Although not as blindly misrepresented as other demographics, ageism is still deeply inherent in Britain.
New graduate jobseekers face ageism when they are wrongly expected to be exclusively in their early twenties. Equally, ‘mature’ graduates can get the feeling that their age counts against them when seeking entry-level posts earmarked for university-leavers. But the situation is changing. Since October 2005, discrimination on grounds of age has been unlawful in recruitment and employment. Even employers who ask job applicants for their date of birth could be in breach of the law.
Graduate recruiters are changing their approach and realising the importance of a diverse workforce. Many leading firms are also signed up to the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) , which has been promoting an age-diversity with in workforces since 1996.
Inevitably the spread of awareness is still uneven. Among older graduates it could make sense to consider vacancies offered by the ever growing members of the EFA. Company’s who signal on their websites and in their recruitment literature that they are committed to a diverse workforce, are always worth considering. But, in a highly competitive job market, mature graduates have to search widely to obtain opportunities, looking beyond the big companies with progressive employment practices.
Another possible advantage for older graduates is that they have had more time to meet people.
Another possible advantage for older graduates is that they have had more time to meet people. A good network of contacts can be an asset when looking to break into a new field of work, which is what most university-leavers have to do.
While your contacts will not appreciate being asked directly to give you a job, they may be able to put you in touch with people with insight into your target field of work. In this way it may be possible to organise some work shadowing or experience, find out where vacancies are likely to arise and gain knowledge that will enable you to sharpen up your applications.
To find out which companies are recruiting search graduate jobs.
The best possible marketing is needed in applications, CVs and face to face with employers. Crucially this means proving that you meet all the recruiters’ specific requirements. In this respect it is possible for graduates with more experience to be at an advantage.
‘Mature’ graduates may be able to find plenty of examples of when they made use of skills like teamworking, communicating, flexibility and organisation that employers are asking for, whereas graduates who went straight from school to university can struggle for evidence of what they can do beyond their degrees. An older graduate or student may also have valuable business awareness that younger classmates lack.
If you have had several jobs already, you may need to think quite carefully about which experiences and achievements are most relevant to the employers you are now approaching. On the other hand there are also older graduates who have spent years concentrating on bringing up a family. If you are in this category you may need to analyse your experiences outside employment to come up with appropriate examples to support your applications. If there are skills gaps, you might consider some voluntary work or other activities to fill them.
When presenting your case to employers it is possible to pre-empt prejudices that they may harbour against older candidates. Common stereotypes are that older employees are set in their ways, cannot work well in teams consisting of younger colleagues, will resent direction from younger managers, want more money, are technophobic and are not prepared to put in long hours. Perhaps most insidious of all is the notion that a mature graduate will not be a sufficiently malleable new entrant to a field or company.
An older graduate or student may also have valuable business awareness that younger classmates lack.
If these assumptions are not challenged, they may silently do their work. In applications and interviews, refer to examples of how you worked collaboratively with other (younger) students on your course and in university activities. You can also emphasise how you demonstrated motivation and embraced change by going to university, which would have involved considerable disruption to your life.
Finding a job is a tough assignment, whatever the age of a new graduate. Your careers service is an invaluable source of support even after you have left university. Try to remain focused even if you suspect that employers’ prejudice is a factor impeding your progress. You may need plenty of persistence along with a well targeted campaign to attain your goal.
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