26 May 2008

On the Outside Looking In

In 1985 I left the office to be a stay-at-home mom. By 1995 when I tried to get back into the administrative field the landscape had changed. In Canada it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a job where you didn’t need to know both English and French. Also, the technology had changed drastically. When I left we had just started using computers with DOS, a disk operating system. When I came back they were introducing the new Windows operating system. It was hard to get used to this new look and getting the knack of double clicking.

I was out of work, temping here and there for a year. As I went from job to job, I would look with longing at high-rise office buildings wishing I could be on the inside looking out rather than on the outside looking in. When I finally landed a permanent job, I was so appreciative that many times that first year when I would look out the window and see all the people walking outside, I would think to myself, "I'm in, I'm in!" I still haven’t gotten over that feeling. It is good to be employed, but what if you are in the process of looking and just can’t find a job?

A Job is Waiting to Happen to You

Long gone are the days of scouring the newspaper want ads and pounding the pavement going from office to office submitting your resume. We are living in a day of online job searching. We can even get feeds for new jobs that pop right into our Inbox.

There are sites that are specifically for job hunters where you can submit your resume and a profile about yourself for any employer to see. There are also sites for networking to keep your name out there. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, still holds true when looking for a job.

Be aware when going online that more and more employers are searching the Internet with the names of potential employees to see if they are online, not only on interactive job sites, but also what we may be saying on other social networking sites such as blogs and Facebook or MySpace. Employers may get to see a side of you other than what you put on your resume or present at the interview. Try searching your name on the Internet and see what comes up. That may not be what you want an employer to know? Consider carefully what you write on the Internet or it could come back to haunt you when searching for a job.

A good way to network in person is through professional associations. Do you know about your professional association? Being a member is not only a great place for networking, but for mentoring and learning of jobs in your area. Many professional associations have monthly dinner meetings with educational speakers.

Are you still creating old-style resumes and listing duties upon duties, when all the employer really wants to know is what you are able to do for them? Click here for an article on preparing your resume.

Don’t underestimate the value of temping. Working for a temp agency can either land you a full-time job or help to keep you employed while you are looking. Taking on temp jobs will introduce you to potential employers where you can showcase your abilities. You will be challenged to learn new software skills or hone the ones you have. When you are temping act as if you are on an interview every day.

It can be a full-time job just looking for work. Don’t be discouraged and stay at home mopping. Get dressed and be prepared. It just might be that today a job is waiting to happen to you.

Does Age Matter in a Competitive and Youthful Workplace?

I was on an interactive forum and some women were voicing their concerns about being older and the challenges they were having trying to find a job. Are older more experienced workers being discriminated against because of their age? Or because they cost too much?

I am 52 and have a good job. I colour my hair, exercise regularly and dress professionally. First impressions count. I don't put my age on my resume, so employers don’t know how old I am. I want them to go by my qualifications only. I rarely put education or work experience over 10 years old as anything before that is probably not relevant. It is a very competitive market for good admin positions. We have to dress and act the part to compete. Appearances play a big role, but what if they can’t afford us?

In Canada healthcare is not as big an issue as in the States and other countries, because we have government healthcare, but what if the company has to pay for it? Are they willing to hire an older worker who may need added benefits because of their age?

A more experienced assistant is also looking for a higher salary, where a younger assistant is usually willing to work for less money because they don’t have the experience. Employers are hiring young and training them on the job. Where does this leave the older worker?

In Ontario, Canada, it is no longer mandatory to retire at 65 years of age and the baby boomers are fast approaching this age. Will there be enough work for everyone as we stay on the job?

I have never experienced age discrimination and perhaps that has to do with the field I am in. I work as a legal assistant and it has been my experience that law firms look for very qualified people. Government departments also tend to not discriminate because of age. A smaller company with a tight budget might hire younger and cheaper, although most specialized areas such as medical or financial would probably want to hire someone with experience.

I think as we age it does become harder to find a job. If we have been out of the workforce for a time it might be emotionally and physically harder for us to get back into a very changed workforce where the pace is fast and the bosses are young. Some younger bosses may even feel intimidated working with an older assistant.

I think there are challenges to finding a job when we are older, but there is a place for the older more experienced worker. It also might be a good time for those with experience to Think Outside the Job Description Box. Who knows what the possibilities could be?


Anonymous said...

It is not only older women that are discriminated against. I have actually been told in job interviews that I am too young. I have been doing administrative work since I was 12 years old I helped both my mother and father start up and run their own businesses all the way through high school. Now I am 19 and work as an administrative assistant with an insurance company… It took me 15 interviews to land this job. Also the places that did offer me a job were offering me less than 10.00 an hour. I strongly believe that age is a huge factor. It may not be on my resume but you certainly have to put your birthdate on the application.

Patricia Robb said...

You are right Brandy. When I was young I used to complain that nobody would hire me because I had no experience. Now I wonder if they will even look at me because I am too old. It can go both ways.

I wouldn't put my birthdate on the job application either. A resume and job application can get you in the door, but then the real work comes at the interview, no matter what age you are. By not putting down our birthdate, at least we have a chance at getting the interview...

I hope you include on your resume the years you worked with your parents. Things like that count too.

It sounds like the insurance company that interviewed you saw beyond your years and got a great assistant to boot.

All the best,