Want to work longer?

For an increasing number of older Australians, working longer is a necessary way of life. Kaye answers your questions on how to make your job work for you.

Q. Bill – Where is the work?

How do people get jobs nowadays? It seems everyone I know thinks you need to post your CV online – but I am not clear how many jobs actually result from this activity?

A. Bill, this is an excellent question to start with. If we don’t know how people hire employees or contractors, then how do we know how to apply? The statistics I have found to be most interesting are those from a book called Job Hunting Online by father and some authors, Bolles and Bolles. Their summary tells us most jobs are gained from contacting companies yourself (after checking they are relevant to your career search) – a very high 69% success rate. Next highest is cold calls to companies (47%), followed by asking friends and acquaintances (33%) visiting a government employment office (14%), answering newspaper ads (5% – 24% depending upon salary levels) and so on… the likelihood of getting a job from applying online is down around 4% unless you work in the IT sector.

The message – it is the human factor which is most important in any type of job or work search – who you know and how you approach them is of paramount importance, so dust off that address book now! Want to know more?

Q. Tess – Am I past my best?

I know this may sound ridiculous at my age – 52 – but after years working my way up through the ranks in an insurance company, I’m now ready to try something different, but I don’t know what. Many avenues will be closed to me at my time of life but how can I work out what I want to do?

A. Tess, age is relative, so writing yourself off employment-wise at 52 is definitely premature. At age 69 Mother Teresa received a Noble Prize for her work in the slums of Calcutta and at 78 Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence.

Not knowing what you want to do next is common, but thinking many avenues are automatically closed to you because of your age is a fundamental mistake. Your first task then is to correct your thinking about your age and your employment prospects or you will approach your new career search on the back foot.

How to do this?

Write down all the things you still want to do workwise, then write next to them why your age is a positive, and also write down the way in which your age will actually prevent you from doing this work. Get it? There are very few careers apart from teenage model, which are totally age specific. People of all ages do all kinds of work.

Next, do a self-audit of your skills, experience and qualifications. These are all quite separate things.

Then consider those people you have enjoyed working with or for over the past 20 years. Contact at least five and let them know you are seeking a new direction, see if you can have a chat or, better still, a face-to-face meeting, and ask them what they perceive as your strengths and aptitudes with a view to a new career. This may seem confronting but it is the first step toward setting realistic goals for a career refresh.

Lastly, don’t take a passive approach to your job search. Waiting for the ideal job to be advertised is the kiss of death in the search for meaningful work. Doing a self-audit has helped you define your ideal role – now think of organisations that might need such work done, and approach them to offer your suite of skills. As you can see from the answer to Question One, you have a far higher chance of gaining a dream role if you approach the most suitable companies before such roles are advertised.

Want to know more?

Q. James – How can I get fair treatment?

For 12 years I have worked for a small accounting firm and over the last 12 months it has begun to grow quite significantly. Most of the new staff are much younger than me and despite having less experience, are paid more than me for doing less. Do I have any recourse or do I just need to accept this treatment?

A. Yes James, you do have recourse. No you do not need to accept this discrimination. But rather than starting with the “big bat” of prosecution, how about asking your boss if he has time for a chat? You don’t say how old your boss is, but I am assuming he is younger than you. You will note from our summary below that the Age Discrimination Act means you cannot be treated less favourably because of age. So why not ask him if he is happy with your work, what he thinks your strengths are and if there are any areas where he feels you need to try harder. Try to listen with an open mind – he may have a point. Then mention the fact that you feel you are not being remunerated sufficiently for the work you do. Ask him to consider this, as you will consider his comments, and suggest you meet again in a month to see if you have taken on his feedback and to give him time to consider a salary increase.

All this will have taken place without any age discrimination allegations. But if, after a month’s reflection, you still feel discrimination exists, then be prepared to raise this suggestion, and document your discussion. Depending upon how this second discussion goes, you may well need to contact the Australian Human Rights Commission for further advice and action.

Age Discrimination Act 2004

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 helps to ensure that people are not treated less favourably on the ground of age in various areas of public life including:


·tprovision of goods and services


·tadministration of Commonwealth laws and programs

The Act also provides for positive discrimination – that is, actions which assist people of a particular age who experience a disadvantage because of their age. It also provides for exemptions in the following areas:


·tmigration, taxation and social security laws

·tstate laws and other Commonwealth laws

·tsome health programmes.

The “dominant reason test” was removed in 2008, which means that a person need only show that their age was one of the reasons they were discriminated against, not the only reason.

Want to know more?

Q. Jane – How do I get back in the workforce?

My husband was always the breadwinner in our relationship but now he has decided to spend his life with someone else. I need to work to support myself but have no skills. At 47 is it pointless for me to even try and find meaningful work?

A. Jane, I would hope at age 47 it is not pointless doing anything, particularly finding work which you find meaningful. Given that the expected age for Australian women is now in excess of 83, you have nearly 40, if not more, good years ahead of you so you are barely halfway through your life journey. Giving up on the chance to do something meaningful at your tender years would be a shame.

So firstly, let’s acknowledge how hurtful it is when a long-term companion leaves for someone else. It is entirely possible your sense of rejection is colouring the way you feel about your future work prospects. Separating the two things is difficult, but a good starting point before you commence your work search. You don’t mention your previous work experience so a specific answer is difficult, but it may be worth considering investing in an hour or two or three with a qualified career counsellor. Such counsellors will help you step through your skills, qualifications and experience and help you create a CV which highlights the goodness you can bring to the workplace. At the same time, now might be the opportunity to go for what you love – what are your passions, your favourite hobbies, your preferred environments? For instance, if gardening is your thing, but you have no prior experience in this field, approaching a local nursery might result in some retail experience there while you fund some part time horticultural classes. This might lead to a role assisting a landscape gardener, while you practice your design skills in your own back yard, or free-of-charge for friends. No, you won’t be paid for all of this work, but if you love being in the garden, and a friends offers you services in kind, then you will be doing something you love, and working towards a more substantial income at the same time. It’s called “connecting your career dots” and a great way to see how small changes can create a very satisfying work and life change. Good luck!

Q. Bert – How do I start my own business?

All my career I have worked for the same company but you don’t get rich working for someone else. Thanks to a small windfall I am ready to take the plunge and become my own boss. I have a few ideas but where should I start? I don’t want to miss the obvious.

A. Bert, forests have been chopped down to create the millions of pages written on how to create and sustain a small business. Many of the guides to small business are excellent, so it is clear that a short answer here will not suffice – go to the end of this answer for the best three books that we have read on business start-ups.

But to go back to an overview of the way to get started, the most important question is to ask yourself why you would want one. Small business owners normally work far longer hours for less financial reward, so if, as your question implies, your main aim is to make a lot of money, you may not have the key passion and determination that is a necessary part of small business success. If, on the other hand, you have an idea for a product or a service that will satisfy a market niche, then you have a far sounder basis for commencing your start-up, rather than a vague wish to make “more” money. Most small businesses founder because their founders did not fully research the need for their goods or services, so make this your number one priority. Another reason for failure is under-capitalisation which leads to insufficient cash flow. It is possible to have healthy forward orders at the same time as negative cash balance and it is the latter which will bring you down. Apart from reading the recommended books, why not take advantage of one of the free Federal Government small business courses on offer? And make sure you don’t take the leap until you really know what you are getting into.