Ageism articles

Older workers come with a wealth of experience and knowledge which should be valued and embraced in the workplace. 

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Differences divide us, and that’s why we need to find the values that unite us, writes Sinead Donovan. It strikes me that, in today’s world, we are constantly putting labels on things or people. We are either male/female, Gen Z/Gen Y, baby boomers, LGBT+/straight. We have the labels of our culture or our creed, and while I am so in favour of diversity, and have pushed the diversity and inclusion concept incredibly hard within my firm and throughout the work I have done in Chartered Accountants Ireland, I sometimes wonder – have we made too many labels? Are we defining ourselves by labels rather than looking for the commonality and the thread that keeps us all together?   It’s not a new concept but, as perhaps I progress in my career and through management, I sometimes think it’s better to look for what binds us together than at what differentiates us. Maybe by finding those common threads it will enable us to be a more holistic family together, despite our gender, culture, religion, or sexual orientation.  So, I suppose the big question is: are there common threads and, if so, what are they? To me, it comes down to people’s beliefs. Fundamentally, underpinning us all, as it does in our professional careers, are the value sets that define us. For us, in our business unit in Grant Thornton, we have identified those values as: Adaptable; Innovative; Passion for what we do; Collaborative; Going the extra mile; Ethical and professional; and Technically knowledgeable. People may have different values they use to identify themselves, but whatever it is, there should be that common link in us all. With Chartered Accountants, it has to be the value set of ethics. These underpin our profession, despite how wide it has become or the labels we have put on each other as accountants: are we forensic accountants, cybersecurity accountants, auditors, tax advisors? Whatever you are, the one item that underpins us all is our code of ethics.  Ethics is taught in the early days of a student’s profession, sits beside us as a professional, and maybe gets looked at once or twice in our career. However, I would urge that the concept of ethics is used more widely to link us together as one family of accountants – be that Chartered Accountants Ireland, ATI, or membership to any other accountancy body. We have a responsibility to our stakeholders, the people we report to, the people who use our knowledge, and the daily work that must be done in an ethical manner.  As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee in Chartered Accountants Ireland, I am not saying any of the above to absolve ourselves of the need to identify the differences we all face in life. But what I am saying is, maybe sometimes, let’s just celebrate our similarities and, with that, see ourselves as a family of accountants in the first instance and then ensure any differences that we may have are 100% noted, understood, managed and included because, just as in any family, there are different characters, beliefs, and personalities. And, while there are going to be difficulties, there has to be that underlining acceptance of who we are and what we are. To me, it starts on the journey as a student and, I think, that our profession is more open than it may have been when I started. However, I do know that from our work in CA Support, difficulties, prejudice, and unbelievable stress which may not be acknowledged or identified, remain. So, look out for your student members, your newly qualified members, and even look out for the more experienced members who may be going through difficulties in their professional or personal lives. If I can leave you with one thought, let it be this: let us identify the differences, ensure those differences are respected and brought together in one bucket of inclusion. Importantly, we need to unite in our underlining similarities that we have as Chartered Accountants and use that as a thread to tie us together.   Sinead Donovan FCA is a Partner in Financial Accounting and Advisory Services at Grant Thornton.

Jun 23, 2020

Biological time is a state of mind, and senior Chartered Accountants continue to be as skilled and as discerning as they were in their middle years. They continue to learn, to assess and to affect discriminating judgements. Employers need to realise that such professionals want to continue making a meaningful contribution to a business. The demographic of our workforce is changing with older employees growing in number. This coincides with a time where there are increasing challenges for organisations who are seeking to recruit and retain talent. For smart organisation who are open minded when it comes to their recruitment process, this can represent a real opportunity for them if they realise that everyone, irrespective of their age, has something to bring to an organisation. Diversity is healthy. Having a more diverse workforce which includes a range of ages, experience, disciplines and cultures can assist an organisation enormously. It can bring a new perspective, challenge the status quo and act a stimulus for new initiatives. Obviously younger finance professionals can have the same technical skills, knowledge and competencies as their older counterparts. However mature employees can offer other skills and real life work experience and perspectives that their younger counterparts can’t. The following are the benefits of hiring a mature candidate: Experience Mature employees bring with them ‘experience’ in the broadest sense of the word - life experience. This can be a huge advantage in the current environment as organisations need employees who have experienced the ups and downs of the commercial world. Typically the real challenges are presented during an economic downturn and this can be a true test of a candidate’s capabilities. If an employee has a track record of achieving in these situations they are more likely to do so again. This ‘experience’ is likely to result in higher levels of self confidence which in turn can instil confidence in those around them making it easier for them to manage and motivate a team. This is a huge benefit in a climate where financial rewards are not available to use as a motivational tool. Clear thinking Experience means that a person is less likely to be ‘rattled’ by a challenging scenario. Mature candidates can be better equipped to make decisions, understanding the implications and consequences of decisions taken.  As a result of this higher level of emotional intelligence, mature employees have the ability to make objective decisions and possess strong judgement skills. Productivity A track record of successfully transitioning experience and competencies is a huge advantage to an organisation. Employees with greater levels of experience tend to hit the ground running, making a more immediate impact in a role. This will result in a less costly induction process and a quicker return on investment for an employer. Senior level employees can act as role models for more junior team members. They can demonstrate and display the skills, competencies and behaviours that you develop as your progress in your career therefore setting a good example that others can learn from. Act as mentors Based on the wealth of experience and empathy mature employees bring to a role they can competently act as mentors to more junior staff members. Levels of intellectual capital and business acumen will increase as a result. The mentors lead by example and impart learning and experiences in doing so. Beneficial symbiotic relationships developed in this way contribute to the success and bottom line of a business. Chartered Accountants Ireland operates a Mentor Programme through which many members have benefited from the insights, experiences and knowledge of their more senior fellow members. This in turn has been of benefit to employers. Improved communication levels Maturity often leads to higher levels of emotional intelligence. This is a huge advantage when it comes to communicating in the business world. Understanding the intricacies of organisations, cultures, politics and personalities can be a great tool and can increase the effectiveness of communications. It can help in terms of influencing the decision making process and building strong and profitable business relationships. Contacts Over the course of their careers, mature candidates will have developed a strong network of specialist contacts. This can be of significant benefit to an organisation. Networking is a crucial part of business today and any additional introductions a business can access can prove to be very lucrative. Technical skills Strong technical knowhow, not just from a theoretical perspective but also a comprehensive appreciation of the practical applications and implications, are skills that one can only develop over time. This skillset adds significantly to the intellectual capital within an organisation. Consequently a business with this in-house advantage will not need to spend money on buying in additional expertise. For confidential and impartial career support visit our career's advisory website or contact Karin Lanigan on 01 637 7331 or email karin.lanigan@charteredaccountants.ie.

Aug 14, 2019

Until recent years, a traditional career path saw most professionals retiring at 65. However, this is now often no longer the case with many working well beyond this age. This dramatic transformation has been driven by the fact that many professionals are now choosing to stay working longer and others may need to continue working due to financial necessity. Economic factors such as the global crisis and pension deficits are accelerating the change, as is increased life expectancy, which has increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015 alone. The other developments that are impacting include the increase in the mandatory retirement age which is set to go to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028. Similarly, the fact that we are starting families later in life influences when we can afford to consider retirement options as does the growing numbers of those running two households due to separation and divorce. As a consequence of these seismic changes, a new term the ‘Third Act’ has emerged. As you approach your 50s you are heading into what is now commonly termed the ‘Third Act’. This is essentially a new phase of your career which can potentially last in excess of 20 years. It represents a significant phase of your overall working life. Moving towards retirement no longer signals the end of your career, it is now just the start of a new phase. Here are some guidelines to help you to make the most of your ‘Third Act’: Think ahead and plan By planning and taking control of this next phase of your career you can ensure that you make the most of it. Consider what it is exactly that you want to achieve and then devise a plan that will enable you to achieve your goals. Don’t just let the process happen. Take a proactive approach that will ensure that you know exactly what you want from your ‘Third Act’ and how you can make it a reality. Create a vision of what you want your life to look like and set goals based on that vision. Consider what you would like a typical week or month to look like? For instance you could decide that you only wish to work six months of the year. This could be achieved by taking on contract or interim assignments and then taking a natural break once the contract is complete. Understand your motivations This career transition phase is the ideal time to consider and reflect on what it is you enjoy doing, what motivates you and provides you with job satisfaction. Now could be the time to look at the potential to work in a new area and explore other options that may be a better fit with your motivations. Ask yourself if there is an area, sector or role that has always appealed to you? Generally at this stage of your career there is greater freedom to explore other options due to reduced family and financial commitments. Break the process down Taking a step by step approach to your ‘Third Act’ can work well. For example, deciding to work part-time can provide the ideal opportunity for you to start the process of transitioning to a new way of life. It can be the best of both worlds as you continue with your career path and it allows you the time and flexibility to explore other opportunities. You can use this time to upskill in new areas, gain experience in other roles or indeed try new hobbies or travel. Consider all aspects of your life Transitioning your career doesn’t just impact the professional dimensions of your life. It will also have implications for you personally and you will have to consider the emotional, psychological and physical effects. Be mindful to take these into account and manage your well-being. Speak to friends and family and gain their input and support. Identify your core skills and experience An essential part of any career transition is identifying your core skills and considering how these might transfer into new roles. Reflect on the skills, knowledge and experience you have developed throughout your career and how you could now use these to add value and make a difference. Think not only in terms of technical skills but also incorporate business and leadership competencies.  Look at your unique combination of skills and competencies and the key achievements in your career. Ask others for their thoughts on what you have to offer. Identify any gaps in your skill set To help you to achieve your career goals you will have to ensure that you have the necessary skills and experience.  When you have a career plan you can then identify what skills you require to achieve success. For example if you wish to build a portfolio of non-executive director roles then it would be advisable to start building your board experience in advance. Voluntary roles on a board can help you to gain this vital exposure. Embrace learning and development Investing in your professional development is a fundamental part of ensuring that your ‘Third Act’ is a fulfilling and successful phase of your career. Remain open to learning new skills and to leveraging technology to help you to achieve your career goals. Identify the skills you will need and look to develop them now rather than leaving it too late. Share your knowledge and experience A rewarding dimension to your ‘Third Act’ is the potential to share the vast range of experience and insights that you have gathered throughout your career. This can be done by acting as a mentor to individuals with less experience or indeed by becoming a business mentor or non-executive board member. Modify your brand To successfully transition your career you may need to refresh your brand. For some it may be a case of just a brand tweak whereas for others it will require a full re-invention of your professional identity. The brand that you are presenting has to align with the roles you are interested in and the career profile that you are now seeking to build. Consider what brand you require for the next phase of your career. It’s about showcasing the skills and experience that are specific to the areas that you now want to work in. Once you are clear on what you are looking for you can tailor your CV and LinkedIn profile to suit this next step in your career. Look at the option of a portfolio career One of the key changes in the workplace in recent years is the emergence of a ‘portfolio career’. It’s based on deriving your income from not just one employer but rather from a number of sources.  These income streams can also be earned from using a range of professional and personal skills. Perhaps you could earn part of your income from working as an accountant but another source of income could come from a hobby or area of personal interest. The message is to be open to all possibilities and options. Take advantage of the market Employer perspectives are changing and many now recognise the valuable contribution that experienced professionals can bring to an organisation. They are more open to hiring senior talent on a flexible or part-time basis. Working on a part-time basis can fit in well with a portfolio style career where you might also have a board position and still have time for personal interests and hobbies. Essentially it is the best of both worlds and demonstrates that there are now more options available in the market. The future of work Significant discussion has already taken place around the future of work and we can certainly see the changes already unfolding around us. The ‘Third Act’ represents a significant opportunity for Chartered Accountants to maximise their qualification and career potential as well as enjoying other aspects of their lives. For confidential and impartial career support visit our career's advisory website or contact Karin Lanigan on 01 637 7331 or email karin.lanigan@charteredaccountants.ie.

Aug 14, 2019

Research and know the market Know what skills and experience are in demand. Do an assessment of how your skills, knowledge and experience rate relative to your peers and other candidates in the market. Try something new Don’t be afraid to take a lateral move that will allow you to use the skills, knowledge and experience you have in a new way. This could open up a whole new world of opportunities and enhance your marketability and career prospects. Consider contract and interim roles Broaden your experience. It may provide you with additional experience and exposure to a new sector or discipline. It will also demonstrate your versatility and ability to adapt. Keep up to date with your CPD Put the details of the courses on your CV. It is better to be seen to be busy from an employer’s perspective. Remain open at all times to ongoing learning and development. Stay in touch with technological developments Stay up to date technologically – keep your IT skills, knowledge and experience relevant. Make sure that your CV gives a true reflection of your skills in this area. LinkedIn If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile or have a slapdash attempt at one, then now is the time to invest time in a professional photo and bio for yourself to sell your skills set. Hit the ground running Demonstrate your ability to deal with change and to transition your skills, knowledge and experience. Show a consistent track record of achievement and development. Positive mental attitude Demonstrate and articulate your willingness to learn and your energy and drive to make a commitment to an organisation. Persevere and don’t give up. Go easy on yourself Don’t talk yourself down. Beware of what you are saying to yourself and if it’s negative try to change this sentiment. If you don’t believe in yourself it’s less likely that someone else will. First impressions count To a certain extent you can’t change a receding hair line or body shape, but you can focus on the way you carry yourself, the smile on your face, your ability to start a conversation and shake hands confidently. These are all simple business skills that can be developed and improved upon. Sell yourself – blow your own trumpet Clearly demonstrate the value you can bring to an organisation. Do this in your CV as well as in the interview. Showcase your track record. Tailor your CV to suit the particular role you are applying for. When preparing for an interview, have solid examples ready that demonstrate the relevance of your experience and also that clearly show the synergies that exist. Demonstrate your flexibility Show that you are flexible and open in terms of the role and salary level. It may be worthwhile taking a role at a lower salary level initially, proving your capabilities to the organisation and then using this track record as leverage to gain an increase. You will be in a much better position to negotiate at that stage when you have a track record and the company can see that you can really add value. You can also outline to the organisation what your plan is for the next 6 – 12 months. Starting a role on an initial part-time basis may also be a consideration or suggestion. Keep an open mind in terms of trying something new. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Demonstrate that you are open to new ways of thinking and that you keep up to date in all areas. Only apply for roles that are suitable Don’t flood the market unnecessarily with your CV. You may reach a stage with a recruitment consultant that they will not take you seriously. It can be very demoralising to receive rejections and why subject yourself to this unnecessarily. It can really zap your confidence and motivation levels. Spending your time investing in suitable positions will help to increase your chances with roles that are suitable. This is a much more productive use of your time. Ensure your salary expectations are realistic Know the market and the rates on offer. Try to strike a balance between requesting a competitive salary that reflects the market and that does not devalue your experience. Obviously you do not want to price yourself out of the market either. Interests Show that you are active and keep fit. This can help in terms of the overall impression you present to an organisation. For confidential and impartial career support visit our career's advisory website or contact Karin Lanigan on 01 637 7331 or email karin.lanigan@charteredaccountants.ie.

Aug 14, 2019
Careers Development

Biological time is a state of mind, and senior chartered accountants continue to be as skilled and as discerning as they were in their middle years. They continue to learn, to assess and to affect discriminating judgements. Employers need to realise that such professionals want to continue making a meaningful contribution to a business. The demographic of our workforce is changing with older employees growing in number. This coincides with a time where there are increasing challenges for organisations who are seeking to recruit and retain talent. For smart organisation who are open minded when it comes to their recruitment process this can represent a real opportunity for them if they realise that everyone, irrespective of their age, has something to bring to an organisation. Diversity is healthy. Having a more diverse workforce which includes a range of ages, experience, disciplines and cultures can assist an organisation enormously. It can bring a new perspective, challenge the status quo and act a stimulus for new initiatives. Obviously younger finance professionals can have the same technical skills, knowledge and competencies as their older counterparts. However mature employees can offer other skills and real life work experience and perspectives that their younger counterparts can’t. The following are the benefits of hiring a mature candidate: Experience Mature employees bring with them ‘Experience’ in the broadest sense of the word - life experience. This can be a huge advantage in the current environment as organisations need employees who have experienced the ups and downs of the commercial world. Typically the real challenges are presented during an economic downturn and this can be a true test of a candidate’s capabilities.   If an employee has a track record of achieving in these situations they are more likely to do so again. This ‘experience’ is likely to result in higher levels of self confidence which in turn can instill confidence in those around them making it easier for them to manage and motivate a team. This is a huge benefit in a climate where financial rewards are not available to use as a motivational tool. Michael D Higgins President was 70 when he was elected and is 76 now! Clear Thinking Experience means that a person is less likely to be ‘rattled’ by a challenging scenario. Mature candidates can be better equipped to make decisions, understanding the implications and consequences of decisions taken.  As a result of this higher level of emotional intelligence, mature employees have the ability to make objective decisions and possess strong judgement skills. Ken Whitaker who died earlier this year aged 100 was the most influential public servant in the history of the State, both during his professional career and in retirement when he continued to advise governments of the day on Northern Ireland as well as the economy. Loyalty Mature candidates bring with them a great propensity for loyalty and pride in a job well done. This was instilled in their traditional upbringing. ‘A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’ was often the mantra used.  During this time the culture was also based on ‘a job for life’ and generally employees did not move jobs as frequently. Therefore, by recruiting a mature candidate you could be gaining an employee with a strong work ethic who will remain committed to the role and the organisation for the long term. High levels of motivation If a candidate has been out of work for some time and is then offered a role the sense of gratitude that they feel for having a job can reinforce loyalty to the organisation. They will have a vested interest in making the role work as they realise how difficult it can be to find such an opportunity again in the current environment. Productivity A track record of successfully transitioning experience and competencies is a huge advantage to an organisation. Employees with greater levels of experience tend to hit the ground running, making a more immediate impact in a role.  This will result in a less costly induction process and a quicker return on investment for an employer. Senior level employees can act as role models for more junior team members. They can demonstrate and display the skills, competencies and behaviours that you develop as your progress in your career therefore setting a good example that others can learn from. Act as mentors Based on the wealth of experience and empathy mature employees bring to a role they can competently act as mentors to more junior staff members.  Levels of intellectual capital and business acumen will increase as a result. The mentors lead by example and impart learning and experiences in doing so. Beneficial symbiotic relationships developed in this way contribute to the success and bottom line of a business. Chartered Accountants Ireland operates a Mentor Programme through which many members have benefited from the insights, experiences and knowledge of their more senior fellow members. This in turn has been of benefit to employers. Feargal Quinn (80) still has a hectic schedule acting as a mentor to Irish SMEs as well as being a businessman, television personality and an independent member of Seanad Éireann. Improved communication levels Maturity often leads to higher levels of emotional intelligence. This is a huge advantage when it comes to communicating in the business world. Understanding the intricacies of organisations, cultures, politics and personalities can be a great tool and can increase the effectiveness of communications. It can help in terms of influencing the decision making process and building strong and profitable business relationships. Garrett Fitzgerald (85) continued to make a huge contribution to Ireland right up to the time of his death. President Mary Mc Aleese described him as ‘a man steeped in the history of the State who constantly strove to make Ireland a better place for all its people’. Contacts Over the course of their career mature candidates will have developed a strong network of specialist contacts. This can be of significant benefit to an organisation. Networking is a crucial part of business today and any additional introductions a business can access can prove to be very lucrative. Technical skills Strong technical knowhow, not just from a theoretical perspective but also a comprehensive appreciation of the practical applications and implications, are skills that one can only develop over time. This skillset adds significantly to the intellectual capital within an organisation. Consequently a business with this in-house advantage will not need to spend money on buying in additional expertise. Overview Each organisation has a need for employees who are dependable, loyal, trustworthy, motivated and mature. To attract and recruit such a valuable resource, employers need to be creative and ‘look outside the box’ when recruiting. They should recognise the business benefits of experience and maturity. There are certainly advantages to recruiting what on paper may be an over experienced candidate for a role. 

Oct 26, 2017