Being over 50 and looking for work can be a scary proposition. A New York Times article details the fears and realities of looking for work at a time in life when many expected to be thinking their upcoming retirement, not job search. Although the article painted a grim picture, the reality is, a job search at 50+ does not have to be frustrating or fruitless. There is a great deal mature workers can do to make the most of the opportunity and end up with fulfilling employment.
Here are some of the top mistakes made by older job seekers:
Being leisurely about the job search. The article notes one recently laid off mature worker traveled and pursued recreational opportunities, thinking she had time before she needed to look. In today’s economy, few people have the option to just wait awhile before starting a job search. Instead, an immediate and aggressive search will get you noticed before there is a large work gap on your resume.
Sending out resumes scattershot. It’s never impressive when job seekers cite the vast number of resumes they have sent out. In a strategic job search, it is quality over quantity. Blind applications to advertised jobs rarely bring interviews. Networking and resumes submitted through warm contacts are a much more successful strategy.
Becoming isolated. Back in the day, a job search consisted of sending out resumes until you were invited to interview. Today’s job search is far more interactive and involves getting out to networking events, coffee meetings and professional gatherings. This may initially feel awkward to mature workers, but it is a critical component to a successful job search.
Ignoring networking. Any job seeker who feels they are too experienced or too shy to network, or doesn’t feel the technique as validity in a job search is ignoring the most important job search technique today. The reality is, networking works.
Conveying age in job search materials. Although age should not be an issue, there’s no reason to make a point of your mature status early on. Keep materials age neutral and let your qualifications and match for the job speak for themselves.
Staying in a dead field. The changing economy means there are entire job types and industries that barely exist anymore. Any jobseeker targeting such an area will certainly have a tougher job search. Instead, update you skills and highlight transferable ones.
Presenting as overqualified. There’s a tendency to load a resume with every job ever held. For highly qualified workers, this may lead to being classified as “overqualified”. The solution is to appear fully qualified, matching all experiences and success to the needs of the open position.
Letting skills get dated. It doesn’t take long for this to happen. It’s imperative for anyone between jobs to focus on keeping skills sharp and learning new ones.
Allowing a large work gap to show up on a resume. The statistics show older workers are facing a longer job search. To counteract this, volunteer, intern or otherwise fill that gap with productive activity that continues to build successes and shows you as engaged and growing all the time.
Blaming job search frustrations on age. The reality is, the current job market is tough. Workers of all ages must work harder than ever to generate job leads and clearly communicate their value. A mature worker’s attitude is the most important factor in a successful job search. The statistics show that confidence and qualifications are the top two factors in hiring decisions.
There is a lot that mature and highly experienced job seekers can do to assure a successful job search. Here are some of the top actions all job seekers should be doing:
- Presenting only relevant experience and accomplishments on resumes
- Adding new skills, especially technical skills
- Volunteering, and mentoring to develop skills and add new successes to resume
- Continually growing network.
- Creating a positive online reputation through online profile, participation in online communities and sharing expertise and value on social networks like Twitter
- Embracing social media as a way to find job leads and recruiters
- Interacting with others at professional events including volunteering to be a speaker or be part of a panel
- Being persistent, not taking the challenging job market personally
- Learning from rejections in order to do better next time
- Keeping a positive attitude
This last item is perhaps the most important. Discouragement, discomfort about age and bitterness will all come through when networking and interviewing. Mature workers should counteract these feelings by focusing on what works and avoiding the pitfalls. In the end a positive attitude coupled with best practices for job search will take you far.