Help! Am I too old to work in formal employment?

Dear Aunty,

I am currently job searching but am facing a challenge. I have 8 years of work experience from working in a bank, however 9 years ago I volunteered to retire early in order to further my studies. I obtained a Bachelors Degree in Development Studies in 2011 from the Zambian Open University.

The problem that I am facing now is the fact that my work experience and the work experience employers require for my type of degree are different. I feel this has been my downfall as I have not found employment since I graduated.

Secondly, the last time I was formerly employed was back in 2005. I am 36 years old and fearing that my time to work in a formal employment has run out. 

Your honest feedback will be appreciated.

Aunty says,

Let me answer your second question first. At 36 are you too old to work in formal employment? NO! Many people start good careers or successfully change careers at 36 or even later. You can too. In fact, many employers in Zambia (quite controversially in my opinion) stipulate minimum age requirements (often 25 years of age plus) in their job advertisements. If anything your age should be a benefit to you when looking to find employment in Zambia.

Now let us turn to the positives in your situation. You have 8 years work experience and a Bachelors Degree in Development Studies. This puts you in a much better position than many people in Zambia! You have BOTH a recognised qualification and lots of work experience. I know that you think the 8 years experience that you gained working in a bank is not relevant to the field of development but trust me – there will be many transferable skills that you gained that will be of use not only in the field of development but also in other fields.

I would love to know more about your approach to job seeking. I get the impression that you lack confidence and may be ruling out jobs that may be suitable and/or that you may be underselling yourself in your applications or interviews. Be confident in your experience and qualification. As a graduate you will have developed research, report writing and analytical skills – all skills that are useful in the field of development. Furthermore, you must have gained computer skills, people skills and much more in your time working in a bank. Write down all these skills – I am sure you will surprise yourself with how many skills you actually have.

You should also think about your approach to how you can get into your chosen field. I suspect that once you get into the industry your career will take off. Have you considered internships or volunteer work with charities? If you are prepared to work unpaid or for small wage I am sure you will then be able to progress.

I hope that this information will be of use to you as always it would be useful to get the opinion of our community as I am sure that they will also have some ideas for you.


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5 thoughts on “Help! Am I too old to work in formal employment?”

  1. Iam a male aged 39years old and I want to pursue a course in development studies. My question is that, I’m too old to do this course considering my age?.

  2. Having 8 years of experience and Bachelor’s Degree is a plus in job search. However, I would love to review the process she uses to search for jobs, her CV and cover letter to properly provide guidance. I am of the view that something is missing either in the way she presents herself on her CV and Cover Letters or something is wrong in the approach she has taken towards job search. I would advise her to make consultations with recruiting agents especially in the areas of her CV, Cover Letters and/or the approach she has taken to look for employment. I wish her all the best.

  3. Dear Aunty, I have a problem of finding a job. I have 6 years working experience in secretarial and I am currently working with one of the telecommunication company and also pursuing my bachelors art degree in development studies doing my second year. I have seen so many adverts about secretarial jobs and some jobs to work in a project or something similar to the job am currently doing and I would apply for it but to my surprise, I have not been called for some interview not even from one company, each time I apply for a job I indicate the name of the company so I know how many companies I have applied for and to be honest with you I have applied to 11 companies and I not called for interviews.

    How can you help me understand what is going on with me.

    • Hi Emma. Thank you for your message. Firstly, please note that in the current employment market 11 applications is not all that many. Secondly, are you making sure that you amend your CV or application to meet the requirements stipulated in each job advertisement? If not, start amending each CV or application to meet the requirements of each individual role (for more CV and applications tips check the articles provided for free on Keep trying and keep applying and I am sure that something will happen for you.


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