It is not as easy as it was, especially now with the effects of COVID-19. There are nearly twice as many job seekers as there are job openings.
As a 55+ worker, the workplace dynamic was different when you started your career. At that time, people tended to stay on their career paths once they set course. It was common for people to retire after a career with one employer in one industry. Since then, the game has changed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports workers now average 12 jobs by the time they reach age 52.
Identify your skillset
No matter what your past is, let’s evaluate your skillset. Start by taking an inventory of the skills and experiences you have acquired through the jobs and activities in your life. Working, parenting, hobbies, part-time, seasonal work, and volunteering all gave you skills you can use now. This list of skills can help determine your next best path. Don’t just limit yourself to hard skills but also include soft skills. Experienced workers, regardless of industry, have already perfected many of the top sought soft skills employers are seeking in 2021.
Now take the time to research potential jobs and industries you’d like to apply to. If you are looking at changing industries, don’t be rash and hurry your decision before you “get any older” line. You may find that you still enjoy what you do but would welcome changes such as the ability to work remotely or a schedule more conducive to work-life balance. Or you may arrive at the conclusion that a different field really is the answer.
Learn as much as possible about a potential new career by researching qualifications, salary, and market. Talk to people in the profession to get a vivid and realistic picture of what the work is like, how career paths typically unfold, and what skills make candidates attractive.
Dust off that resume
Studies show that entering or re-entering the workforce at later ages is more difficult than at younger ages, but you have a particular advantage: experience. Let that resume highlight all the life experiences you’ve accumulated that will impact that position. Having your resume mix your hard and soft skills will make this more attractive to hiring managers. Successful candidates catch an employer’s eye in the first six seconds in their resume. Whether or not you have recently been in the labor force, you likely have qualities gained from experience that employers will want. For example, studies have shown that employees over 50 are exceptionally reliable, detail-oriented, and patient. They also have strong leadership skills.
If you’re finding your resume is lacking what it needs to qualify you for the position you are after successfully, that’s okay to take some time to build those skills up. Do the following to get that experience but also provide you some additional insights on your new career journey:
- Look for volunteer opportunities
- Seek out unpaid apprenticeships
- Pursue credentials and certifications
- Take a part-time entry job in the industry
Take pride in your background, and demonstrate a willingness to learn what you don’t know. “Worry less about the fact that you haven’t been in the industry and focus more on how your years of experience working have prepared you to understand and respond to the employer’s needs—whatever they are—whenever the need arises,” Executive Coach Erica McCurdy says. “Maturity can also translate into confidence and experience. That can work for you in an interview.”
Another step you can take is to “age-proof” your resume. Limiting what you include on your resume, from a chronological perspective, can help job seekers avoid the stigma of being considered “too old” by a prospective employer.
If you are using a chronological resume, which lists your experience in date order, it may be time to switch to a different format that doesn’t focus on the years. A functional resume will highlight your skills, experience, and accomplishments than when they occurred. You can combine both these styles but don’t go back more than 10 or 15 years. (Anything older you can leave off entirely or include the older jobs in another section of your resume, but don’t list the dates when you worked.) You want to keep your resume experience relevant for the job you’re hoping to land, and unrelated experience is probably just not necessary. Leave all that experience off your resume or list it without dates in a category labeled “Other Experience” or “Additional Experience.”
As far as including other dates, don’t include:
- high school and college graduation dates
- dates for any other courses you took
- professional development classes
- length of experience (like 30 years of experience in accounting)
These numbers may flag you as older, and your resume may be skipped over because of a number rather than appreciating your experience. To show you are a seasoned professional, use this wording instead: 10+ years experience in accounting.
Applying for the job
Another bonus of being “seasoned” is that you’ve likely built up a substantial network. These contacts could provide you with references or put you in touch with some of their connections. Reach out to these contacts over a cup of coffee and let them know what you are trying to achieve, and see if they have any information that may help get you to your goal. Many positions now are filled by who you know, with many job opportunities are never listed online, in the newspaper, or a job bank. Some experts say 80 percent of openings are never advertised.
Mentioning your referral and shared connection in your cover letter can make a difference in helping your application get noticed by prospective employers.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get one or clean up your current one. Make sure to add your contacts on there and use it to search for jobs. Get familiar with other online application websites like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor.
Include a link to your Linkedin profile on your resume. This will show that you’re engaged in current means of communicating, networking and you’re up-to-date with technology.
Your resume and cover letter presented your best-written self but now be prepared to present your best physical self.
Start with your appearance; fashion may have changed since you’ve last had to interview, and updating your wardrobe and appearance will help present an update to date employee. Make sure your interview attire is of a current style. Pay attention to skirt length, tie width, lapel width, color, and fit. Wearing something more overly formal could make you seem more mature as interviewees now dress more casually. This is also dependent on the industry, so do some research on the company before arriving.
Fashion expert Cynthia Nellis says, “the three tip-offs to a woman’s age: hair cut/color, shoes, and handbag. I’ve found that those three things are the least likely to be updated in our wardrobes regularly.” A new contemporary look can go a long way towards helping during your job searching. Also, a new fashion-forward image may help if you have a job and are trying to move up the career ladder.
You should avoid comments about being the ‘old one’ or comments about all the ‘young ones.’ Keep your energy level up and make eye contact. If you feel like someone that employers would enjoy having around, they will want to have you around. Focus on being upbeat and confident; age isn’t a strike against you as the hiring manager wants the best person for the job, which could very well be you!
You can also use the interview to show how you’ve been a mentor in the past, as well as playing up how your age can help you provide insight into an older demographic of customers, clients, or users.
Employers often fear that older workers are biding their time until retirement and will be less aggressive about learning what they need to know to excel on the job. You can counteract this possible perception by designing, carrying out, and communicating a professional development plan during the interview. If you are overqualified for a position, you can combat this perception by clearly describing your enthusiasm for the specific duties associated with the work. It will help if you can reference how satisfying it was for you to carry out similar functions in the recent past.
If asked about your ideal supervisor, you can reassure employers by sharing examples of how you have thrived under younger managers’ direction.
Keep it positive:
- Your posture and body language provide an opportunity to exude energy and vitality.
- Stand up straight, practice having a spring in your step, and greet all the people you meet with enthusiasm.
- Make sure your voice is vibrant and not monotone.
- Think about projecting an appropriately energetic aura at all times.
If you are still looking for more practice with interview questions, we have compiled 21 most common questions. You’ll give our guidance on the best response to each one here.
The key is to keep busy, keep learning and keep making yourself an asset to the company you work for and to whoever hires you in the future. Stay positive and embrace the new era of the workforce.