How to promote your experience and skills when you are a senior?

The notion of “senior” is quite a relative term. It can have a positive connotation: in some companies the term Senior is added to the function of people who are 38 (!) and have no more than 10 years’ experience (Senior Communications Manager, etc.). It can also be used in a negative context, for example when we are told: "you are too senior for the position". Here, I use the word in its broadest sense for everyone's understanding.

Photo: geralt on Pixabay
Senior competencies

In Switzerland, in 2017, more than 80% of people aged 50 to 65 were active in the labour market. In 2019, the unemployment rate for Swiss seniors (50 to 64 years old) is 2.1%. These are excellent percentages compared to rates worldwide.

Promote your experience

As a senior, your experience and skills are obviously to your advantage, but you still need to be able to show and explain what you can do. In no particular order, but to be absolutely asserted, are:

  • Your network, an important asset for a company

  • Your knowledge of the market, the environment, the business

  • Your experience in negotiation, recruitment; we all do it at some point in our career

  • Your knowledge of the psychology of others, respect for others and resistance to stress

  • You have experienced a wide variety of work situations, you are not going to rush to a project or idea without first taking a step back, which will avoid unnecessary costs

  • Your situation: family – no more need to stay home looking after children when they are sick, and financial - more stable, often with little or no outstanding mortgage debt

  • If you take a job at 55, you are going to stay there for 10 years, whereas a young person is likely to leave after a few years

  • A person with your experience is operational from the 1st day of work

Manage your employability

Train yourself throughout your career. The Law on Continuing Education (in French, Italian, or German), which came into force in 2017, stipulates that "continuing education is the responsibility of individuals" and that "Employers, both public and private, promote the continuing education of their employees." Continuing education is therefore everyone's responsibility. Ask for refresher courses during your annual evaluations. Look for information and justify your request. Don't let 10 years pass before you take the next course.

At any time of the year, attend conferences and seminars, in universities, chambers of commerce, employers' federations. Keep an up-to-date list on your resume. Never stop being curious, interested in what is happening in your environment, in your profession. Don't say "I'm too old to learn". 80-year-old Japanese learn to use the Internet!

It's all about state of mind.

Throughout your career - and it is never too late to do the right thing - gather the documents that can help you: a diploma of advanced courses, a certificate from your boss who changes jobs or leaves the company. If your superior is no longer in the company and you do not have a certificate, you can ask him for a simple signed document, without a letterhead, detailing your tasks and his assessment.

If you are on Facebook, follow the Chamber of Commerce of your canton, the employers' federations. Read newspapers and magazines such as “PME Magazine” or “Bilan” to stay informed about what is happening in the regional and national economy. Go to the Internet. Update your CV and network on LinkedIn, or create your profile, and be active online on a regular basis.

Talk to young people: colleagues, neighbours, your friends' sons and daughters. Go and have coffee or eat with them, listen to them. You certainly have things to teach them, but you also have a lot to learn from them. Ask questions: no! you do not look stupid, you look alert, curious, you indicate your interest. Young people will be happy to show you how new software works or help out with a document you need to present, to make it more modern.

If you are unemployed

The unemployment office (“Office régional de placement”, ORP) carries out skills assessments free of charge. There are a variety of relevant associations, foundations and professional reintegration programmes. If you have a higher position, a session with a coach will help you make a skills' assessment. Some employment agencies offer skills assessments for seniors aged 45 and over.

Have an active social life.

Get up in the morning, get dressed, do activities, sports, go to the café, read the newspapers. Take care of your appearance: it's time to make an appointment with the dental hygienist, change your hairstyle, eat healthier, smoke less (or stop!), get some fresh air, invest in a suit or outfit to go to interviews, update your computer skills to create a perfect resume. Rethink your attitude too. Be dynamic.

The inconveniences...

If you are unemployed, the period of reintegration is often longer. And let's be clear, you will cost the company more in terms of pension fund contributions. For example, the contribution for a person aged 55 is 18% for the savings part, compared to only 7% for an employee aged 25; one half deducted from your salary, the other half paid by the company. However, if you have fewer family charges than a younger father, you may be able to be less demanding in terms of salary.

The network

A network is of paramount importance, at any age. Friends, former colleagues, hence the importance of maintaining good relationships. People you know through associations, groups, communities, clubs. If you are unemployed, do not hesitate to join one of these groups, to volunteer. This is the right time to start tennis, hiking; tell everyone around you about your research, you will be surprised when your doctor's medical assistant tells you that her husband is looking for your profile.

Cheer up!

Whatever your situation, never lose courage. We all know someone who found a great job when he least expected it, or who only sent a resume and got the job. Do not be afraid of the age range mentioned in some ads, which should not exist, as it is a form of discrimination. All generations have to work together and collaborate at work and in the world in general.

Melanie Blaser

Thank you to Myriam Ernst of the OSEO for her contribution. English version reviewed by Christopher Booker. This article was first published in French on joHdi. Original title: "Comment faire valoir son expérience et ses compétences quand on est senior?".

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