There was a story published recently in the Daily Mail about an unemployed accountant who has fallen on hard times. He seems to have lost his employment in his late forties. That is an all too familiar story. It has happened to lots of people in the professions; accountants and lawyers and architects. It has happened to financial services professionals. It has happened to engineers. It has happened to so many skilled workers.
In the Daily Mail story we hear of all those job applications, the financial problems with the income disappearing. The accountant has a professional qualification; a well respected one. The problem for forty-plus applicants seeking a job is that qualifications matter rather less than they did when they were in their twenties.
Every employer is eager to take on newly qualified staff in their twenties. The fact that someone has passed exams is at least an indication that they have some ability to understand how to do the work. It is an indication of potential and of intelligence.
For an older applicant, the employer is more interested in their experience most recently, and generally the sort of work they have been doing, and the level of difficulty of that work. Often someone has become specialised in a particular area, which is no bad thing because niche workers are invaluable if that specialism is a requirement. It is also a difficulty in persuading an employer that someone can adapt to a different role.
The experience of an older job applicant can work against her or him in other ways. Many interviewing business owners of managers may be younger. They may feel uncomfortable at the thought of taking on someone older than themselves. They may worry how an older worker will fit into their team. They may worry that an older worker will know more than they do and embarrass them; “show them up”. So the older job applicant is really up against it in getting new employment.
Just the same, if someone has been unemployed for a while, they have no recent experience to impress recruiters and that will be a major negative factor for their job prospects. Being seen as being out of the loop is even worse than being seen as a threat to that younger manager.
What would you do in that situation? Should our unemployed 50-year old accountant get on his bike? I will leave that on until next time.