Friday, June 21, 2024

I’ve been applying for jobs for 3 years. I’m know it’s because I’m 60

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I have no plans of retiring soon (Picture: Isaac Mockton)

For what felt like the thousandth time, I logged onto my computer to see if I’d had any response to the latest round of job applications I’d applied for.

My heart lifted momentarily when I saw that actually, I did have a new email. But it dropped just as quickly when I opened it up.

Thank you for your application. We’ve carefully considered it and unfortunately, we have decided not to shortlist you for this opportunity. We wish you every good wish. Yours faithfully…

I expected as much. It was just like every other reply I’d had in my years of job searching.

But that didn’t lessen my disappointment. I never seem to get past the front gate. Can’t even get an interview. It’s completely demoralising.

For nearly three years, I’ve been applying for jobs. My age undoubtedly plays a factor in why I am not getting hired.

In my earlier career, it would be uncommon not to make a short list, whereas now I generally don’t get any form of response. 

My skill-set hasn’t deteriorated – far from it – and the roles I have applied for are well within my capability. There is a very clear inference that my age is the decisive negative factor.

Prior to that, I’d spent decades working in senior finance positions. I’d even been head-hunted by employers who were keen for me to work for them.

Then, 19 years ago, I started working for myself, supporting start-ups to get capital.

Isaac sitting at a restaurant, holding his glasses, the person sitting opposite him is taking the photo - he is smiling
I know I am qualified and capable of working the jobs I apply for (Picture: Isaac Mockton)

A handful of years into my venture, I started suffering from significant depression and other mental health issues, with alcohol problems added in.

The combination of working in isolation and the pressure to create my own income made my symptoms of depression more severe.

I knew I couldn’t continue and decided to look for an employed position.

Since that point, I have applied for at least 50 jobs. I’ve massively lowered my expectations and am looking for any roles remotely related to finance, even if I feel I am over-qualified.

But the result is always the same. If my applications aren’t ignored, they’re rejected. When I ask for feedback, I’m brushed off with a standard letter that gives me no insight into why I’ve not been chosen.

I know I am qualified and capable of working the jobs I apply for, but no one is giving me a chance. It’s unbelievably frustrating.

Although it hasn’t knocked my confidence in terms of my knowledge and expertise, it has knocked my expectation of success.

I have no idea how I’m ever going to get past this point. My prospects are getting thinner by the week. Every day I get one day older, and every day I fit the recruitment mindset less and less. 

Inevitably, my appetite to continue hunting goes down, so I end up applying less because I have no reason to believe I will be successful.

And I’m not alone. Research from the charity Workingwise has found that 21% of job-seeking older workers have been seeking employment for over a year, and 49% say they feel their life experience is not valued by their employer. 

Isaac at home
I really don’t like having to take money from my savings (Picture: Isaac Mockton)

As luck would have it, I had a connection that got me an interview with a charity last January. 

It was through an organisation called BraveStarts – a nonprofit that focuses on getting older people aged 45+ excited about the next 10 years of their careers. It was the only interview I’ve ever been offered through the application process these last three years.  

The charity couldn’t believe how lucky they were to have got me, saying they had struck gold hiring me to work for them 17 hours a week. It proved to me that I am capable. 

I interview well and have so much to offer, but I needed the chance to be able to show an employer who I was, not just fill in details about myself on an online form.

That ‘side entrance’ of being personally introduced made all the difference. I had a 100% success rate with a personal endorsement.

Yet, much as I appreciate it, the job doesn’t pay enough to cover my expenses.

Even though I’m still doing self-employed work as well, my outgoings are less than my incomings and I am having to pull from my savings each month.

I’ve had to massively cut back on my expenditures. I’ve reduced socialising and holidays, decisions that have had a negative impact on my life. 

I’m just affording my rent and other bills, with any extras going on my son. Although, I am not able to be as generous with him either given the state of my finances.

I really don’t like having to take money from my savings as that is what I had been planning to depend on later in life.

I think that employers must be recruiting with a mental image of what their team will look like, and if anyone doesn’t fit that image – like a 60-year-old man – then it’s hard to get in.

Organisations serious about engaging the older workforce have got to completely redesign their application processes.

Even though they aren’t meant to ask your age, by asking your career history, employers have a pretty good idea of how old a person is. Instead, I think the initial focus should be on what you can bring to the party, and then, once selected on that basis, they look at your career history.

It’s got to be framed differently so that interest is piqued and algorithms reworked so that people aren’t being weeded out based on their age.  

Online application forms are built to capture linear career models and do not know how to evaluate ‘squiggly’ career paths in which people’s work arrangements change over time, between different work sectors, career breaks, switches between employment and self-employment. 

I also believe that if an application doesn’t progress, a meaningful explanation should be mandatory. 

I still retain a belief that I will find work. I need to either find another part-time job to top up what I’m making from the charity. Or I need a full-time role that can completely cover my costs, so I don’t have to use my savings to get by each month.

Ideally, I’d like to work as long as possible as I enjoy the intellectual challenge and camaraderie of being in a team. I have no plans of retiring soon.

I will continue to push in my personal quest to prove that age is far more than just a number – it’s an asset when it comes to experience and knowledge.

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