Can employees become too old to change careers?

Can employees become too old to change careers?

Notable businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg left Facebook (now Meta) last month to ‘parent her family of five children’ and ‘focus on philanthropy for women’.

At 52-years-old, Sandberg is just one example of an emerging pattern. People over fifty are getting fed up with the jobs they’ve held for years, more so since the pandemic.

About being the COO of Facebook, Sandberg says, ‘It’s a job I love, but it’s 24/7. It’s not a job that you can do and also do other things.’

For workers of all ages, the pandemic has shown them that life is too short to devote their life to a career that may no longer suit them—whether it’s their ambitions that have changed, or they just want to prioritise their family over work and spend more time with the ones they love.

A new study by the IFS reveals that, since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in economic inactivity among people in their fifties and sixties. The data seems to be consistent with people in this age group retiring early. They might have become disillusioned about work, as mentioned above. They may have saved money from not commuting and through a lack of holidays during the pandemic and been able to bring their retirement forward.

Of course, not everyone can afford to do this if they’re unhappy with their current career. But what options are there for someone in their fifties who has worked in the same industry all their lives and who now wants to change jobs?

People in this predicament have suggested something similar to the kickstart scheme, but for older adults. This recent initiative from the government tried to combat long-term unemployment for young people by funding new opportunities for 16-24-year-olds. The nationwide scheme was arguably successful and got lots of young people into work who were struggling to find employment; however, there’s a definite lack of government support for older people facing the same problem.

Young people, fresh from school or university, might lack job experience, but they’ll have a range of skills that will suit a variety of careers, including more advanced technology skills, which will probably see them walk into an entry-level job and pick up the role quickly.

In comparison, an older adult who has only had one job their entire life, or who has been confined to the same industry, may believe that they have a limited skillset, which could prevent them from walking into a new job as easily. Add to this the increased risks for older workers if they were to leave their job, i.e. having a mortgage and bills to pay and dependents. They’d need to negotiate a salary to match their previous one, which probably isn’t attractive to an employer looking to cut corners, who may see a younger recruit with little to no experience as a way to save money. 

When talking about these issues online, some commenters have suggested that adapting CVs to skill-based experience can help adults change careers, rather than specific job titles that can put people in a box. Others have asked for more government support, including access to Open University courses, which could form part of a ‘Kickstart for adults’ initiative. However, it’s clear that recruitment systems need to change, too.

As specialists in recruitment website design, we know that job vacancies can unwittingly appear inaccessible to older adults looking to change careers. Hurdles include: not revealing the salary in the job description; only offering interviews at inconvenient times; demanding to know the reasons behind gaps on CVs; or just not providing flexibility within the interview process, or in the job itself.

The Office for National Statistics revealed in May that there are now more job vacancies than people unemployed for the first time since records began, which means that recruiters no longer have the same pool of applicants they are used to. Employers can’t expect to hire the person that will do the most work for the least amount of money; with more choice, jobseekers can carefully choose the position that will most suit them. Recruiters need to be more open to applicants that might have come from a long-term career in a different industry, but who still meet all the requirements for the job. Just because someone is moving from another sector, it doesn’t mean they should have to climb the career ladder all over again. They could bring some valuable insight as an outsider and have other skills that could prove beneficial.

Some employers might be desperate to fill job roles after the pandemic, but they don’t seem willing to compromise on flexible working. Older adults have the experience and the capacity to fill these positions and recruiters need to be more open to candidates with long-term experience in other areas. No one should ever be too old to change careers, and there should be more support out there for adults to transition between sectors and to develop new skills.

Are you in need of a redesign of your recruitment agency’s website to make it more age-inclusive? Call us for a friendly chat on 01302 288591.

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