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A desperate mature-student
posted on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 21:14

Dear doctor,

As a mature-student (aged between 45 to 50), it's not easy for me to find a permanent job since my graduation (BA in English & Communication in 2006, MA in Cultural Management in 2008 respectively)!  I understand there is age-bias, also having 2 degrees is very common nowadays; but the time when I decided to pursue tertiary education (early 2003), I didn't expect the age-bias is getting so serious ...

To earn a living, my resume is quite jumpy as I've been taking contract/partime/project job since 2006/2007.  I adopt an "open attitude" on my job-search categories:  based on my past experience as legal secretary/secretary at intl law-firms/MNCs, I look for admin/secretarial/personal assistant job; based on my tertiary studies, I look for arts admin/event/marketing/public relations job.

I've been offered with some good job-interview (e.g. a news-anchor at a media firm, however, when the interviewer asked for my age, there was no 2nd 
interview) but the "age bias" has restricted me for further chances.  

Fortunately and positively thinking, I look younger than my actual age; but when it comes to my actual age, it's a problem!

Do I need to "focus" on one category or keep an "open attitude" for more categories?  Or do I simply quit looking for jobs anymore as the community don't accept mature-students?

Some friends have advised me to start my own business (event, promotion, translation etc), due to lack of money and a large network, I can't set-up my own company.  That's why I'm a freelancer since 06/07.  I know applying for a B.R. is easy, but is it worthwhile if my freelance job/income is not stable?

May I have your professional advice?  Many thanks for your kind assistance!


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Catherine Ng - Career Doctor's picture
Catherine Ng - Career Doctor  
Posted Thursday, 05 January 2012 09:52 AM

Dear Anne,

I appreciate your openness and relentlessness in developing and keeping yourself competitive in the job market. Although not backed by legislation, the Labor Department offers practical guidelines on eliminating age discrimination and encouraging best practice in the workplace. I have attached the link for your reference (http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/plan/pdf/eade/Employers/PracticalGuidelines...).

It has become common practice in job applications not to include age on resumes and many companies do not ask about age during interviews, except in the case where age forms a critical element in performing the job duties.

I would recommend you to revise your resume to draw focus on your working experience as well as academic qualifications, rather than let age be a detraction. Many (if not most) employers treasure the experience, knowledge and stability mature workers bring. So stay optimistic!

You raised the issue of jumpiness in your work history. Ideally, you should hold on to a longer term job which you stay for at least 2 - 3 years, even if it may be tough and not to your total satisfaction. Then, your resume will be revamped. Good references from your previous companies will ease the mind of potential employers.

Since you have financial concerns and your income is not stable, starting your own business may not be the best path right now. Starting your own venture requires a lot of investment, especially at the beginning stages and it will take some time for the returns to come in and there is no guarantee to it either.

I believe that knowledge, experience and commitment are the key factors employers examine when seeking new talent, rather than relying on age. Keep up with your efforts and you will find a good opportunity very soon.

Catherine Ng

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