Over 50’s Redux

Over 50’s Redux

My article on the receiving end of ageism in Japan and finding work when you’re over 50 obviously struck a chord in a number of readers, and I appreciate all the emails coming in. I thought I’d share two of these emails, with the author’s respective permissions, about their take on being over 50 and their feelings about job hunting at that age. Interesting to see how people have interpreted the message.

From “Get Documented”
Enjoyed the ageism piece. The problem is that older Japanese workers, men in particular, don’t ever seem to consider that possibility that they might lose their jobs, and are thus not ready when the “hammer falls,” as you put it. The average male employee should be, but isn’t, keeping a running tally of proposals and achievements they have made within the company throughout their career – ready to be offered up to a new employer.

Instead, once they get over the shock of being fired, they feel very little self worth and find it extremely difficult to market themselves. Besides their personal details and educational background, they find very little of substance to put into their resume. It’s almost as if they have suffered amnesia caused by the shock of losing their job. I really don’t understand it. Interestingly, I have noticed that women by contrast are very good at keeping records of career successes and seem to cope better with career changes.

My background is in automobiles, and I have worked with a famous brand Japanese car company from 1991 until recently. I have to say that I have witnessed ageism first hand from the hiring side as well. I have never seen a greater lack of appreciation of a candidate’s professional and business skills than by those interviewing older candidates.

From “Other shores”
There is life after losing your job in Japan. I’m a mid-career 46-year old who lost his senior position after a head office reorganization. I have substantial technical qualifications and an excellent track record and references. Since I’m married to a Japanese and have a family here, I tried pretty hard to find something here in Japan. But I’ve reached the conclusion that there comes a point where the system works against a more experienced person and I’ve been looking at alternatives.

While wondering what to do and going to various interviews, I received a surprise call from a recruiter specializing in positions in the Middle East. I had put my profile on Linked In (a social networking service) some time ago and this UK recruiter picked up on it. After some discussion with the wife, I have decided to take a high-paying job in the Middle East, running a technical facility that is stuffed with hardware that most engineers dream of.

The thing is that my new employers actually appreciate my technical capabilities and are willing to pay for them. This has been a personal breakthrough and has given me a renewed sense of self worth. In a way, I feel that I’m going back to the very basics that brought me to Japan 16 years ago. I’ve gone from feeling somewhat desperate about the future to once again thinking positively. Heck, I’m even thinking about investing in real estate again! I’m told that freehold property investment for foreigners is encouraged and is the honey around the tax-free cake in Dubai. This is in vast contrast to the reception I got when I tried to buy my first house in Japan.

I think that Japan would do well to study certain elements of the success of nations like Dubai. They have managed to integrate foreign talent within the local economy and make people feel welcome. Further, they appreciate that talent even if it’s experienced. My new company is a start-up, but because of the high level of technology, it is staffed by quite a few foreigners that are pushing 50!