Finding work at the best of times is a stressful, frustrating process filled with anxiety, rejection, and a sinking sense that it will never end — and these are hardly the best of times.
For older workers in the 50+ age group, things only get more complicated.
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The insecurity that comes with competing with younger professionals, and the ageism that drives those emotions, can take job hunting later in life to the point where you may want to retire early, whether you can afford it or not — but it doesn’t have to be like that.
If you have the right work ethic, the right resume, and most importantly, the right mindset, you might find you have tools at your disposal that are the envy of your younger peers.
It’s undoubtedly intimidating for many older job seekers to compete with young, energetic, free-spirited, and optimistic Gen Zers who are shaping NFTs and buying up land in the metaverse. But good hiring managers don’t see it that way, and neither should you.
“Realize that your years of experience is an asset, not a liability,” said Nicole Johnson-Scale, executive career strategist and founder of Design Your Professional Joy.
“Many professionals over 50 fear age discrimination, but many companies still recognize the value of years of proven success. This is a great opportunity to gain some clarity and find a job that you truly enjoy. Take stock of your work experiences and identify which roles you enjoyed and why. Own your strengths and talents so you can clearly articulate what you will bring to this next role.”
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Be optimistic but realistic about the process—it’s likely to be a long, tiring journey of disappointment, rejection, and frustration along the way.
“Getting a job at the best of times is a draining, stressful and demanding experience,” said Carlota Zimmerman, JD, career strategist and founder of CarlotaWorldwide. “We have just come out of a pandemic and political stress. Many people struggle with trauma, so take a deep breath and develop a strategy that will allow you to succeed on your own terms.”
The trick to getting by is to break the job hunt into manageable parts that don’t feel as overwhelming as the whole process.
“Create a daily calendar with small, actionable, intelligent steps,” Zimmerman said. “That means networking, writing top-notch cover letters, optimizing your resume and LinkedIn.”
Regardless of your age, the job hunt mission is always the same – use your strengths to your advantage.
“By the time you’re 50, you’ve typically built a strong network of connections through friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances,” said Andrei Kurtuy, co-founder and CCO of Novorésumé. “Use that to your advantage. Let them know you’re looking for a job and what your ideal career would be. If they know about an opportunity, they can go a step further and recommend you to the hiring manager. As the famous saying goes, it often comes down to who you know, not what you know.”
It’s been a long time since college, but if it’s still standing, it can still help you
Almost all colleges and universities have career centers that offer free lifetime career services to their students after graduation. Keep her promise.
“This is an excellent time to contact your college and/or graduate school alumni associations and find out what free resources they offer alumni,” Zimmerman said. “Many universities offer alumni free career coaching and CV support, for example. Reach out and ask for help. If you already have a specific job, company or industry in mind, ask your alumni association if they can put you in touch with other alumni who work for that company. Remember, your tuition pays your salaries, so don’t be shy.”
Most career experts recommend that older job seekers avoid chronological resumes with bulleted lists of positions held in previous decades. They also warn against bringing up the topic of age in job interviews. Rather than listing or discussing jobs from a long time ago, highlight the achievements you’ve made, the challenges you’ve overcome, the technical skills you’ve learned, and the value you’ve created.
“Extract your core strengths from your notable accomplishments,” said career and life coach Marissa Fernandez. “Consider your key career achievements. These results tell a good story, but are likely specific to your current career and industry. Scale down each of these achievements. Ask yourself, “What skills did I use to reach each? Which of my unique skills have contributed disproportionately to my career successes to date?’ From there, you can consider what other roles or industries are using the same skills. This exercise will help you widen the opening of potential avenues forward that utilize your greatest strengths.”
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