Job hunting can be discouraging, especially when you’re over 50. There’s competition with a large pool of highly qualified younger candidates, gaps in desired skill sets, and even our own personal insecurities about aging. Here are 3 tips that will help arm you with the confidence and tools you need for a successful job search.
1. Assert yourself!
Scenario: You have a great work history and have stayed current with your computer skills. You’re reliable and have great work habits. When your employer closed its doors, you were out of work through no fault of your own. You’re well qualified for the jobs you pursue but get few interviews. When you interview, nothing happens. You wonder if you should revise your resume so you appear younger. You’ve even considered coloring your hair and buying a “younger” outfit. You walk into interviews, and you think the recruiter can see right through you and see nothing but an older guy.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Ageism is ingrained in our society, so job seekers over age 50 run into this all the time. Your age is something you can’t change, but the secret is not wanting to.
There is immense value in the wisdom, institutional knowledge, and the experience you’ve been accumulating in the workforce. If you want to convince a recruiter of your economic and social value, you have to be comfortable with who you are. When you’re confident with your experience and age, interviewers will react to your confidence. Remember, age is just a number!
Assert yourself, your capabilities, your knowledge, and your value. Some employers will get it, and some won’t.
2. Effectively prepare for the job search battle
Scenario: You’ve been out of the workforce for some time, and you’ve had periods of unemployment while attending to family obligations. When you were working, you had numerous jobs. You’re ready to get a job, but you’re not certain of the kind of work you want or how to present your work experience in a resume.
This is another scenario that’s not unusual. The key to success here is to tackle each part of the job search process with a plan.
- Work objective. Start by making a list of your strongest capabilities and talents. What do you do well and enjoy most? Identify what you can do for an employer, not what you’ve done in the past. From this list of capabilities, identify several specific jobs you would be qualified for and are likely to be available in your community. Use your imagination and think about what jobs could appeal to you in hospitals, schools, retailers, nonprofits, caregiving, and office administration, to name a few.
- Your resume. Know what a good resume looks like. Start with a specific statement of what job you would like. Follow this with a listing of your strengths and talents. If you have gaps in your work history, put a brief paragraph at the end of the resume explaining the time spent with personal obligations. Employers have become more understanding of time spent away from work to care for family members. Visit the Career One Stop Center in your state if you need additional help with your resume.
- Identify employers. Prepare a list of 15-20 employers and each day, contact two or three. Visit their facilities and try to meet someone who’s involved with hiring. Stay focused on these employers until the list is exhausted, and then make a new list.
3. Be persistent
Scenario: You’ve had several interviews, and one job in particular is very appealing. But you haven’t heard back from anyone since your interview two weeks ago. You don’t want to be a pest, but it’s horrible not getting any feedback (good or bad).
It used to be that companies responded to every candidate who applied for a job, but today it’s up to you to keep in contact. Don’t hound employers, but standing out for being a bit too persistent can often give you an advantage. You can’t wait two weeks to follow up, so have a plan for how you’ll follow up after every interview.
Never leave an interview without the name, title, address, email, and phone number of the individual who’s directing the job search. Try to get a sense of the hiring timeline and when you can expect a follow-up conversation. When you send your thank you note or email, mention that you will be in touch on a regular basis. Send a follow-up email one week after your interview that emphasizes your interest in the position and clearly states, “this is the job I want.” If you get no response within two days, phone the employer every few days until you get an answer.
Create a reason to communicate! Send additional information or samples of your work. Job seekers are seldom hired for patience and humility. Be totally professional, but go after that job until you get it or until the employer tells you to stop contacting them.
Armed with these tips, you can overcome some of your job hunt challenges. Just remember to prepare a solid resume and list of viable employers and always be assertive and persistent.