Careers Help for Mature Students
Offering advice to "mature students'' as a group is not easy. The term covers students from 21 up to pensionable age, male and female, married, single or divorced, with and without family responsibilities, studying to improve their career prospects or purely for interest in their subject. So please view this as an introduction to topics of interest to many mature students, but follow it up by discussing your own particular concerns with a careers adviser.
- Choosing a career
- Tied to Kent?
- Age discrimination legislation
- Employer's attitudes to mature students
- Presenting yourself to employers
- Making applications
- Questions to mature graduates at interview
- What do mature graduates do?
- Further information
- Useful links
- To sum up ....
CHOOSING A CAREER
Try not to take "the best careers for mature graduates'' as a starting point when making your choices. Rather, you should start by looking for "the best careers for ME'' and then considering how your age will affect your prospects of entering that career. You would not want an employer to look at your age first and foremost before even glancing at your other attributes - so don't do this to yourself.
A good starting point when considering possible careers is PROSPECTS PLANNER www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Pplanner. This helps you to assess your skills, values and interests and links in to job profiles of 600 graduate occupations which include information on mature student entry and prospects.
The AGCAS booklet, “Mature Students – the way forward” is available in the Careers Information Room or at www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Mature
|One advantage of maturity is that research has found people on average become less self-centred as they get older.
When we are young, our focus is on "me".
When we enter a long lasting relationship or marriage, the focus tends to be on "us".
When we have children, the focus tends to be on "them".
Thus our own egos tend to become less important as our focus turns towards others as we age.
The Careers Information Room holds a reference file (no. 022) of information of relevance to mature students.
TIED TO KENT?
If you are tied to Kent by housing or family commitments, then see our Working in Kent handout and web pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/kentopps.htm.
On these pages you can refer to Kentgrads - a database of local employers who have recruited graduates in the past. It is not a vacancy list but gives a useful overview of employment available in this area. Our online vacancy bulletins at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/jobs.htm can be searched by location to find jobs currently being advertised in Kent generally or in specific parts of the county. Since most of Kent is not heavily industrialised, some careers may only be available if you are prepared to commute or relocate, and so this may play a part in your choice of career.
Age discrimination means making a decision about people based on their age. This includes assuming somebody is too old or too young to do a job, or excluding people because of their age. Ageism is about to become as unacceptable as racism and sexism. Age as a selection criterion for recruitment, training, promotion or pay became illegal on 1st October 2006. This outlaws practices such as age limits specified in recruitment advertising (unless there is a genuine occupational requirement) or age-related questions at interviews.
Sainsbury's employ a 92 year old in one of their stores. He does 3, 4 hour shifts a week and started his apprenticeship with them at the age of 82!ASDA apparently have 44 workers in their eighties and B&Q are renowned for their age-friendly recruitment.
- Age and Employment – factsheet from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/dvsequl/agedisc/ageandemp.htm
- Age and the Workplace – a guide for individuals on the Age Discrimination Regulations from ACAS www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/2/5/Age_the_workplace.pdf
- Age Discrimination Law: how will the new law affect you? – a guide for people aged 50+ www.ace.org.uk/AgeConcern/Documents/IS17AgeDiscriminationMar06.pdf
EMPLOYERS' ATTITUDES TO MATURE STUDENTS
|A late bloomer is a person whose talents are not visible to others until later than usual. Here are some famous late bloomers:
Discrimination in employment on the grounds of age is now illegal. A good selection process will look not just at an applicant's age, nor just at their degree class or subject, but will assess a candidate's personal skills and experience, including what your did before your degree course, in the light of the requirements of the job. See below for advice on how to put these qualities across to employers.
PRESENTING YOURSELF TO EMPLOYERS
Mature students may have a lot of advantages over younger students including greater confidence and maturity!
They often have more focused aims and once in a career are less likely to want to change career again than a younger employee.
They may have demonstrated commitment to cope with a degree course whilst looking after a home and family at the same time - no mean feat!
However, mature students often undervalue the experience they have to offer employers: whether this is two years of casual jobs that financed a trip around the world between school and university or ten years of the administration, financial management, catering, nursing, teaching, childcare, counseling etc that is commonly summed up as “being a housewife''. Employers may undervalue this too - if its value is not pointed out to them!
Your job applications should highlight the competencies you have which relate to the job being applied for, using your past experience and personal skills to give evidence of these. Employers will usually set out the personal qualities and competencies they require in the job description and it is important to analyse this carefully. Many application forms – the ones that ask you to “give an example of a time when you worked in a team/solved a problem/persuaded someone of your point of view” - are based around these competencies, and are often easier for mature candidates than for younger applicants. The more life experience you have, the more examples you have to draw on. See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/compet/skillquest.htm for advice on completing these questions.
Smaller employers may ask for a CV and the skills approach is often a good way for mature students to use their past experience in a positive way. An example of a mature student's skills-based CV can be found on our website at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv/maturecv.htm . However, some more “traditional” employers, such as law firms, may prefer a chronological outline of your education and experience, beginning with your degree and working backwards. Remember you don’t have to list every job you have ever done or every qualification you have ever taken from O-level woodwork onwards. It’s fine to summarise a group of similar jobs, or periods spent bringing up children, so long as there are no long and unexplained gaps in your CV.
Should you include your dates on your CV?
|A candidate who had been a stay-at-home mom listed her skills as nursing, housekeeping, chef, teacher, bio-hazard cleanup, fight referee, taxi driver, secretary, tailor, personal shopping assistant and therapist. She was hired!|
Job Centres normally advise mature applicants not to include dates on their CVs and some organisations such as HSBC leave out dates on their application forms.The disadvantages of omitting dates may outweigh any advantage gained.
- Your lack of openness may make an employer suspicious
- Employers may worry what the gaps in your record concealed
- It is better to emphasise the advantages of maturity as mentioned above rather than to be defensive.
One compromise is to put dates for recent work experience and education, but not for jobs you did a long time ago.
|"My maturity gave me the ability to focus and get a lot done in a short time - I had developed my own resilience to stress and pressure"
Sue Searle, from her excellent book "How to become an Ecological Consultant". Sue set up her own highly successful consultancy: Acorn Ecology after starting University at the age of 39 following a nursing career.
The Careers Service can give help with drawing up CVs and application forms and advise on presenting your experiences in relation to the job being applied for.
QUESTIONS TO MATURE GRADUATES AT INTERVIEW
In the past, mature students have often had to face questions and suppositions related to their age, especially with interviewers unused to assessing older graduates.Outright questions such as the following are no longer permitted:
- How will you fit in with other trainees younger than you?
- How will you cope with working under somebody younger than you?
- How will you fit in this job around your family's demands?
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.
Jim FiebigAge is a very high price to pay for maturity.
Tom StoppardWe don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
George Bernard ShawAge is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
Mark TwainAge is of no importance unless you’re a cheese.
Billie BurkeAs men get older, the toys get more expensive.
Marvin DavisI will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.
Francis BaconMiddle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.
Bob HopeI'm happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.
James BroughtonI'm not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You're as old as you feel.
Henri Frederic AmielIt takes a long time to become young.
Pablo PicassoMiddle age is the awkward period when Father Time starts catching up with Mother Nature.
Harold CoffinThe aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.
Definition of an adult: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.
- Won't you expect a higher salary than a 21 year old?
However, they may still be in the interviewer’s mind. You may want to take the opportunity that the interview gives you to emphasise your adaptability, tolerance and organisational skills.See our web pages or booklet on interviews www.kent.ac.uk/careers/applicn.htm#Interviews
WHAT DO MATURE GRADUATES DO?
It is possible, to some extent, to generalise about the “best'' employers for mature students - those which value experience, no matter where gained, or personal maturity, or those which have always had high upper age limits for recruitment even before the new legislation.
Many mature students have found that public sector employers have a very positive attitude towards mature graduates and that, within this field, careers such as teaching and social work place particular value on their wider experience of life. This may also be utilised by careers such as law and personnel management, in both the public and private sectors. These also happen to be career areas which are readily available in Kent.
At the other end of the scale, the “worst'' career prospects have traditionally been in fields which are youth-oriented, stressful and highly competitive, such as advertising and those with long training requirements, such as actuaries. The armed forces are exempt from age discrimination legislation.
Beware, though, of lumping all employers in a certain career area together when considering their attitudes to mature applicants. These are all generalisations and a well-prepared mature graduate may, especially now supported by legislation, be successful in their applications to almost any field.
FURTHER INFORMATIONThe following books are available for reference in the Careers Service
- How to find work when you’re over 50
- Getting There: Jobhunting for Women
- Mature Students' Reference File (022)
The Careers Service also runs workshops for mature students where there is an opportunity for discussion.
- Diversity Milkround www.diversitymilkround.com lists companies wishing to promote diversity within the workplace and offering internships, industrial placements and graduate positions. Candidates can choose to receive information about certain areas of diversity (including age), including general information, any relevant government legislation, information regarding jobs/courses/events, information on diversity societies around the country and the chance to speak to other candidates or employers in the forum.
- Prospects Web: information for mature students www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Mature
- Employers Forum on Age www.efa.org.uk a network of employers who are positive about recruiting older staff
- Equality Challenge Unit www.ecu.ac.uk
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission www.equalityhumanrights.com
- Association for Non-traditional Students in Higher Education www.antshe.org
- The Diversity Group www.thediversitygroup.co.uk promotes equal opportunities to people from every kind of minority background or lifestyle, including race, gender, disability, age, faith and sexual orientation.
- Business Link Employing Older Workers
- Department for Work and Pensions Age Positive Publications www.dwp.gov.uk/age-positive
How careers end:
Students are degraded.
Lawyers are disbarred.
Ministers are defrocked.
Electricians are delighted.
Environmental Health Officers are debugged.
Programmers are decoded.
Accountants are discredited.
Barristers are debriefed
Orchestra leaders are disbanded.
Artists' models are deposed.
Nudists are redressed.
Office clerks are defiled.
Priests are disgraced.
Electricians are refused.
Judges are disappointed.
Mathematicians are discounted.
Tree surgeons disembark.
Job hunting may be more daunting for a mature student than for the “average'' 21 year old, but the anxiety can be greatly reduced by careful planning and preparation. If you start thinking about your career in good time, ideally early on in your course, make wise use of the Careers Library and are prepared to be flexible then you will stand the best possible chance of achieving your career aims when you leave University.
You are welcome to make use of the Careers Service at any stage of your studies, whether to use our computer guidance resources, to browse the material in the Careers Library or to talk things over with a Careers Adviser.
It may be worth mentioning here that we are open during the vacations, and if you live locally this may be a good time to use our facilities when they are less used by other students.
While we recognise that every student is an individual, the Careers Service staff have considerable experience of helping mature students and we hope that we can be of assistance to you too.
The Careers and Employability Service is committed to equality of opportunity in keeping with the University of Kent at Canterbury Student Charter and the NUS/AGR/AGCAS Code of Practice. Click here to see the University of Kent Careers and Employability Service Equality and Diversity Statement
Last fully updated 2011