Meeting the Midcareer Moment: The challenges of the 45+ job seeker

A conversation with Mona Mourshed, founding global CEO, Generation

In this episode of the Work in Progress podcast, my guest is Mona Mourshed, founding global CEO of Generation, a nonprofit with a mission to support the training of learners of all ages, leading to careers that were previously beyond their reach.

Generation’s new report, Meeting the Midcareer Moment, is an in-depth look at workers over the age of 45, the challenges they face advancing in the workplace, and, for the unemployed, competing against younger job seekers.

Let’s start with the job interview. What does a hiring manager see when she or he looks at a job seeker over the age of 45? According to the report, they see someone who isn’t tech-savvy, isn’t adaptable, and who won’t fit into the company culture. These perceptions of midcareer workers are putting them at the bottom of the pile when it comes to hiring.

“We asked employers to describe what are the strengths that you see of different job candidates in the different age brackets. Long story short, employers see the age 45+ population as having absolutely no strengths relative to those who are age 18-to-34 or 35-to-44,” explains Mourshed.

Job seekers between the ages of 35 and 44 are most popular with hiring managers, according to the survey. “That’s the sweet spot. They’ve had enough experience, but employers still view them as being nimble and creative. This for us was one of the most stark findings of the report. It really puts a number on ageism,” Mourshed tells me in the podcast.

Conversely, the hiring managers have an entirely different view of the older workers they already employ.

“We asked the very same employers, ‘In those cases where you have hired age 45+ within the last three years. how are they performing relative to their job peers?’ And we found that 87% of those individuals are performing as well, if not better, than their younger job peers.

“When we asked about retention, we found that 90% of those aged 45+ cases are showing as much potential, if not more than their younger peers. And that is the definition of bias, right? It’s that whenever a general bias can prevail despite evidence to the contrary, that’s what it looks like. And it’s very pervasive,” argues Mourshed.

So simply put, older workers looking for a job are not seen as strong candidates for today’s workforce, but once hired, they prove that they are just as capable as their younger colleagues when it comes to actually doing the work.

Older workers looking for a job are not seen as strong candidates for today’s workforce, but once hired, they prove that they are just as capable as their younger colleagues when it comes to actually doing the work.

This is an important point. Workplace demands have changed. Midcareer workers have the talent, and they are adaptable to the changing work environment—when they are given the opportunity. This is reflected in another number. The majority of the long-term unemployed—those out of work for more than six months—are over the age of 45. Once out of work, it is hard for older workers to find their way back into the workforce.

Generation says that we are at a crossroads—”if we choose to recognize the talents of this group and help them adapt to workplace disruptions, we can prosper together. But if we stick with the status quo, a bad situation will only get worse.”

It is also important to point out that everyone is different. There are, in fact, some people who need some additional training to meet the new demands in the workplace. Generation is doing so much in this field. This excellent report has more information on this and the rest of the findings. I encourage you to both read and listen to find out more.

You can read Meeting the Midcareer Moment here. You can download the podcast here or wherever you get your podcast.

Episode 194: Mona Mourshed, Founding Global CEO, Generation
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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