Millions of Americans are job hunting during their 50s, 60s and beyond. Some of these seniors are looking for a job because they love to work. Others are sending out resumes for reasons ranging from pink slips to financial need.
Seniors can be attractive job candidates. Many potential employers value older workers for their experience and work ethic, and the stability they bring to the workplace. But if you hope to land a job after 50, you need to avoid some key mistakes.
Here are some crucial errors than can derail the job search of anyone who has passed the half-century mark.
1. Failing to update tech skills
If there’s one thing that seems to separate older workers from their younger competition, it’s their tech skills — or lack thereof.
While a hiring manager may automatically assume a 20-something job candidate knows their way around a computer and the internet, they may assume the opposite of an older applicant. Prove them wrong by getting some tech training before beginning your job search so you can confidently say you’re able to use whatever programs and applications are required by the position.
2. Not having a presence online
While you’re updating your tech skills, take some time to create an online presence. Today’s HR departments may be more likely to plug your name into a search engine than make a phone call to your references.
And what will they find when they do that? Crickets? Or worse, that angry letter to you sent to the newspaper and nothing else?
You need to take charge of your online presence by, at the very least, creating a LinkedIn profile. This will serve as your online resume, and you’ll want to fill it with a professional photo and details about your work experience.
3. Forgetting to edit your resume
Today’s businesses get an avalanche of resumes every time they post a job opening. Computer programs may first scan these and weed out the ones deemed lost causes. The survivors then go to a hiring manager, who may give them only a cursory glance before deciding who moves on to the interview phase.
Age discrimination against older workers is illegal. But let’s face it, bias exists. Employers weeding through hundreds of resumes may find it easy to cull the stack by dropping those from people they deem too old.
Don’t let your resume be a giveaway to your age. Eliminate the dates on your education and limit your work history to no more than the last 15 years. Both changes can help you avoid standing out as the elder job candidate.
4. Ignoring your networks
You’ve been around the block a couple times, right? Well then, put all those connections you’ve made to good use.
Pick up the phone, shoot an email or send a text. Be direct and to the point. Tell them you’re looking for a new position and ask if they know of any opportunities.
5. Being shy about emphasizing your experience
A deep network isn’t the only thing you’ve probably accumulated over the years. You probably have a boatload of experience, too. Put that to your advantage.
In fact, once you get to the interview stage, don’t skirt the issue. The interviewer may already be thinking, “Wow, this guy is old!” So, go ahead and acknowledge it.
Explain that while you may not be the youngest job candidate to walk through the door, your oodles of experience will be a benefit to the company. Specifically, stress that you’ll need little to no training to hit the ground running, and how that fact can save the business both time and money.
6. Acting like you know it all
Emphasizing experience is good — to a point. You don’t want to make your track record look intimidating to those younger than you. A 30-something boss may be worried a 60-year-old job candidate is going to want to run the show. The last thing young whipper-snappers want is a mom or dad peering over their shoulders and critiquing their every move.
Sure, you know you’re not going to act that way, but you’ve got to convince the interviewer of that as well. Be enthusiastic about the current business leadership and have a couple stories to share that highlight your work as part of team.
7. Looking at employers who don’t value older workers
Rather than trying to convince a youth-centric company that you’re right for the job, it may be saner to focus your efforts on employers who value older workers.
You may be able to find these employers through these resources:
8. Not being willing to bend on income
While your experience can be an asset, an employer might see dollar signs when they weigh it. Companies sometimes prefer to hire a younger worker who will be content with cut-rate wages.
Of course, you deserve to be well-compensated for your experience. However, some income is better than no income, and if you want to get back into the workforce quickly, your best bet is to be flexible with your income requirements.
9. Being too proud to volunteer while you look
If your job search isn’t moving as quickly as you’d like, make good use of your downtime. Volunteering can be an excellent way to get out of the house and make connections that could potentially lead to paid work.
You could volunteer for an organization you already know or head to VolunteerMatch to find new opportunities. Don’t overlook volunteering for your local Chamber of Commerce or professional organizations in your field of interest.
Are you an older job seeker? Tell us about your experience in the job market by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.