This week I’m delivering a webinar with Amanda Blesing, Melbourne’s Executive Impact Coach for women, and this time we’re tackling the topic of Navigating Career Crossroads [one close to my heart, of course, as it’s the title of my book!]

Amanda will be speaking from the perspective of gender and I will be tackling the issue from my viewpoint as a career transition expert

In advance of the webinar, Amanda asked me a question about how age affects success when navigating career crossroads.

This is what she asked me:

Amanda: So Jane, have your clients experienced age discrimination when looking for a job?  And do you have any examples?

Jane: I truly believe that age is just a number. But whenever I say that, many mature age professionals in transition disagree. However, let me tell you this story of one of my ‘older’ clients.

I greeted a new client in my reception area one afternoon a few years back. There he was, dressed in a Fedora hat, white tee shirt and a pair of tight, black jeans. I extended my hand to greet him; he stood up and towered over me while telling me his name was Graeme.

Tall,’ I thought. ‘Firm handshake,’ I noticed when we shook hands.

I guided him to my office for our consultation. He followed closely, with long, confident strides, making interesting small talk.

Energetic,’ I thought.

age is just a number, older worker, career coach, ageism,

I didn’t think about his age until we sat opposite each other in my consulting room and he removed his trendy hat. I noticed his well-tanned; weather-beaten face etched with interesting lines that suggested an outdoors life well lived. I guessed his age to be about 58.

I needed some details from Graeme for my New Client Form and he said, “I should let you know I’m 72.” I nearly fell out of my chair! How could this fit, vibrant and confident man be 72? He didn’t fit my preconceived ideas about 70-year-olds. [I’m admitting this while feeling very guilty as I’m 62 myself!]

Herein lies the problem. Too many of us have preconceived ideas about age. The Australian Human Rights Commission conducted a Willing To Work Inquiry into Age Discrimination in the Workplace.

According to Australia’s Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, “The right to work is a fundamental human right, but one that far too many older people and people with disability in Australia do not enjoy.”

This inquiry found that back in 2016 there were 80,000 unemployed Australians over the age of 55. That’s 12% more than in 2015. This number is believed to be partially due to age discrimination in the workplace.

Fast forward to 2021 and according to an ABC report, a recent review of Australia’s retirement income system found that before the Covid pandemic, almost one in five Australians between the ages of 55 and 64 were receiving either JobSeeker, the Carer Payment or the Disability Support Pension.

It also found that, despite continued work by the Human Rights Commission, unemployed older Australians usually took much longer to find a new job than younger job seekers and people with lower wealth and education levels were more likely to be forced into early retirement.

“The main reasons for involuntary retirements are own ill health, caring responsibilities and job-related issues such as a reluctance to hire older workers — ageism,” it said.

The Australian Government is taking steps to encourage older workers AND employers to embrace age and maturity as a positive and provide the opportunity for those who are in their 60’s and even 70’s should they choose to work, to have an equal chance of securing a role for which they are well qualified. However, it’ll be a long process.

So, what are we to do if we are part of the ageing workforce?

With over 20 years as a career coach and having coached numerous clients through what, for some, regardless of age, has been a very challenging process to secure another job, I believe that rather than waiting for an employer to ‘pick you’, you should ‘pick yourself’!

Yes, pick yourself to contribute to the community – set up a new business, buy an existing business, buy a franchise or leverage your years of experience, knowledge, technical expertise and well-cultivated network to create your own venture! 

It won’t be for everyone but it IS an option. It’s not the easy way; it’s an exciting, challenging way and a darn sight better than sitting at home blaming ageism in the workplace for your sorrows.

You’re probably wondering what happened to Graeme. After I recovered my composure when he told me he was 72, I mistakenly mentioned the words ‘retirement options‘. He put his hand on the table, looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Jane, my dear, do I look like the retiring kind?’

With his energy and attitude, he most certainly didn’t. In this case, age really was just a number.

Our coaching sessions subsequently focused on leveraging his extensive expertise in engineering and major projects into a successful consultancy and he hasn’t looked back!

If you’re at a career crossroads and wondering what to do next, consider entrepreneurship – it’s the one place where age knows no barriers! If you need help to navigate your career crossroads the resources in The Careers Academy will help.

Navigating Career Crossroads – Is Age Really Just a Number?

WEBINAR: How to Navigate Career Crossroads 

On that note …. I’m co-hosting a webinar with the amazing Amanda Blesing again. We are talking about how to Navigate Career Crossroads. Amanda is going to be layering the gender lens over the topic and I will speak from my experience as a career transition specialist for both men and women.

Click here to book or learn more about the upcoming webinar. Places are limited to 150 and as you know we tend to book out pretty quickly, so get in early.

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