievements will help you succeed. Writing down your accomplishments can help you put this into perspective, particularly if your confidence has been knocked.
You don’t have to go it alone, either. Counselling can help you understand the way you think and work through any problems you may be experiencing. A career coach who specialises in CV writing and good interview practice can help you feel more positive about job applications too.
“So be confident, find the right recruiter for you, one who understands your core values, and what you want out of a job,” says Baréz-Brown. “You should consider investing in your personal development, whatever your age, and don’t be shy to use your network and reach out and connect with people. This will help remind you that you are relevant and have a place in the world, and that’s incredibly validating.”
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