Job hunting tips for mature workers

Mature worker

Mature workers have a lot of offer employers. Here are some tips to help you highlight your skills and experience.

New Zealand’s workforce is ageing

New Zealand’s population is ageing and people are staying in the workforce longer than they did in previous generations.

Mature workers – those aged 55 and over – are expected to play an increasingly key role in the economy. According to Statistics New Zealand, people over the age of 55 made up about 14.4 percent of the working population in 2003. This rose to nearly 24 percent in 2018.

Mature workers can face barriers in securing a job

As a mature worker you have a lot to offer an employer. A recent survey of over 500 employers found that most viewed mature workers as an "untapped treasure" and agreed that businesses should take extra steps to attract and retain them.

However, mature workers can also face a range of barriers to employment. These include:

  • A perceived lack of transferable skills. Mature workers may have developed skills and knowledge that seem specific to one particular occupation or industry.
  • Inability or unwillingness to compromise on salaries. Because of their skills and experience, mature workers are often used to earning above average wages. This means they may choose to remain unemployed rather than accept a job with lower pay.
  • Hours. Mature workers may want to work part-time hours, which can limit their opportunities.
  • Age-based discrimination. While it's illegal to discriminate on the basis of age when it comes to employing staff, it may still happen. This can mean mature workers find it hard to get work.

How to increase your job chances

Develop a marketable identity

A key step when looking for work is to create a marketable identity – a personal brand, which you can use to sell yourself to potential employers.

Your personal brand includes everything from your skills and knowledge to your positive attitude and how you dress. For mature workers it could also include your willingness to share your expertise or mentor younger workers in an organisation.

Take some time to work out what your marketable identity might look like and think about how it could apply to areas of work you're interested in.

Be flexible and realistic

Employers, when surveyed, said the biggest mistakes mature workers made in interviews were:

  • having high salary demands
  • being unrealistic about their own abilities or experience
  • being inflexible about working styles or working schedules. 

If you can, it pays to be flexible about the type of work you're willing to do, the hours you're willing to work, and the pay you're willing to accept. If you're open to negotiation you're more likely to be able to make the most of the opportunities available.

Consider training or retraining

Research suggests mature workers prefer the idea of immediate employment over retraining, even if it results in lower pay.

Whether or not to retrain is a personal choice – it can be expensive and time-consuming. However, if you do retrain it can signal to employers that you're motivated and your skills are up to date.

Options for training now include doing micro-credentials, which allow you to retrain more quickly in areas with skill shortages and could improve your job opportunities.

Sources

  • Commission For Financial Capability, 'CFFC Raises Awareness of New Zealand's Ageing Workforce, a Result of Our Ageing Population', accessed December 2018, (www.cffc.org.nz).
  • Employers and Manufacturers Association, 'Act Now Age Later: Unlocking the Potential of Our Ageing Workforce', accessed December 2018, (www.ema.co.nz).
  • Stats NZ, 'Workers Aged 55+ Keen To Stay Working Full-time', 23 October 2013, (archive.stats.govt.nz).

Updated 4 Mar 2019