Lucy Standing is a specialist in over-50s career development. Read her essential insights into what works – and what doesn’t when you’re in the market for a new job.
Lucy co-founded Brave Starts, which helps over-50s work out what they want to do next in their career. She has been called to Parliament to give evidence about older workers, and earlier this year, spoke at our online masterclass on job hunting when you’re over 50.
Redefining Expectations of Job Hunting for Over 50s
A roundtable discussionPosted by Life/Redefined on Thursday, January 19, 2023
Lucy is always surprised that people will pay a lot of money for courses to learn the theory, but won’t pay for the practice. “Just contact companies and say, ‘Can I come and help you? I don’t want to be paid because it’s a really good learning opportunity.’ That’s the kind of approach people really respond to. You can get some real insights into whether this is something you want to do for a career.”
Discover what the workplace and role is really like from those who are employed there. “We’ve found a lot of older workers saying, ‘I really want to do this.’ We reply, ‘Great! Go and meet somebody who does that and chat with them.’ Very often, people come back and say, ‘Actually that doesn’t sound that great after all. Maybe I’m slightly better off where I am.’”
The answer to your search may be closer than you think! “This is my favourite tip,” says Lucy. “If you currently work somewhere, you’ve already got trust, credibility and respect. Explore opportunities within your organisation. The grass is rarely greener.” It may be that flexible working or fewer hours are all you need, rather than a complete career change. Ask you present employer if it’s possible – they would probably rather keep you than lose you.
Career coaching is an unregulated industry and there is a lot of well-intentioned, but poor advice, reveals Lucy. Engaging a career coach is also a significant investment. “I recommend you are wary,” says Lucy. “Plus, there are many other places to get good, free advice, including a Job Centre.” However, if you do wish to use a professional career coach, 55/Redefined has partnered with Randstad Risesmart, one of the world’s top career development companies, to offer a discounted career coaching package.
Large, generic job search websites have thousands of job opportunities. But pause a moment, advises Lucy: “You are up against hundreds of other applicants.” Unless they are like the age-inclusive employers who target the over-50’s with job opportunities on Jobs/Redefined, you have no way of knowing if they will even consider you. “However,” says Lucy, “If you can’t see anything suitable, get networking by messaging potential companies directly, saying, ‘I know there isn’t a job at the moment, but I want to get on your radar.’” That way, you've got a connection when the job is advertised.
Older workers are often looking for a job with “purpose”. But, warns Lucy. “The bar you’re aiming for may be too high.” That may sound dispiriting, but Lucy explains: “On day one of any job, what you feel is anxiety, doubt and, potentially, regret. It’s only several months in that you will feel, ‘I know the team, I know how things I work, I feel quite skilled and I can actually make a difference.’”
You’ve got to be proactive. Lucy doesn’t pull her punches: “When you are aged 50 plus, someone rarely just knocks on your door. And if you think things will improve over time, they won’t. Nobody knows you, what you are interested in or what your values are. So, it’s up to you to start the conversation.” A great way to do that is networking – read about the benefits and how to go about it here.
Don’t be surprised if in two or three months’ time you are still not in the place you want to be. “If you are moving from one sector to another, a realistic timeline is one or two years,” says Lucy. “Don’t be surprised or disappointed if things don’t happen quickly, instead plan for it to be a one or two-year process.”
Looking for a new job at any age can be daunting, but when you're over 50, things can become more complex. Putting yourself out there and being proactive is the best way to find the kind of role you're looking for. Head over to Jobs/Redefined to browse our job listings, where age-inclusive employers are looking to hire people like you.
You can get a head start on your job search with a FREE CV review from our partner, TopCV.