Published on February 7, 2016
I read a wonderful, informative article by George Armes, Over 50? 60? All’s (definitely) Not Lost! that provides one great piece of advice after another for older adults to get past the stereotypical younger recruiter across the desk to either get back into the job market or switch jobs. One of Mr. Armes’ points really resonated with me. He said:
“When you’re physically fit, it sends the message subliminally that you’re up for the job. You have a certain vibrancy and energy that people want to be around.”
You CANNOT underestimate the importance of what George said there. And when one is not physically fit, it sends the opposite subliminal message.
Age is a mind set. But if your mind is set on how overweight you are, how you hate the way you look, and with regret for how you let things get so out of hand, you take that with you into your job search and interviews. Additionally, one’s weight will definitely play a role in the types of jobs for which they may apply; and a lack of confidence in the way one looks and feels about him/herself will come across in a job interview. A good, experienced recruiter or HR person will pick that up in no time.
Anyone who is slim and fit in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond does not arrive at that age and that physique by accident or by luck: They WORK at it . . . and that alone sends the right message: “I care about myself: Good health and lifestyle is important to me.” And, that matters to a company’s “bottom line.”
Overweight employees are at a higher risk for developing the diseases that cost employers more (high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke)—up to 52% more in annual healthcare costs vs. healthy weight employees, which results in businesses experiencing substantial increases in benefits premiums. As compared to healthier, non-obese counterparts, obese workers file twice the number of workers comp claims; have 7 times higher medical costs from those claims; and lose 13 times more days of work due to illness or injury.
In focusing on women in particular for a moment, I see so many women in their 50’s and early 60’s who are highly educated, who in a previous life had great careers or owned/operated businesses, but who gave that up willingly to stay home and raise families. Their kids are now either in or have graduated college, and they are empty-nesters (some divorced or widowed) looking to get back into the job market. Some would even like to go back to school to further their education and/or get additional degrees. They have, however, let themselves go, and many of them are not only very overweight and obese but they have medical issues as well. Every single one of them, bar none, tells me how sorry they are that they allowed themselves to get so out of shape. They’re smart and talented and very eager to work, or to start a business, but they don’t have the “vibrancy” and “energy” George speaks of . . . nor the confidence.
Similarly, men in their 50’s and older who carry around excessive weight and who may find themselves back in the job market, will also not have the vibrance and energy and/or the physical stamina of others competing for certain jobs. And, as George wrote, like it or not, image matters . . . especially in this day and age, when so many people are competing for one position.
If an older person who is overweight or obese wants to re-enter the economic market as an entrepreneur and start his/her own business, as opposed to working for someone else, it requires a lot of hard work and long hours. They’d have to ask themselves prior to starting: Do I have the stamina, energy, agility and physical ability to do it? Can I hire an employee or two right away, or will have I to wear many hats for a while? If the latter, what happens if I am sick? Will I have to close the business/the store for the day? Who might I be able to call upon to step into my shoes for a time, or open my store for the week? How much will it cost to pay someone to stand in for me? How will that affect my bottom line?
Well . . . overweight and obese men and women, regardless of age but certainly older adults, bring to mind those exact subliminal questions to recruiters the moment those applicants walk into the interview.
If you’re in your 50’s or 60’s, and if you’re in the job market currently, plan to be by choice, or are uncertain as to whether or not you might be laid off by your company and find yourself in the job market in the future, remember this: Older adults have an incredible advantage over youth: the wisdom of age and experience and a lifetime of accomplishments on which to look back on and feel pride. Start now, and make losing weight one of them.