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Job-hunting after 50: It isn’t over yet!
For senior-level professionals, looking for a new job when you’re in your 50s can sometimes be a challenge, even if you have the necessary qualifications or work experience.
Sometimes, an age bias may be standing in the way. Other times, employers may think that older workers are more expensive to hire and insure. If you allow me, I will replace “older” by “experienced” for some positive reinforcement!
News reports about rising unemployment rates for “experienced” workers age 50 and over probably do not help either.
But, as I often tell my clients, switching jobs at 50 is not necessarily doom and gloom. It often all boils down to your soft and hard skill sets as well as your industry specialisation.
Let’s take a look at the industrial sector for example. Despite pushing 60, one of my Singaporean candidates Alex has no issues moving between jobs. Based in Singapore, he is often wooed by many companies and is currently managing the regional headquarters of a US listed industrial firm.
He joined the company three years ago, after 21 years in a business management role at a worldwide manufacturer of industrial valves. The aspects that attracted his current employer to Alex, he says, were his business, product and market knowledge as well as leadership skills.
“The only downside to switching jobs at my age is my seniority. It can be hard for companies to justify high pay packages,” he says.
Like what Alex experienced, mid to senior-level candidates in high-value products and R&D are highly sought-after in Singapore. Also, in rapidly developing economies like Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, senior-level candidates will have the expertise and experience that companies are looking for to support and accelerate business growth. Especially in key sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and energy & construction.
Again, on the corporate side, employers are seeking professionals who possess robust management experience, regional based roles, clear thought processes, and a wealth of knowledge as well as understanding on the industry.
Influenced by the Singapore government’s initiatives, we are also seeing more help for companies to hire “experienced” workers. Companies can apply for a grant of up to S$300,000 to benefit Singaporeans aged 50 years and above through job redesign and age management. This amount is double the previous cap.
However, the competition for local talent in high value-added industries is fierce because there is no real push factor for many senior-level candidates. To overcome this challenge, some employers are now re-looking at their talent attraction strategies as well as considering alternative candidates from related and close sectors.
If you are currently working in an industry which is less candidate driven, but would still like to consider your options, all is not lost. Many senior-level candidates have skill sets that can be leveraged by industry competitors. At this stage, you can consider having a discussion with recruiters about the current market situation and what your possible options are.
Networks are also crucial at this juncture as personal connections play a strong part in opening up possibilities and opportunities. If your networks are not strong enough, it is still not too late to build on them now. Start by doing some pro-bono consulting work — this will help you to build connections across more platforms.
In whatever you do, don’t give up. I recently came across a French post on a social media platform that said “I am not 50 but 20 with 30 years’ experience”. This quote speaks volume!