Jobhunting over 50? 10 strategies to stay competitive

Let's face it – ageism is real. You can offset any negative assumptions about older workers, however, by carefully managing your image. Here are some suggestions.

My story

After my 30-year career ended, I began searching for a new job only to discover that my age and experience were not as valuable as I hoped. I joined the growing number of workers who plummeted from being high performing corporate citizens to inexperienced job seekers. And the market place was not overly welcoming.   

For women over 50 getting a job became much harder after the 2008 crash. In 2013 half these job seekers were unemployed for over 27 weeks. Furthermore, once you get a new job, it is likely that your new salary will be 25% lower. Because today’s job market pits older workers against new graduates, companies favor younger employees at lower salaries.

Ageism is real

When employers were given resumes which were identical except for the age, the call back rate for middle-age applicants was ¼ lower than for younger applicants, and it declined by another ¼ for applicants from middle-age to applicants age 65. Studies suggest that age discrimination starts as young as 35. Although age discrimination is illegal, it is difficult to prove in the hiring process as a qualified candidate is always selected. When dismissing an employee companies never identify age as the reason for dismissal, and most claims are settled out of court. Companies use job postings to exclude older applicants by advertising entry-level positions requiring recent graduates, or less than 2 years of experience.

Negative assumptions about older workers are unfounded. The common myths are that older employees are:

  • Not current with technology and lack computer skills
  • Set in their ways which makes them difficult to train
  • Will leave when a better opportunity comes along

Facts show that older employees are as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts and are less stressed when learning new technology. Both applicant pools have comparable performance, and invest in learning new skills and keeping fit.

Employee loyalty is equivalent with 58% of millennials expecting to leave their job in less than 3 years for better opportunities. There is no evidence that investing in younger employees is better.

Flip the script!

Offset these negatives by managing your image. Construct a “young” resume, think and act with youthful exuberance. Here are some suggestions:

1. Dress and act young

Be positive, spruce your image by purchasing a new interview outfit, get a haircut and put a spring in your step. Act the part!

2. Build your web presence

Create a profile on LinkedIn. Goggle your name and see what comes up, this is what your future employer will find.

3. Give your resume a facelift

Remove dates and unrelated experience. Show only your past 10 years of experience, and omit graduation dates.

4. Stay current

Get certifications in your field, read articles, become familiar with new acronyms and emerging trends.

5. Be technically literate

Keep your skills current. This also applies to your personal electronics.

6. Grow your network

Experts report that 85% of jobs were a result of networking.  In addition to vying for advertised positions, networking exposes you to approximately 80% of jobs, which are never published.

7. Volunteer

Use volunteer activities to expand your skills or hold a leadership position. Volunteerism shows you are active. It is an easy way to build your network connecting with people who share your passion.

8. Choose your targets carefully

Look for a company whose culture values experience and diversity

9. Showcase your successes

In an interview explain how your experience can benefit your future employer! Probe for business problems that you have solved. This changes the dynamics of the conversation and shows your maturity and knowledge while positioning you as a trusted advisor.

10. Consider alternatives career paths…

…such as consulting or entrepreneurship. 60% of the women who started a business in 2016 were over 45 years old.  

Take stock of yourself

Use this transition as an opportunity to rediscover and follow your passion. You can select a job that excites you, or create your own. I know how scary it is to face today’s job market, the rejections can be devastating, but it can also be freeing. Take time to explore, test the water and try something different. If it does not work, pick yourself up and start all over again!

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