HR Zone member Sue Harrison resigned from her job earlier this year and has experienced some difficulty in finding another – not to mention having her eyes opened to apparent age discrimination. In the second of a series of articles charting her search for new employment, Sue finds out that age is still an issue and feedback from agencies is seriously lacking.
My last article about my job hunting experiences as an older candidate was a very personal view, a little tongue-in-cheek and reflected my first impressions of what it is like to look for work after seven years with the same employer – and at the ripe old age of 50.
I have continued to target roles that match my experience and the job criteria. I need to work, but I do not wish to waste my time or that of employers and agencies by applying for everything.
I have no problem at all with taking a role at a more junior level, but I have too much integrity to take an unsuitable role and leave it when something better comes along. As I have throughout my working life, I want to commit to an organisation and not be constantly checking for the next opportunity.
I reviewed my CV and changed my job title, so that (a) it would not appear too senior and (b) I would be able to apply for more junior roles with good employers. I also dropped £15,000 from my salary expectations in order to make myself more saleable.
I reflected also that, as an HR professional, I should practise what I preach in promoting the concept of the work-life balance. So I took the time to consider the personal elements that would improve my own work-life balance, one of them being shorter travelling time, and the other an opportunity to work closer to home.
There is so much press coverage about global warming, climate change and the fact that many of us spend about a month a year just travelling to work! In a small way, I thought that a 'walk to work' approach would not only suit me, but also aid the environment. And because I would have more free time, it would allow me to give something back to my community.
In talking to agencies, however, I stressed that although I would prefer to work locally, within 20 miles of home, I can easily make it into London and would be happy to be put forward for any suitable roles. I expanded my travel range so that it incorporates all of my local major towns. I applied also for roles that would require relocation, so I¹ve certainly kept my options open.
It's a clear brief: I want to be busy, involved with the business, keen to make a contribution, use my skills and experience to my employer¹s advantage and hopefully continue to develop and learn.
The good and the bad
I have registered with several agencies and have had exposure to the good and the bad. Because I mostly advertised direct in my last role, I had only occasional interaction with agencies. Obviously, as a fee-paying client, I received pretty good service from those with whom I established a relationship.
Considering that, after placement, I will earn a fee for the agency and may even become a client, I must admit that I am quite disappointed in the standards of customer care of many. I know that I am not the only client on their books and I am not asking for a personal consultant, but I find it quite disappointing not to receive feedback on my applications.
In the case of two interviews, I have not even received the courtesy of being told I was unsuccessful. Supposedly, you just assume rejection by virtue of the lack of contact! On checking with the companies direct, one had just lost a huge contract and couldn¹t afford to fill the role; another had used a different agency and appointed someone with greater experience (they gave me some nice feedback, though). Actually, all positive stuff, so ultimately no feelings of rejection there.
I am unsure if agency staff do not feel confident in giving feedback. For me, even negative feedback is better than none at all. I do care how I got on; it is important to know where I went wrong from a development perspective, so that I can improve technique or alter my approach for the next interview.
I have always offered this to candidates; it takes a bit of time, but hopefully leaves them with a positive view of the organisation and the chance to do things differently.
What I have found is that the age issue has not gone away. I am now embracing this and realise that although I could lie about my age, there is no point because I have to prove my identity and eligibility to work anyway and the truth would always come out on my passport! And anyway, I don't want to work with a company that doesn't value diversity. I am not yet ready to hang up my boots!
In conclusion then, I am pleased to say that my initial reaction to the whole issue of being back on the job market has largely gone away, as I have sorted out the good agencies from the not so good. I've found roles that I can apply for direct and I am free now of the issues that caused my unemployment. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my working life with enthusiasm.
I have several opportunities currently on the go and I am hopeful of being gainfully employed again soon. Fingers crossed, please!
Finally, I would like to say that I welcomed the comments from those who read my initial article, both positive and negative.
Click here to read Sue's previous diary entry.