65 and not out

Older workers looking for a job under the Covid regime are finding it harder to land an interview as the pool of job seekers grow, says niche job site owner Ian Fraser.

The Auckland hospitality impresario launched Seniors at Work late 2019 to cater for job hunters aged 55 and over. The business was just finding its feet when Covid-19 came along.

“I seriously fear for mature-age job seekers at the moment, their task has become a whole lot harder because they are now competing with a much larger pool of people looking for work,” he says. “And when the [government] wage subsidy comes to an end that pool will  get even bigger.”

Fraser says many of the employers he works with are still recruiting, but tell him they are  inundated with applications when jobs are advertised.

“I contact employers and ask them to consider older-age job seekers, but the fact is they don’t have to now.” 

Another barometer of how the job market is changing for old job seekers is The Redundancy Podcast out of the UK. The show’s host, Dave Watts, has seen a global spike in listeners this year.

“Since February my audience has grown by 46 per cent,” says Watts. “People in more than 40 countries listen every week and there’s been a noticeable rise in older shows being downloaded.” 

Dave Watts, podcaster.
Dave Watts, podcasting to help older job seekers all over the world.

He says listeners in New Zealand are up from 8 to 10 per cent since Covid came along, and more Australians are listening too – up from 13 to 20 per cent.

Of his podcast’s total listenership, he says 44 per cent  are aged between 40 and 60 and he’s seen a rise in female listeners – up from 24 per cent last year to 46 per cent in July.

Watts says most of the older job seekers he networks with are “very pessimistic” about their career and job prospects.

“They feel they are an obvious target for redundancy and ageism, which exists no matter what the law says in most countries,” says Watts.

“As economies harden even further, older job hunters are seeing their opportunities dwindle. 

“Many recognise, a little late, that their skills and particularly digital skills, have not been kept up to date and that leaves them at a considerable disadvantage.

“Surprisingly, many over 50s I’ve spoken to are quite dismissive of the need to use social media to develop their digital skills or on-line brand on the basis that  ’employers know who I am, I don’t need to do that’.”

Watts also says the gig economy has been hit badly, with workers in that area seeing fewer jobs advertised.

However, he is also seeing a growth in what some economists call ‘necessity entrepreneurship’ – people who start a business in lieu of being hired by an employer.

“Though you have and ask if this merely economic necessity, and are they really committed and prepared for self-employment in a very tough world?” he says.

Watts also says the days of applying for jobs and quickly landing a new position are over – at least for the time being.

“Many of those I’ve spoken to have little idea what to do – for many they’ve never faced redundancy before,” he says.

“They are sending off resumés for dozens of jobs even though they haven’t thought through what value they can bring or how to articulate that value.”

Watts says only those who have put their pride to one side, to take a lower grade job than they are used to, are making any headway in the current job market.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Watts started his podcast after being made redundant from the British police force three years ago, but is to start a new permanent job working for a government department in September – aged 65.

First published in NZME’s Plus+ magazine (August 2020).