Long-term unemployment is recognized as any individual who has been jobless for six months or longer. Currently, 5.8 million Americans define that category; and among them, are many people over the age of 50. Older adults face unique challenges when seeking employment.
Course Technology publishes a variety of Professional, Reference and Technology titles. One of its current releases is Job Hunting After 50 by Carol A. Silvis.
Silvis has a master’s degree in Adult Education and is an assistant director and department chair at a Pennsylvania business institute. She also presents workshops and seminars for schools, businesses and professional organizations.
Eight chapters comprise Silvis’s message. Following are highlights from each topic to help jumpstart your job search as a mature worker:
Skills and Qualifications
The job search process begins by matching your unique abilities with a company that needs them. Define your purpose for working. Whether it’s full or part-time will guide your employment pursuits. Shift the focus from your age to how your workplace, transferable and life skills meet the needs of the employer. Consider too, your personal traits, like energetic and forward thinking, vs. the old-fashioned ways of a mature worker. Share only relevant abilities vs. listing every duty you’ve done over your 30-year career span. Too much experience can shun an employer. This is the age of lifelong learning. Keep your skills current by attending classes, workshops, earning a degree or certification, participating in online webinars, etc.
Resumes and Cover Letters
No career assessment would be complete without attention to resumes and cover letters. For older workers, key elements to a successful approach include:
- Accomplishments vs. Duties. Highlight your unique value-added accomplishments at companies you worked for, vs. mere duties.
- Contact Information. Provide any links to your professional online presence, including blogs and/or websites.
- Digital Resumes. Write a targeted resume for each desired position. Use industry-specific keywords to help with search engine optimization (SEO), to increase the odds of being read by a person.
- Education and Training. If you earned your degree more than 20 years ago, omit your graduation date.
- Qualifications Summary vs. Objective. A qualifications summary highlights your major accomplishments, skills, education and personal traits. It’s a brief paragraph or bulleted list that employers can easily scan; and provides more insight than an objective.
Always include a well-written cover letter. It increases your odds of grabbing an employer’s attention; and provides an opportunity to expand on information not resume appropriate, including salary history.
Today, computer skills are essential, both in the workplace and during your job search. Increasingly, employers require such abilities for hire; and many available jobs are now posted exclusively online. Research a company’s website to determine its key players. Use industry-related key words in online applications, cover letters and resumes. “This is not the time to say you are too old to use technology or have no use for it,” says Silvis.
Now, social networking is a necessary component of your job search. Maintain a professional presence on the big three platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Many employers use these sites as recruitment tools; and mastering them can increase your odds of being discovered for industry-related positions.
Networking is a ubiquitous word; and its need is often downplayed, especially regarding mature workers. “Creating a solid support system is important for job seekers, especially as they age,” says Silvis. It’s challenging to conduct job searches in a healthy economy and even tougher in an anemic one.
Build and nurture long-term relationships; and you’re networking. It’s also a two-way process. Before constructing a contact list, define your networking goals. The most successful network includes a mix of both personal and professional contacts. Consider everyone you know, including your dentist, hair stylist, Post Office clerk, etc. Choose enthusiastic, optimistic people. Finding a job is often a numbers game; and it’s never too late to begin or resume networking.
Attitude, Appearance and Energy
It’s not easy to maintain a positive attitude when you experience a job loss before you’re ready to retire; but you must, especially as a mature worker.
It’s hard to hear that your appearance needs updated, but it may be a roadblock in your job search. Comb-overs on balding men, and outdated hairstyles can convey antiquated skills as well. Consider doing a makeover at a department store or salon. It will not only enhance your appearance but boost your self-confidence too.
Employers seek candidates who will fit in and bring positive energy to the workplace.
Mistakes Job Seekers Over 50 Make
- Failing to Get Along with Other Generations. Today’s workplace is multi-generational, with as many as four different generations working together. As a mature worker, you must ask yourself how you’d feel being interviewed by someone your children’s or grandchildren’s age? Could you interact as a colleague instead of a parent figure?
- Unwillingness to Change. A younger interviewer may be concerned that an older worker is stuck in their comfort zone; and resists change. Expand and consider how your skills can be industry-transcendent, if your former field is extinct.
- Being Overqualified. “Having too much baggage, even in the form of experience, should not be mentioned,” says Silvis. Focus on specific skills and accomplishments, not your previous titles, which can make you seem overqualified.”
- Not Embracing Technology. Make sure you’re current in the software programs employers are requiring in want ads and job descriptions.
- Lack of Enthusiasm. You must convey your enthusiasm and eagerness to land the job through your mannerisms and words. Express your anticipation.
Job seekers over 50 may be surprised at the number of their seldom-considered employment options. They include:
- Adjunct or Full-Time Teacher/Tutor. Teaching is a wonderful opportunity, for you as an older worker, to convey your expertise to younger generations.
- Entrepreneurship. Launch a business of your own, utilizing your niche skills and expertise.
- Government. Think out of the box with regards to government jobs. Consider Homeland Security, the IRS and U.S. and state transportation departments, parks and recreation, etc.
Instead of applying for traditional jobs, use your imagination and creative skills to land an exciting, enjoyable job in a fun environment, or create your own. “Sometimes a complete change of venue affords the most rewarding opportunities,” says Silvis.
Creating a Success Plan
Statistically, mature workers endure a longer job search. Persevere. Be willing to put everything you have into your employment search, until successful. Set goals, write them down; and take consistent action to achieve those goals. Break major goals into secondary goals that serve as benchmarks toward your progress. Tie each secondary goal to action steps. Realize that setbacks are inevitable, but persist.
Expect to find the right position for you. Reinvent yourself, if necessary; and adapt to available jobs. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone; and try new things. Visualize success. Be constantly aware of what you’re aiming to accomplish, and what it will like when realized it’s realized.
No one will ever care more about your career and job search than you. Throughout Job Hunting Over 50, “Take Charge” summary boxes serve as signs of your career success accountability.
Finding employment in mid-life does have its own challenges; and Silvis shows us it’s possible. Preparation, persistence and positivity are key. Many libraries and programs funded at the federal, state and local level, provide workshops on topics including Behavior-based interviewing and resumes. Make sure you’re utilizing your community resources to gain a competitive advantage; and realize your employment goals.