Over-50 Job Search: Accentuate the Positive
By Melissa Suey, Career and Leadership Coach, RedSkyLeadership.com
A reader asks, "Companies say they don't discriminate against older workers, but it sure feels like it. What advice do you have for those of us who are 50+ and looking for work?"
My response: Your question is perfectly timed as I recently finished facilitating an eight-week WorkReady 55+ program, geared to help older workers use age to their advantage in their job search. As we wrapped up the program, I asked each participant to share what was most helpful. How alike their answers were!
Here are the top five things they said:
"I learned that I mention age, either verbally or non-verbally, a lot more than I realized."
Many older job seekers don't realize the messages they're sending when they say things like, "Computers weren't around when I was in school," or "I was at my last job for 34 years." Walking into an interview with poor posture, talking about health issues, or looking pained when standing up after an interview all work against your image. Check what you are saying - and what you are portraying. You want to let people see and believe you are confident, agile, and able to do the job.
2. Computer Skills
"I know now that I need to upgrade my skills, especially with computers."
If your skills are outdated, it doesn't matter how old you are. Take a look at the jobs you see available today - do you meet the minimum skill requirements? Or do you need some training? This reality check can lead to just what you need to help employers see you in the job. Check out the Aging Worker Initiative, a grant program that funds training for older workers in specific industries.
3. Hiring Process
"I learned the way employers look for candidates and the way people look for jobs is much different today, compared to the last time I looked for work."
True. Most jobs are now posted online. And if you want to apply to those jobs, you will need an email address and the ability to search the internet.
I've heard clients say, "I don't care - they say to fill out an online application, but I am just going to go down there anyway and make them take my resume!" Not a great idea. Employers have reasons for needing applications and resumes online. If they ask for that, you need to show them right away that you can follow directions and do just that.
"It was very helpful to re-think the way I present myself in a resume."
A 10- to 15-year work history on your resume is standard, depending on how long you were at your previous jobs. I have seen resumes that have dates listed from the 1970s. If you want people to stop thinking you're old, stop telling them on your resume how old you are, and start showing them how current you are!
"I realized I need to get out of the house, volunteer, take a part-time or seasonal job, or just do something to keep me engaged and talking with other people."
Not only will getting out of the house keep you positive, it can help you make contacts and network a path to your next job. "Who you know" has never been more prevalent. Volunteering or taking a part-time job while enrolling in training can be exactly what's needed to move you forward in your job search.
What Really Matters
I recently asked some recruiters how much age factored into the hiring process. They all agreed that the most important factors (regardless of age) were finding someone who:
- Has the updated skills to do the job
- Will show up on time with a strong work ethic (that's you, Baby Boomers!)
- Is enjoyable to work with
Does that sound like you?
Here are five more ways older workers can land a job.
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Melissa Suey is a career and leadership coach and trainer who specializes in helping people find and stay engaged in work that is meaningful to them. She partners with successful people who want more from their work and their lives through individual coaching, as well as interactive training and engaging presentations. Melissa is Manager of Talent Management for Delhaize America, Hannaford's parent company and has consulted for JobsInTheUS.com, Monster.com and the Maine Department of Labor. She completed her professional coach training with the highly acclaimed Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California. Melissa is a member of the International Coach Federation and is past Vice President of Operations for the American Society for Training and Development, Maine Chapter.