Switching careers? Make sure age is no barrier

Published on: 22 Mar 2019

Old woman

When you’ve been in one profession for a considerable part of your working life, you could hardly be blamed for a little nervousness if you’re taking that momentous decision to switch careers.

According to research, younger jobseekers consistently enjoy higher rates of employment than their older counterparts. However, as a more mature applicant you can offer a far broader range of experiences and skills that could place you higher up the shortlist – so long as you can convince a prospective employer that age really is an added bonus.

Rejuvenate your CV

A chronological CV that lists your previous employment in reverse time order will only draw attention to your age (remember that, in many job applications, an applicant’s date of birth is concealed from the shortlisting process to prevent prejudice).

The alternative format for your CV – a skills-based model – will instead highlight the considerable range of transferable skills that you have gained through your years of experience, which you can also select diligently to match the requirements of the person specification.

In this way your prospective employer will focus on what you can bring to the business rather than how many previous employers you have.

Think laterally, not literally

As a more mature applicant coming from an unrelated profession, it is quite likely you’ll have engaged in some retraining to meet the minimum qualification requirements for your new career. But remember that your younger competitors will also have achieved the same qualifications.

The key to success could be to demonstrate how your previous experience – that is, your transferable skills – elevates you above your counterparts.

Go through the person specification with a fine tooth comb, identifying the skills and qualities listed in the "desirable" column that can’t be qualified simply by a university certificate. Identify how you can demonstrate you meet these exacting standards, with genuine examples from your previous employment – even if that work bore no relation to your new career.

Adopt a new mindset

From filling in the application form to discussing the role at interview, remember that age gives you one distinct advantage younger applicants cannot claim: experience.

Rather than seeing your maturing years as a barrier, emphasise how it equips you for the new position. It is very likely that your interpersonal skills, gained from years of working directly with the public in your previous career, will be actively sought by a new employer; furthermore, these skills cannot be taught on a training course, so explain succinctly how your previous experience will benefit the business.

Do make sure that you welcome further training, and avoid discussion about salary until you have been offered the post.

Changing careers is an anxious yet exciting opportunity and, with the correct approach, you can convince a prospective employer of your worth. Experience can only be gained by years of practice; knowing how it gives you the edge over your younger counterparts could be enough to swing an application your way.