Over 50 Job Hunter: Back to School? Really? At my age?
What? Back to school? At my age?
School daze. When I think about going back to school my mind goes fuzzy. I did not like it much the first go around and the the thought of doing it again was just daunting. But competing with all those young college grads was also disheartening. How could I stand out?
I looked at the possibility of school for about 10 minutes.
Everyone’s situation is different. Back to school after being out for thirty plus years is significant. You don’t do it lightly. There are considerations:
- Do I have a week, month or several years to devote to going back to school?
- Do I really “want” to commit to going to class everyday?
- Do I have the money to go back to school? Or will I need loans?
- Should I change my career path completely?
- Will it “really” help me get a new job?
When I say I considered it for 10 minutes, that’s the truth. In my situation, I had completed three years of college, so there’s no degree. When I started working full time, it did not seem important. This decision was a mistake. Now, laid off, not having that degree knocks me out of many jobs. Going back to school seemed like an option because I only needed about 3 more semesters, however it was not that easy.
So…what was the commitment?
To complete my degree, the commitment was 2-4 years of college again. Since my credits were older than 10 years, I had to agree to be tested. Once tested, they would evaluation if any of my credits would transfer. I realized after considering it, I have probably forgotten about as much from my college classes as I remember. Some of my credits may have transferred but a lot were not going to. I would end up taking Algebra, Geometry, maybe some grammar all over again. To be honest, I did not want to know definitively how much I no longer knew. Yes, I am a coward.
Realistically, it also did not make sense for me to go back to school for 2-4 years. I was not ready to retire yet. I was looking at having to take out school loans, and commit myself to an effort that in all likelihood would not have a significant payoff. Considering that I would like to retire in about 10 years, if I spent 2 – 4 of those years in college, I would reduce my overall years of saving for retirement and also commit to paying off substantial school loans.
Even if you improve your knowledge – You still might hit a brick wall.
If you decide to go back to school, you have to consider not only the commitment you are making, but also the field you are going into. Fields such as Marketing and IT have a significant bias towards age. As boomers began retiring, corporate management has gotten younger. Additionally, business start-ups tend to hire staff straight out of college. Younger managers, are sometimes intimidated by older more experienced staff members. They have a tendency to believe older workers:
- Can’t get along with or take direction from someone younger.
- Will be too bossy or try to take over from them.
- Old fashioned or can’t think outside the box.
- Are not “up to speed” on current trends.
They don’t consider that younger employees, exhibit these same traits. This bias remains even when presented with evidence to the contrary. Studies have shown that once a person makes a mental decision regarding a bias or opinion, they will not change their mind, even when faced with evidence.
I have discussed this problem in multiple blogs, but here are some reliable media articles if you want study it further:
- Too Much Experience To Be Hired? Some Older Americans Face Age Bias – By NPR
- When It Comes to Age Bias, Tech Companies Don’t Even Bother to Lie – By Dan Lyons
- Older Job Seekers Find Ways to Avoid Age Bias – Kerry Hannon – New York Times
So should I even take time for education?
Yes! You should take time for education. If you seriously want to find a job, it is important that you take a serious look at your skill set. Are your skills up-to-date? Can you present not only education, and experience on your resume, but also certifications that you have kept your skill set current? For instance, if you still use the XP computer operating system because you are “comfortable” with it, then you have a problem. In fact, you are going to single-handedly further the case for age bias, based your reluctance to keep up with current trends. It is time to UPGRADE your knowledge “and” at the same time upgrade your life. For instance, if you use a flip phone this will not be a good sign to a recruiter. Dump the flip phone and get the smart phone. As soon as you learn to use it, you will be happy you made the switch.
The best time to brush up on your skills is while you are looking for a job. There are many ways to brush up your skills and pocket a new certificate.
- Most community colleges offer continued education classes.
- Many colleges offer classes you can audit or sign up for that are not for degree but offer proof of completion: Management, Finance or Computer Classes.
- Private online companies offer online courses for a fee, or a subscription. Many of these are very robust and have excellent reviews.
Certificates, Certificates, Certificates.
When I evaluated my skills, I could see I needed more proof of my skill set. I needed more certificates on my resume, and my LinkedIn page to make up for the lack of a degree. I found and took several classes to brush up on my Microsoft skills. I also found classes that appealed to my hobbies, and general life skills to show that I was interested in learning new things.
The bias is there, but not all recruiters and employers are biased. When you apply for any job, put your best self forward. Apply with the assumption that you will be selected. Make sure that your resume looks fresh, current and easy to read. Make sure it reflects your up-to-date skills, especially general computer skills. Make your LinkedIn page a reflection of you as a profession, and shed a little light on you as a person. Read, and engage with the LinkedIn community. Below is list of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. I found Lynda.com to be by far the best for me. However, take a look and see what will work for you. This list is not definitive. There are many, many more. The search is worth the effort.
Update your skills with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs )
Alison.com – Leading provider of free high quality knowledge and workplace skills training
Lynda.com – Leading online platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology and creative skills. Take as many courses as you want to for small subscription fee.
udemy.com – 55,000 on line courses taught by expert instructors.
Coursera – Free classes. Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions.
Duolingo – Free language courses.
Saylor.org – Free, open online courses for everyone.