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4 Tips for the Older Job Seeker

June 4, 2010
  The older you are, the longer it may take to get a job right now.   And, I bet you’re wondering, why is that?  I have experience!  I can contribute!  They owe me!  Not so fast … News flash – “They” don’t owe you anything.
I remember a funny story during my last transition.  (Well, not funny for the guy telling the story, but the point was very WELL made.)  “I have 30 years of experience, and a Masters Degree.” And, the Maricopa Workforce workshop instructor said, “So what?” Companies are now looking for what you can bring to the table NOW versus what you’ve done in the PAST.  [tweetmeme source=”@Aidan_Foley” only_single=false]

There is age discrimination out there, but the good news is that more, and more employers are recognizing the value of hiring experienced workers, and here’s why.  There are benefits to being older, like having wisdom through experience, more common sense, a long work record of accomplishments, more experience, and a perceived higher level of work ethic.  There are perceived detriments as well, but we’re not going to focus on those.  🙂

If you’re over 50ish, and unemployed, don’t despair.  Here are a few tips that will help you to get a job sooner:

Modify Your Resume

When updating your resume include only the most recent experience (10-15 years max).  If you attended college, don’t list your graduation dates.  The date will draw attention to your age, and away from your highly accomplished experience.  If you’ve been “in transition” for many months, you may also consider leaving off the months, and just go with the years for dates.

Consider downplaying Executive titles.  Yes, you’ve worked very hard to get to your past positions, but you’re no longer there, are you?  You’re in transition, and looking for your next position.  Unfortunately, many Hiring Managers see titles like Vice President, COO, Director, etc. and simply assume that you’re out of their price range.  Depending on how anxious you are to secure a job, you may want to consider softening the job titles you list on your resume so you won’t seem “overqualified.”  For example, try Senior Manager, or perhaps Senior Executive.

You also need to show your potential employer that you know the current industry terms, and buzz words used in your industry/position.  These words also make your resume more visible for employers.  Most companies use applicant tracking software, which scans resumes for keywords relating to experience, job titles, skills, training, degrees, etc.  When describing yourself on a web site profile, such as LinkedIn, or when applying on a job application using a Notepad format, use additional key words, or a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) section that will jump you to the top of the heap.  I always like to use the example of a Recruiter, who can also be identified as HR, Human Resources, Generalist, Staffing Specialist, Headhunters, etc.

Keep Your Technical Skills Current

Up-to-date computer skills are especially important.  Most employers expect you to feel comfortable with a computer, and navigating the Internet.  If you’re a computer novice, and if you don’t have one at home, you could benefit from a visit to your local library.  You also should consider taking a few computer classes.  There are classes offered, free or low-cost, by workforce connections, employment agencies, continuing education centers, libraries, schools, etc.  Microsoft even offers training programs though organizations such as the AARP. 

Be sure to list all relevant certifications, courses, training, and professional-development activities that illustrate your willingness to learn, and keep your skills updated.  The more current, and numerous your skills, the better your chances of finding a job.  It would be nice to have the exact experience in a particular software of your next employer, but if you show a willingness to learn, it may give you the edge that you’re looking for.
Network, Network, Network  
It is still one of the best ways to find a job.  Many job leads come from friends, family, past colleagues, etc.  Older workers should have a broader network of professional contacts.  Get in touch with people you haven’t spoken for a while, call your friends, and family members; tell everybody that you are looking for a job, what you’re looking for, and some of your target companies.  In addition to your personal network find job opportunities on employment websites, corporate websites, temporary agencies, job boards, career fairs, and yes, Social Media.

If you are not on the most popular social websites like LinkedIn, and Twitter, you might want to consider joining them.  You can find informative job search articles, and more by following me on Twitter (@Aidan_Foley), and by connecting with me (if you’re an Engineer, Recruiter, Decision Maker, or someone I’ve met) on LinkedIn ( where I can help you with your transition.  If you’re in a different capacity, I may not link with you, but I’ll still help you.  🙂

If you’re new to networking, I recommend that you read over some of my other networking blog articles:

Experience is Your Greatest Asset

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself.  Focus on your knowledge, and real-world experience.  Employers today are looking for results, not years.  Show them your accomplishments at previous jobs, and describe how that past experience can be applied to their current opening.  What you are capable of, how you achieved it, how do you apply your skills, and how the skills you have will be of benefit to the employer.

Finding a job can be hard work at any age.  Don’t give up, stay upbeat!  I’ve concluded that putting together a plan at the start of your job search, and having a positive mental outlook while looking for a job, will have a significant positive impact on your success.  A positive mental outlook will definitely help you find a job quicker.

I’d welcome any thoughts you’d like to share on this topic.  Thanks!

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