Why 55 is the new mid-career

Why 55 is the new mid-career

The midcareer candidate has always been highly sought after. The truffle of all employees. Whether in a tight or surplus market, they are the ‘it’ candidate. Why wouldn’t they be? Mid-career employees are rich with experience, have years of acquired knowledge, their soft skills finely tuned, and with many years left in their careers. They are the answer to all hiring prayers.  

Overlay our current labour shortages, and the mid-career employee is a business saviour. The talent crisis is a global issue, but make no mistake, Australia carries its share of the burden. With an unemployment rate at 3.5%, a 48-year low, Australia is experiencing the second most severe labour shortage in the developed world. So, if your rhetoric is to believe the skills shortage will revert sometime soon, you may want a rethink.

If you believe mid-career candidates are 35 years plus, this too requires re-examination. Instead, put aside your bias, subconscious or otherwise and even prejudice. Probe the assumptions of your partiality and allow the opportunities for your new mid-career candidates to walk in the door.

Welcome our 55-year old’s, the new mid-career champions.

Times are changing

If you view this demographic as older or mature, get with the times, it is the new black. Although you could be forgiven. Dreadfully, our own Australian Bureau of Statistics defines mature workers as those employed aged 45-64 years. Who knew!

But much has changed. For a start, in 1970, life expectancy was 71 years and now it is 83 years.

The average intended retirement age in 2014-15 was 65.1 years, up from 62.3 years in 2004-05 and close to a quarter of us (22.6%) with no intention of retiring until 70 years plus. As workforce tenure extends, so does the median bracket, aligning right at mid-50. For the first time in our working history, Australia has 5 generations working together and fortuitously, our 55-year-old, Gen X, sits right in the middle. There is no debate; 55 is the new mid-career, opening an alternate spectrum to view and source talent.

And yet we don’t

Instead, we blindly grapple with our ongoing skills shortage and ageism concurrently. In February 2020, those aged 55 years and above held 19.4% of our total labour force, an increase from 10.5% in February 1980. A significant representation and sourcing opportunity versus the depleted pools we futilely try to recruit from.

Even with record low unemployment rates, lose your job past 50, and you will struggle to gain employment. A survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission shows discrimination is highest among the ages of 55 to 64 years. Even worse, and sadly, a third (33%) of people discriminated against in this group gave up looking for work. Yes, our bias is that strong, paralysing rationality.

Concerned about performance?

Don’t be. Research shows there is no difference between older and younger workers, and scientific evidence shows ‘for most people, raw mental horsepower declines after the age of 30, but knowledge and expertise, the main predictors of job performance, keep increasing beyond the age of 80’. Apart from skills, proficiency and experience, mature workers have been around the block a few times. They know the potholes to steer clear of, the corners to cut safely, and the quickest route. They build relationships and have developed networks, knowing who and what to ask. Problem-solving is not solo stress but a team-based exercise and viewed as just another day in the office.

Add job tenure to the equation, and it becomes a sweet too hard to resist. Longevity in jobs is also highest amongst our older workers, 6 years 8 months compared to 2 years 8 months for those 25 to 35 years. Consider the cost to train, hire, recruit and onboard and, in today’s market, the prolonged empty seat. Suddenly, high job mobility becomes a business risk to avoid.

Let’s face it, the word mature can conjure up images of being old and not keeping up with the times. But it is time to rethink our perception. The reality is mature means being fully developed or advanced. What business won’t benefit from that level of expertise or state of being on their team? Especially underpinned by a market bereft, desperate for any glimpse of talent. Seek out your new mid-career candidates, loaded with experience, skills, wisdom, and an abundance of career years ahead of them. Your 55-year-olds that is.

Roxanne Calder

Australian-based Roxanne Calder, author of ‘Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future’ (Major Street $29.95), is the founder and managing director of EST10 – one of Sydney’s most successful administration recruitment agencies. Roxanne is passionate about uncovering people’s potential and watching their careers soar. For more information on how Roxanne can assist you in your career visit www.est10.com.au.

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