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.

Picture of a mature student

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 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.

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 LEGISLATION

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 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.

The following sites carry further information on this legislation:

EMPLOYERS' ATTITUDES TO MATURE STUDENTS

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!

MAKING APPLICATIONS

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.

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!

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?

Johnson Mandell, lost her job at 49. As a writer, broadcaster and film critic, she had much experience but whenever she applied for a job, she was rejected. After some thought she realised that her CV aged her and dwelled too much on the past. "I took off all the work experience that was 15 years or older because nothing was relevant". She also removed her date of birth and year of graduation and focused on her current skills. The CV became age anonymous and produced instant results. "I got responses to my resumes within 20 minutes of sending them out and I got job offers within two weeks," adding she was stunned by the results. "These days, people's attention spans are short," she says. "If you can't sell yourself and put the best stuff you've got in the first third of your resume, they're going to get bored and toss it. Nobody has time to really dig into a resume and look at the details. They want to know right at the beginning, 'What can you do for me?'" Peter Bowes BBC News, Los Angeles

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.

 

One compromise is to put dates for recent work experience and education, but not for jobs you did a long time ago.

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:

 

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.

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.

Henry Ford

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.

Jim Fiebig

Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.

Tom Stoppard

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

George Bernard Shaw

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

Mark Twain

Age is of no importance unless you’re a cheese.

Billie Burke

As men get older, the toys get more expensive.

Marvin Davis

I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.

Francis Bacon

Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.

Bob Hope

I'm happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.

James Broughton

I'm not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You're as old as you feel.

Henri Frederic Amiel

It takes a long time to become young.

Pablo Picasso

Middle age is the awkward period when Father Time starts catching up with Mother Nature.

Harold Coffin

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.

Doug Larson

Definition of an adult: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.

Money isn't everything but it sure keeps you in touch with your children.

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 INFORMATION

The following books are available for reference in the Careers Service

The Careers Service also runs workshops for mature students where there is an opportunity for discussion.

USEFUL LINKS

TO SUM UP...

A survey by the Nationwide Building Society found that employees feel colleagues aged over 55 act as good role models. They have a positive effect on the workplace because they are good role models or mentors. They are also less likely to take sick leave or be absent because of a hangover. 45% of workers age 55 and above had not taken any sick leave in the past year, compared to 36% of 18-24 year olds. Also older employees tend to arrive early at work.

“Employing older workers is a good business decision - they tend to be experienced, conscientious and hardworking. The decision should always be whether that person can do the job and has the right values. Having a diverse workforce which reflects our customer base makes sound commercial sense." Alison Robb, Nationwide Group Director

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.


Maturity is many things. It is the ability to base a judgment on the big picture, the long haul. It means being able to resist the urge for immediate gratification and opt for the course of action that will pay off later. One of the characteristics of the young is “I want it now.” Grown-up people can wait.

Maturity is perseverance–the ability to sweat out a project or a situation, in spite of heavy opposition and discouraging setbacks, and stick with it until it is finished. The adult who is constantly changing friends and changing mates is immature. He/she cannot stick it out because he/she has not grown up.

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.
Musicians decompose

Maturity is the ability to control anger and settle differences without violence or destruction. The mature person can face unpleasantness, frustration, discomfort and defeat without collapsing or complaining. He/she knows he cannot have everything his/her own way every time. He/she is able to defer to circumstances, to other people-and to time. He/she knows when to compromise and is not too proud to do so.

Maturity is humility. It is being big enough to say, “I was wrong.” And, when he/she is right, the mature person need not experience the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so.”

Maturity is the ability to live up to your responsibilities, and this means being dependable. It means keeping your word. Dependability is the hallmark of integrity. Do you mean what you say-and do you say what you mean? Unfortunately, the world is filled with people who cannot be counted on. When you need them most, they are among the missing. They never seem to come through in the clutches. They break promises and substitute alibis for performance. They show up late or not at all. They are confused and disorganized. Their lives are a chaotic maze of broken promises, former friends, unfinished business and good intentions that somehow never materialize. They are always a day late and a dollar short.

Maturity is the ability to make a decision and stand by it. Immature people spend their lives exploring endless possibilities and then doing nothing. Action requires courage. Without courage, little is accomplished.

Maturity is the ability to harness your abilities and your energies and do more than is expected. The mature person refuses to settle for mediocrity. He/she would rather aim high and miss the mark than low-and make it.

Maturity is the art of living in peace with that which cannot be changed, the courage to change that which should be changed, no matter what it takes, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Ann Landers

 

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