Silver Mettle helps seniors get jobs

Alina Hardcastle talks to Lizanne Barnett, founder and CEO of Silver Mettle, a business focused on helping people over 50 find employment.

Employment was once viewed as a life-long activity; however, this has ceased to exist. Once most employees reach the age of 50 years and over, regardless of their qualification, the chances of being retrenched increase, while the possibility of finding employment again, decrease.

Once you’re over 50 you are, whether you like it or not, not as attractive an employee as you once were. While you may have all the talent and qualifications that go with it, employers are generally hesitant about employing the over 50s as they believe that they are close to retirement and may not get as much value out as they can. Then there’s also the expense of hiring an experienced person for the job to consider. When faced with hiring a younger person whose salary demands may not be as high or an experienced person approaching retirements, employers usually go for the former to save on costs.

But Barnett claims it’s not impossible to get a job if you are over 50. She believes over 50s must first ‘rearrange their mind set’ when job hunting and if over 50s approach her through Silver Mettle she provides them with the skills and tools needed to find employment.

Barnett proudly refers to herself as a ‘baby boomer’ and adds that she has always been passionate about helping people fulfil their potential. She has run workshops for women re-entering the work force, co-founded a career club for women, and has previously worked as a freelance magazine designer and editor.

In 2011 she started working as career advisor at Career Planet and in November 2015 she started her new business venture, Silver Mettle.

The purpose of Silver Mettle                                                                                                                                             

When asked about why she launched Silver Mettle, the vibrant sixty-nine year old responds, “After running my own business and then working as a freelance magazine designer and editor I started working for Career Planet in 2011. That market is primarily 16 – 35 year olds and I realized that +50 year olds needed something different and special. And again, it is because I needed a different mind-set when I turned 50. I am 69 now but I realised then, that sending gazillions of CVs out did not work. None of the stuff I knew about job-hunting worked. So I did a lot of reading and research and learned a lot. From that time I never had to wait for more than two months before finding a job – none of them advertised until I contacted the person able to make the decision.”

She confesses: “Every time I started the job hunt I still did some of the old stuff, feeling rebuffed by the non-response and depressed by the look in the eye of the HR practitioner. Until I remembered how to do it and so, true to my impulse to pass it on, teach, coach, motivate and ‘help people fulfil’ their potential, I conceived Silver Mettle.”

Finding employment beyond 50

“It is easy for any HR practitioner to be youth focused; it is almost a no-brainer: they can be moulded and trained in your ways, and they are digitally smart and inexpensive. Besides, they are better looking.”

Once people reach the age of 50 years and over, employers no longer consider them for a new position. “They see the date of birth on the CV and it is usually consigned to the recycling bin. So it is harder to get beyond that mind-set. It is really a product of HR practice which is mired in the past,” says Barnett.

Refusing to give into this mythical term called retirement, Barnett adds: “Boomers are healthier than imagined and often keen to continue working, paid or not and HR needs to wake up and use that.”

Senior salaries

As stated on the Silver Mettle website, there is a negative perception about seniors that they are less energetic, are slow to learn; not digitally savvy; or they are over qualified and set in their ways.

Unfortunately retirement isn’t always an option for seniors as they simply don’t have the funds.

Barnett explains: “The issue of earning is tricky, some people can afford to take a drop or even work for nothing. But on the whole, less than six percent of people can afford to retire with financial freedom, so they are often also motivated by the need to continue to earn.”

If you realised your retirement savings aren’t enough to retire on Barnett says “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again!”

Sliver Mettle’s clients

Barnett deals with very experienced and qualified people from across the spectrum such as event organisers, bookkeepers, administrators, managers, accountants, and IT professionals.

She adds: “I am working with many others from across the spectrum of skill, to help them create a good advertisement to upload.”

How to apply

To receive assistance and a helping hand from Silver Mettle, you must register through its website. Once that’s done you can promote your skills for free.

“I am trying to put as much of the advice onto the site so that people can use it without charge. But even then, this is a different planet for most +50s, so I offer a helping hand. A job hunt in a good market should not take more than 12 weeks. When you are 50 plus it may take longer and we are not in a good market, so I offer a programme for 20 weeks,” says Barnett.

She adds: “The programme is highly individual and is run via emails. Generally, someone who is not working should get through the tasks I set in a week, but people in jobs may take longer. I charge R100 per ‘session’.” Barnett says that pensioners generally have to undergo 20 sessions, which in total costs R2, 000. “If people are still job-hunting after that, I will continue to help them free of charge.”

Barnett divulges what programme consists of on the Silver Mettle website.

“The programme is for those people who are willing to change their mind-set from ‘this is the way you job hunt’ to ‘let me be brave and try these new techniques plus work hard at the tasks’, to get there quickly.”

Barnett explains that she does not offer face to face consultations,” I use my energy at my most productive time of the day – usually 3am – so I only use email.’’

She also likes to keep a record of what has been said, so that she can think about the particular individual’s needs and respond appropriately.

Advice to seniors

Barnett urges seniors to be proactive and to think carefully about the next step they wish to take; whether they are looking to head in a new direction or wanting to retain their current position. She encourages seniors to be proactive. It’s imperative to be computer literate in the workforce, once you reach the age of 50 because it is very unlikely that you will be sent on new training course, so Barnett encourages seniors to take charge and ask for training, or organise their own training specifically in computer-related areas.

The advantage of hiring seniors is that they have the experience and can pass that knowledge on. This is why Barnett feels it’s useful to negotiate with employers when approaching retirement.

“There is no such thing as a retirement age in South Africa unless it is in your contract. Talk to your employer and discuss possible roles or other options like mentorship, a graduated withdrawal, consultancy and so on.”

For more information about Silver Mettle, click here.