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supporting welfare to work providers

The modern job market

Section image for Finding work - workman standing on a question mark shadow

Some 50+ jobseekers will be convinced they know how to go about getting a job. This can be a difficult issue to deal with. After all, most will have changed jobs a few times in the past, often with ease, and believe that all they need to do is to go down that successful route. You may have to wait while they discover that life is more difficult than it was. Giving them time, suggesting they try something different, and lots of perseverance are your main tools.

If they know what job(s) they want to go after, a good place to start is with an explanation of the job market.

If they don’t know what they want to do, then that is where you should start. It is essential that they have a direction, even if they change it often. If they vaguely say they will do anything (provided that it is interesting, well paid, etc.) then they will probably end up sitting at home.

So start with an explanation of the job market. An easy way to explain this to customers is to say that when they get a job they will have done so by only one of four ways: Adverts, Bureaus, Contacts and Direct, as explained in this A to D of self-marketing.

A to D of self-marketing

A (Adverts): they will see an advert on the web, in a newspaper or magazine, or hear it the radio, or wherever. They will be a good fit in terms of skills and experience sought, so they apply and after a series of interviews, maybe with tests or presentations, they will be offered a job.

B (Bureaus): a recruitment agency, the Job Centre, or other organisation dealing in jobs will have their details – probably because they have contacted that bureau – who will ask them if they want their name put forward for a vacancy. Interviews, etc. follow.

C (Contacts): A friend, acquaintance or anyone else that they have been networking with puts them in touch with someone who may have a job for them or may be in need of someone with their skills and background.

D (Direct): They identify an organisation, or even a group of organisations (such as local companies) who might be able to use their skills and experience, and make contact with them. This is sometimes called ‘speculative’ approaches. As a result they get a ‘meeting’ that may or may not turn into a job interview.

There are only four ways, although some might include self-employment as a fifth option. However, the product being made, or the service being offered still has to be sold, and that gets us back to the A, B, C and D.

Of course this applies to anyone seeking a job, not just the 50+ person, so extend your explanation a bit. Look at this diagram.

A & B are ‘Jobs looking for people’

A & B
The job is specified, a person specification is drawn up. A set of CVs are compared against that specification. It is quite a formal, rigid process and the candidate is likely to be one of 100 or more being considered. It is also the preferred method normally of larger organisations.

Because the person is specified, there is often a ‘picture’ of the ideal candidate that is in the minds of the recruiters, in terms of qualifications, age, and experience. If enough of those initially trawled meet that predetermined picture, they may not get considered at all if they are an older jobseeker or they don’t have a degree, for example.

C & D are ‘People looking for jobs’

C & D
An employer has ‘needs’ and they realise that by recruiting a particular person, they will meet those needs. So the job is very much based around that person, and may even be moulded to their particular skills and experience. But it does need quite a flexible organisation, so it may well be a smaller one which has quite informal practices, and normally doesn’t use agencies or adverts because they are expensive and take too long. The great advantage is that that the particular person may be the only one they consider.

Whether your 50+ customer is looking for an hourly paid job or a managerial position, it is probable that the pre-conceived picture of the ideal candidate in the mind of the recruiting manager will be of a younger person. However well your customers hide their age or present their skills, they may well lose out in a paper selection exercise and be told that: ‘there are others who more closely fit our specification’.

For this reason, encourage your customers towards the proactive areas of Contacts and Direct approaches. If they can get meetings with people who have work they could do, then they have the opportunity to sell them the skills and experience they have.

So encourage them to devise an action plan that uses all four A to D methods. Where they are a good fit for the job and the recruiter is open-minded, they will be successful with Adverts and Bureaus. But if they are rejected again and again by recruiters, then concentrate on Contacts and Direct Approaches. These do work.

Helping the older worker is not about a totally different strategy to their approach to the job market, it is about a different emphasis that plays to the strength of the older worker: their breadth of experience.

Older jobseekers have found much of the content of 50+ Works useful.  As  result, in 2014 TAEN produced a guide for them, drawing principally on the relevant content of this website.  Where appropriate, you  may wish to give them a copy of this Guide.

This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.