Advice for “Older” Job Seekers

Many people wonder if they’re too old to be hired.  I’ve noticed over the years that many “older” job seekers go to great lengths to hide their age.  They will sometimes shorten their resume to list only the last decade or less of employment or leave off dates from their education.  On the flip side, I’ve also seen where older job seekers have recently attained a degree and then specifically put the date on the resume to appear younger.  Are these strategies effective? Generally speaking, no, they’re not.  While it could help get a job candidate a few more interviews, it most likely won’t be the difference in getting the position.  So what is an “older” job seeker to do?  Below are five suggestions I would use in finding your next opportunity.

1. Develop and maintain a positive attitude.  First off, despite what you may think, employers are not only looking for younger people.  In fact, many times they specifically avoid someone younger for a particular position because they favor stability and experience. But it is very important not to enter a prospective employer appearing down on your luck, disheveled, or with a chip on your shoulder.  Employers will never hire on pity. They will gravitate towards workers who smile and are enjoyable to be around.

2. Network, network, network.  Last week I wrote about the power of relationships.  This can be a distinct advantage for older job seekers since they should know more people. Since most companies want to hire a “known” individual, make sure you utilize your network and continue to meet new people each day.  Most jobs are unadvertised, so you must spend talking with others to discover them.

3. Embrace technology.  Are you proficient using computers? Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter?  Do you regularly text and e-mail from your cell phone?  Chances are that your next prospective employer is using all of these in the course of their business.  Companies want to hire people going in the same direction as they are. Fortunately, all of these technologies were created to help save time and money in order to make things easier, so you can learn them, too.  Be willing to embrace new technologies throughout your career.  Change is constant, and people who resist change get changed out.

4. Stay flexible.  Higher salary expectations and benefits can be a real barrier for older workers.  This is the main reason that many lose their job in the first place.  Unless your skill set is uniquely exceptional, it is hard for employers to justify this higher cost of employment.  Spend time getting to know the market for your skills as both an employee and as a consultant, so you will have proper expectations during your search.

5. Become an independent.  Perhaps the best option to find work with your skills is as a self-employed consultant or contractor.  Many times, even former employers are willing to hire your services back through this manner, possibly even at a higher rate since they’re no longer paying benefits.  I’ve seen many people successfully transition to this model, and if done properly, can provide greater earning potential and security than previously as an employee.

Older workers have tremendous value and there will be a continued demand for their skills and experience.  But as the above suggestions indicate, it is the responsibility of the worker, not the businesses, to position themselves in a way that will best suit the marketplace.

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