Career Conversations by The Careers Company Session 2

Oct 24, 2023

On Thursday 21st September we held our 2nd “Career Conversation by The Careers Company”. Claudia Schlipf, Director of The Careers Company hosted the event, starting with an introductory presentation which outlined the current challenges, perceptions and career barriers of "older workers" in our society and in organisations. We discussed that 55 is usually seen as a tipping point, when people re-evaluate their lives so far, looking forward to what retirement can look like, often starting to think about a new career or "Second Act Career" or even work towards "unretiring" and re-entering the workforce.


This was followed by two engaging presentations by Cordelia Wise and Lesley Cave about their own masters research - both career coaches having completed their masters at Birkbeck University in London. Both speakers shared their insights from their research around semi-retirement and on how older people feel about employment, how they relish it and what changes in identity are linked with being an "older worker", a semi-retired worker or an experienced worker even if sometimes in a totally different career area, particularly for women. Flexibility, engaging and listening were some of the key messages.


All the insights provided plenty of food for thought about what organisations can do to support older workers better - either to hire or retain them. Some of the barriers discussed can be addressed by well known career interventions. 


We discussed how organisations often have a one dimensional view of age and hence their career paths and career development opportunities are all geared towards developing young talent, while not enough thought is given to understanding how to retain and how best to deploy their existing workforce. Too many of our recruitment policies are still indirectly age biased and at some stage too much experience suddenly becomes a negative thing and one gets passed aside as overqualified. 


Another key barrier around ageism is the list of negative stereotypes towards older workers, such as that they are not able to learn, can't adapt to change and are slow, or potentially more absent due to illness. These stereotypes can be addressed by training and supporting managers and staff to work more effectively in inter-generational teams, reverse mentoring between younger and older team members, and training and development to continue to upgrade skills. A lot of the negative stereotypes take away agency from older workers and there is a need to have open and honest career conversations to actually ask questions, be curious and engage around what people really want from their future. Another key area of managing an inter-generational workforce is to focus on mental and physical health, to ensure people are well so they contribute in a positive way, no matter their age and the challenges they face.


The Careers Company is already a leader in developing programmes and ideas around how careers are evolving and how these challenges can be addressed. The changing career patterns are not always well understood by managers and organisations. We know that career conversations just don’t happen, that organisations are often missing critical career infrastructure elements (e.g. Stay Conversations, Mentoring), and that older employees often struggle with career management and career self-efficacy skills. We also know that managers are often keen to help but lack the basic tools, time, confidence and capabilities to navigate through this ever evolving space. 


We were all very conscious in the room that some of us are moving towards being called "older workers" ourselves in the not too distant future. However, no-one really felt old and the mood was very positive that there is so much we can all do collectively to improve career avenues, opportunities and career understanding. As populations age and technology evolves we will all need to learn to embrace these changes.  


Let's keep change happening. We look forward to seeing you at our next networking event!


The career path towards becoming non executive directors #NEDs will be our next conversation.

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