If you’re 50 years or above and looking for a new position, juggling options after your company shut down, or re-entering the workforce after some time away, you’re not alone. What’s more, older workers are a vital part of the U.S. workforce. In 2015, two times as many workers aged 65 or older were employed than teenage workers (8.4 million compared to 4.7 million). That group of “near-retirees” made up 3.5 percent of the workforce.
In today’s tight employment market, employers are eager to find great workers. Mature workers offer experience and perspective. A seasoned employee can accurately gauge how a work situation. And in settings like customer service, a worker who stays in the field for years is likely to have shining skills that employers often want to snap up.
Look before you leap. It’s a good idea for anyone to seek a new job before leaving their current position, but it’s more important for older workers. Statistically, older workers often remain unemployed nearly twice as long as younger ones. Whenever possible, find a new job before you leave one. If you’re laid off, don’t take a break before looking for a new role.
Update your resume to focus on the present. Your resume is not a history lesson. Shorten your list of experience to focus on what you’ve been doing during the past 10 years. Summarize other experience that points out capabilities that are relevant to the position you’re seeking. Remove graduation dates from your education section.
Prep for all types of interviews. Today, you won’t likely be called in for just one in-person, one-on-one interview. That approach might still be part of the plan, but interviews could include a phone screening, chat over coffee, video interview, or group interview. Read up on interview tips for each type of interview so you’re prepared. If you’ll be doing a Skype video interview, conduct a few practice rounds with a trusted friend or colleague who is familiar with how to use Skype for video conferencing.
Tap into your network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a new opportunity, and explain what you’re looking for. Referrals give companies confidence in an applicant. They can be especially valuable in communicating to a prospective employer that you’ll be a valuable part of the team. Don’t overlook local workforce groups. Most cities have at least one non-profit organization that holds networking sessions, provides resume preparation advice and offers other job-search resources. These groups can help you stay up to date on who’s hiring in your market and how you might be able to get an interview with an employer that’s interesting to you.
Get familiar with technology – and show it. Don’t fumble with an outdated smartphone at your appointment or ask employers to fax you something. Include a LinkedIn link on your resume. Before you interview, check out the employer’s Twitter and other social media feeds. You can review AARP’s interactive videos and webinars on how to use social media, too. Don’t spotlight your familiarity with Microsoft Office. That’s a given these days. If appropriate, note your ability with specialty software skills, from HTML coding to Salesforce expertise.
Spotlight adaptability. Employers sometimes worry that mature workers will be out of date and set in their ways. Another worry is that older staff might have trouble reporting to a younger manager. You can proactively communicate that you are ready and willing to do the job you are applying for. Convey that you are a team player who can work with a diverse range of colleagues and take direction from your supervisor. Do not mention a hiring officer’s age in any way, even jokingly.
Be specific about expectations. One issue with hiring experienced workers can be just that: their experience. More experience can mean a more costly hire, especially including the costs of benefits and insurance. Be clear about your needs and expectations, what you are willing to sacrifice and, especially, the value you’ll bring a company. Research the latest salary information for the role you’re interested in. You’ll want to make sure you’re competitive – and that may mean reducing your salary expectations. Companies want to hire great talent, but often aren’t able to pay more to an employee with 30 years of experience when the job requires only 10.
Know your worth. Be emphatic in interviews and thank-you emails about what you specifically can offer. Why should the company choose you instead of another candidate? If you are hesitant to tout your virtues, ask a reliable friend to help you identify the strengths you bring to your targeted industry, and to conduct practice interviews where you share that information.
Remember, your experience, knowledge and skills are worth a great deal. It’s your job to convince companies that you’re the right choice. With the right approach, you can land your next dream job.