10 tips for staying employable

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May it never happen to you-being downsized, laid off, out of work. But if it does, and you’re 50plus, is your age an extra liability?

The “silver ceiling” is a fact of life in the job market, according to a study on older workers done for Human Resources Development Canada.

“One of the realities of our society is that there’s discrimination – subtle and sometimes not so subtle – around age, colour, gender, etc.,” acknowledges Robert Watson, manager of The Danforth Human Resource Centre, one of the employment resource centres operated by HRDC in Toronto.

“One of our goals is to try and combat that ageism through targeted programs.”

To dust off an old cliché, the best defense is a good offense. For every myth about older workers, there’s a counter point of view that builds on the positive aspects of maturity and experience.

The myth: The reality:
Inflexible Equally adaptable&lt/t>
More health problems Lower rate of absenteeism
Overqualified Know the history, what works
Less productive Good at multi-tasking, stress management
Too expensive Equity, fairness preferable to money
Unwilling to work for younger boss Mentors for younger people

Be persistent
Watson’s experience tells him mature workers can and do land good jobs.

“It’s a matter of keeping skill sets up to date and attitudes positive,” he says. “I think that anyone who is persistent and pursues the programs that are available has a good chance of getting work.”

He advises to be vigilant and ask your contacts for advice and information.

Practical tips
Here are 10 practical tips for staying employable:

 Keep your skills polished.
Take regular training or professional development seminars. Computers are everywhere in the workplace. Learn the most frequently used programs, how to send e-mail and how to use the Internet.

 Keep your resumé updated.
You’ll be able to start the job search sooner. Knowing what you can offer an employer will boost your confidence level.

 Track trends in your industry.
You can do this through newspapers, journals and magazines and by talking with colleagues.

Develop networking skills.
Most jobs – about 80 per cent -are found in the hidden job market. Family, acquaintances and business associates can be a valuable source of information about job possibilities and the decision-makers to contact.

Stay informed.
Christine Thomas, a partner in the international executive search firm, Ray and Berndtson, suggests reading between the lines of newspaper business pages and trade publications.

Look at who is hiring and promoting. What qualifications would they require? Are they likely to value experienced workers? Check out their websites. Go to their annual general meetings.

Look after yourself.
Work on effective ways of handling stress. Don’t neglect your health.

Look current.
Image consultant Catherine Graham Bell of Prime Impressions in Kingston, Ontario, says 50-plus people often forget to update eyeglasses. How old is your hairstyle? Does your natural hair colour make you look tired? Properly proportioned clothing can make you look good, feel confident. Thinning hair combed across the forehead can be distracting.

Assess your skills and accomplishments.
 Think like an entrepreneur-what can you offer that an employer values?

 Have a positive attitude.
The more comfortable you are with yourself and your abilities, the better you’ll be able to cope with interviewers who may be wary of older workers.