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Whether you have ambitions for entrepreneurship or just remaining relevant in the workplace, having or building enterprising skills is seen as an imperative.  At their most basic enterprising skills encompass resourcefulness and initiative.

However, there are different ideas about what constitutes enterprising skills.  Some say commercial awareness, decision making, innovative thinking, problem solving, strategic thinking, working independently and communication skills.  Others include creativity, digital and financial literacy, presentation skills, building effective relationships, critical thinking and team-work. Throw in resilience, adaptability and agility, empathy and the ability to synthesize complex information for good measure.

These skills are touted as the most important skills for the jobs of the future.  They are transferable across a wide range of jobs and are valued assets regardless of technical knowledge that different jobs might require.  Enterprising skills also encompass the necessity to be entrepreneurs of ourselves or enterprising selves in order to effectively sell ourselves in the market place.

Interestingly, if you google ‘enterprising skills’ an enormous array of different educational institutions pop up spruiking these skills as critical for students, underscoring their importance for getting and maintaining a job.  If, however, you google ‘enterprising skills and experienced professionals or mature aged workers’, it is harder to get a hit. Yet, many of these skills are built over a long time and come from working in a range of different jobs and environments. While some mature aged professionals might have to work at keeping their technology skills up to date because of the incredible rate of technological change, in theory they should be attractive to employers if they highlight these skills. 

Some research suggests that this is not the case because of a deeply entrenched cultural narrative that conflates ‘older’, not with experience but with decline. Younger workers, by contrast, are associated with dynamism and change.   The new expectation that people should be enterprising selves, demands that older workers take responsibility for ridding themselves of their association with ageing, especially in terms of their appearance, in order to get a job. Hence the necessity to avoid any suggestion of age within your resume just to get your foot in the door for an interview.  This requires considerable sleight of hand to present your job history in such a way that does not give age away.   This research indicates that it is not just looking younger that is important but having a youthful demeanour is also critical to remaining attractive in the labour market.

That said, there is an opportunity here for experienced professionals to highlight the enterprising skills they have honed over many years. Reframing your profile using the language associated with enterprising skills is one step you can take towards addressing unwarranted ageist perceptions in the employment market.

What do you think? Make a comment below

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  1. David

    Having tried all the above tricks to get a job, even at a level way below my experience and skills, I finally gave up.
    I realised my best way to contribute was to teach others the business skills I had learnt over a 30 year corporate career, in top management roles in companies of all sizes.
    So I started my own business as a “Business consultant and mentor” helping business owners and new startups up and running, making sure they have an understanding of all the dicsiplines required to build and grow their business.
    It has taken a while but I am having success and it seems that age is less of an issue in that sector. In fact I seem to be attracting clients of all ages.
    But I am planning to focus on 45+ men and women as above that age now seems to be “Too old”for many businesses. In fact, for many older people, the opposite is true. Not easy, but nothing worthwhile is.
    Tip. Make sure you work with someone who has been there and done what you are about to do.

  2. Andrew Inglis

    It is difficult to be deceptive of age (a baby boomer in my case) when you have considerable experience and knowledge when shortlisted for a job interview. I agree a youthful appearance and enterprising attitude and skills helps but the problem arises when the employer asks about previous work experiences. We are in a world of new terminology and jargon that In reality is not much different to enterprising organisations In 80s and 90s that embraced Continuous improvement TQM, JIT, Employee involvement, quality circles … today the talk is about lean thinking, agile teams, scrum meetings and innovation. The challenge as an older experienced person is the stereotypical attitudes dismiss these experiences as irrelevant. Surviving in the workforce for 40 years requires agility – the answer may lie in not trying to pretend we are young or are fully tech savvy to compete in emerging technologies and compete in the open employment market. Instead use your enterprising and entrepreneurial skills to create self employment opportunities or partner with a young person to provide products and services that we are aligned to. Step back and be the writer, maker, creator, server, coach, supporter is a very enterprising approach to a new phase of life.

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