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4 minute read

Is Age Just a Number in the Singapore Workplace?

With age comes wisdom — here’s how you can turn your experience into your greatest asset…

Is age truly just a number? According to statistics from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, the employment rate of mature employees (aged between 55 and 64) has increased steadily from 61.2% in 2011 to 67.3% in 2016. However, while the employment rate has gone up, the fact remains that age discrimination can be hard to eradicate.

In a 2016 interview with The Straits Times, General Manager of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) Roslyn Ten noted that unconscious biases against older employees may still be held by employers, colleagues and even older employees themselves. One such bias could be the view that age is a liability, as older workers are often stereotyped to be rigid and less open-minded than their younger counterparts —for example, older workers are often expected to be less adaptable to changes in the workplace compared to younger colleagues.

Additionally, older workers may miss out on training and development opportunities offered to their younger counterparts who are being groomed to be “high-potential leaders”, said Dr Stewart Lloyd Arnold, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, to The Straits Times.

Don’t reinforce age-related stereotypes

According to human resource consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison, it’s important to know the various stereotypes that plague older workers in incidents of ageism at work, in order to avoid behaving in ways that could reinforce these stereotypes.

One persistent stereotype is that older workers are strangers to technology. Work around this by showing that you are familiar with the latest technology trends and tools available, especially if they are related to your industry. For instance, if you are a more mature PMET in the Infocomm technology industry, you should be aware of the latest technology trends that impact your job, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity and data science. You can upskill yourself with the necessary skills needed for a specific role — such as using machine learning to analyse data if you want to be a data analyst — through WSG’s Professional Conversion Programmes.

“If an older employee takes the initiative to upskill, is willing to take on new assignments and shows the aptitude for further development, he too could be ‘high potential’,” Dr. Arnold noted. For example, you may have started work as a data analyst, but if you continue to pick up new skills in data science and emerging technologies, as well as prove that you are willing to go the extra mile to get work done, you can more actively support your career growth.

Additionally, give examples of how you are an agile learner or include in your resume an incident where you adapted to change well, advised Lee Hecht Harrison. However, be sure to focus on recent achievements instead of decade-old ones. If at your last job, you introduced a new process to boost productivity and increase your company’s sales figures by a significant amount, now would be a great time to talk about it!

Re-craft your resume

There are certain things you can do to make your resume look more modern, one of which is as easy as choosing the right font for your resume. For instance, easy-to-read fonts such as Calibri, Arial and Verdana tend to be preferred.

You may also consider omitting the dates from your resume if they go a little too far back — employers tend to be more interested in your most recent job experiences. Instead, you could group older positions together in a section titled “Early Careers” and omit the dates on these.

Do include relevant job experiences which have key milestones/accomplishments that will impress the hiring manager of the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a role in marketing in events management and you have successfully managed an event previously, it makes sense to include this in your resume.

Try to list up-to-date skills as much as you can, such as basic HTML or search optimisation/keyword knowledge, even if they are not directly related to the position you are applying for. This way, you show recruiters and hiring managers that you are keeping yourself relevant, are digitally-savvy and are not afraid to pick up new skills.

Find the right company

At the end of the day, keep in mind that not every company will be the right fit for you. Before applying for a job, research the company and read reviews online to get an understanding of the company’s culture, as well as its attitude towards older workers. Does the company have older workers? Which departments are they in? Does the company have jobs with government support? Networking could also be a great way for you to figure out which companies may be more suited to your personality.

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