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This middle age male sits at the kitchen table frustrated with stack of bills to pay and mounting debt. (iStockphoto)

A recent study by the University of South Australia's Centre for Workplace Excellence found that nearly one-third of mature-aged job seekers experience ageism in their attempts to find work. And time required for those aged over 55 to get a job can take up to 68 weeks. So, how can you stay positive whilst transitioning your way into a new career? 

Amy Chien-Yu Wang
Published on
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 18:00
File size
5 min 46 sec

Val Wood has been working in contract jobs since losing her stable government work as an administrator several years ago.

Since then, she’s not been able to find permanent work.

In today’s tough job market where less than half of working Australians are in full-time employment, even though Wood now works as a telemarketer, there’s still no guarantee of job security in a cut-throat environment.

"If you don't make $100 in sales within the first three hours that's it your shift is over. You know, you can’t survive and pay all your bills on just three hours of pay a day.

At 56, Wood believes she has at least another ten years of working life.

To future-proof her career, Wood has put her telemarketing job on hold as she studies towards becoming a community worker at TAFE Queensland.

“I’m hoping not to go back there anyway. I’m hoping that the training that I’m doing will lead to a completely opposite field.”

With one-fifth of students at TAFE Queensland over the age of forty, career counsellor Tomas Lillyman has noticed an increase in older migrants and refugees in their forties through to sixties seeking further studies after completing their English training.

 "...their previous experience and qualification haven’t been enough to find work."

“And those students, depending on their background, they might find work after studying English but they might also find that even with strong English skills, their previous experience and qualification haven’t been enough to find work. So, yes, they might go into other training as a way of improving their employability.”

Lillyman advises keeping your skills relevant and digital literacy up to date to match the current job market for better employment outcomes.

“It’s great to do market research through sites like SEEK to see what the industry is asking for just to see are there trends that weren’t around when you were looking for work last time. Are there skills that people are asking for that you might not have and that might disadvantage you? If that's the case where can you build those skills up.”

Whether you’re job-hunting or retraining for a new career, your confidence is likely to suffer during a long employment gap according to career coach Jacqui Rochester.

“Often the inclination for people over 55 age group is to actually withdraw and to pull back from people from their network and then what happens is it can get to be very hard work.”

She says people who are successful in making the transition are people who are thinking about what they want to do and are open to different types of ideas and roles that keep them active.

"I think is really critical to keeping people’s wellbeing up and their confidence up.”

“It may not be exactly what they were doing before but keeping them active and keeping them engaged and keeping them connected with people but also something where they’re exercising skills or learning new skills I think is really critical to keeping people’s wellbeing up and their confidence up.”

Rochester finds that overseas-born job seekers aged over fifty tend to be more resilient than their Australian-born counterparts.

“I think it’s because they've had to deal with unexpected changes before in life and had to make adjustments and have this acceptance that nothing in life is permanent.”

Whilst it can be extremely frustrating to be jobless at 55 and beyond, Rochester suggests figuring out your goals and desired outcomes first.

The next step is being open and honest about your situation as there is a good chance that your next job is going to come from somebody you know or via somebody they know.

"I’d suggest to people that volunteer work can be a really great way to use your skills and actually stay active in the community get to know people in a brand new network.”

“Be quite open and honest with everybody that they know that they have been made redundant and just generally speaking subtly letting everyone you know, know that you’re looking for work cos people may not approach you if they don’t know that you’re actually open to offers and experiences; and often I’d suggest to people that volunteer work can be a really great way to use your skills and actually stay active in the community get to know people in a brand new network.”

When facing financial hardship, you may be eligible for support from Centrelink if you’re an Australian citizen, a protected special category visa holder or permanent resident.

Centrelink Financial Information Service Officer Mandy Barton explains.

“The main payment while you are unemployed or looking for work is “Newstart Allowance” so this income support payment helps you while you are looking for work. To receive the payment, you need to take part in activities that increase your chance of finding a job. The amount you receive depends on your individual circumstances which include your personal situation such as if you have children or a partner and how much income you've earnt in the past 14 days.”

The future may seem bleak with a recent study showing that job seekers over fifty take twice as long to find work than those aged between 15 to 24 years,.

However, career counsellor Tomas Lillyman believes with a carefully crafted age neutral resume and cover letter, older applicants can show their unique selling points over younger competitors.

“They’ve got a lot of hands on experience. They have a track record of success you know when elder workers do get through to an interview stage they can play to their strength and highlight those sorts of things and highlight all of their skills and their flexibility and commitment to ongoing learning that can make them an excellent candidate for work.”