By Nancy Collamer, Next Avenue
Nearly half of working boomers are looking for a career change, according to a new LinkedIn data survey. Some want to reinvent themselves in their current roles, others hope to switch employers. Fortunately, thanks to the escalating demand for talent driven by “The Great Resignation” and a heightened emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, a growing number of businesses are warming to older applicants as age-friendly employers.
As my Next Avenue colleague Chris Farrell recently wrote, “management is learning it can’t afford to ignore experienced workers anymore, those on the payroll and ones applying for jobs.”
The question is: Where and how do you find age-friendly employers?
To be clear, the emerging embrace of older workers could well soften once the job market tightens. Ageism is an age-old problem, and the last thing you want is to get lured in by an employer desperate to fill an opening only to be let go later when market conditions change.
But in hopes that at least some employers now truly get the usefulness of having older workers in their workforce, I’d like to share several tips for finding age-friendly ones.
I picked some of them up at the recent Age Friendly Employer Forum, an online webinar hosted by the Encore Boston Network, co-sponsored by Retirementjobs.com and AARP. I also reached out to several career coaching colleagues to hear what’s worked best for their clients in their 50s and 60s.
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Here are my five key takeaways from the experts:
1. Consult the lists of age-friendly employers. While there is no one central clearinghouse of all age-friendly employers, two notable lists offer a good starting point for your search:
AARP’s Employer Pledge list has over 1,000 employers (from American Greetings to Zip Recruiter) who’ve committed to promoting equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.
During the forum, Kara Cohen, manager of community outreach and volunteer engagement at AARP Massachusetts, talked about that list, saying: “We are holding the company’s feet to the fire to make sure that they do indeed honor the pledge that they made to not discriminate based on age.” For example, they are to avoid using code language — terms like “digital native” or “energetic” that may signal they are looking for younger applicants.
There’s also the Certified Age-Friendly Employer Program (CAFÉ’) Farrell just wrote about. Tim Driver, CEO of Retirementjobs.com, created CAFÉ’ to certify employers who are committed to maintaining employment practices and policies supporting people 50+. The list currently has about 100 employers (with ATT
Representatives from two companies featured on these lists offered these tips during the forum:
Richard Ross, a consultant to temporary staffing giant Manpower
Erin Travassos, manager of talent acquisition at the energy company Eversource, said older workers shouldn’t be discouraged if their application is turned down for a specific job. “If you get rejected by one department, you still might get a job in a different department. So don’t hesitate to apply again,” she noted.
2. Apply to small companies, especially those run by older people. The age-friendly lists feature mostly big employers. But in practice, many older job seekers find that small companies are their best bet.
There are several reasons for this: Small companies tend to have small budgets, so they often prefer to hire experienced workers who don’t need training. And at a time when an increasing number of small businesses are started and run by people over 50, “older managers might encourage and hire people who they view as their peers,” says New York City-based career coach Lynn Berger.
3. Go to webinars targeted to 50+ job seekers. They can give you fresh ideas for sourcing age-friendly employers and sometimes include opportunities to connect with employers ready to hire.
AARP sponsors online workshops for job seekers 50+ and in-person workshops for job seekers 50+.
The Encore Boston Network also hosts webinars and other programs for older job seekers. While some programs are specific to the Boston region, much of their information and resources are useful even if you live outside the area. There’s a page about age-friendly employers on its site; it includes links to the Encore Boston Network’s previous forums.
4. Search for age-friendly clues on the company’s website and its social media feeds. Career transitions coach Trish McGrath, of Edge Career Solutions in Sanibel, Fla., recommends you look on the company’s main career page on its website and at the bottom of its job postings. Do you see the basic Equal Opportunity Employer Statement language that came out decades ago or has the business updated it to include its commitment to recruiting and hiring older workers? Do you see a mention of valuing a multigenerational workforce or offering professional development opportunities to keep employees’ skills sharp?
See what you can suss out on the employer’s social media feeds, too. Pay attention to its description of the company’s culture to see if the tone reflects an age-friendly sensibility.
Photos on the site and on social media that include older workers are a plus, while references to perks like ping-pong and happy hours could signal a bias towards younger employees.
5. Target private equity (PE) firms.This final tip is for executives seeking their next big role. New York City-based career advisor Barbara Safani, of Career Solvers, says PE firms like to hire older executives to run their portfolio companies. That’s because the goal of these firms is to prepare companies for sale, generally within three to five years, so they’re not looking for people expecting to stay longer than that.
Safani has worked with several executives who had successful careers at Fortune 500 financial services and tech companies but struggled to land another corporate role in their industry and felt their age was a factor. When they began building relationships with PE-backed fintech (financial technology) companies, however, they quickly became top candidates, securing multiple interviews and eventual offers.