Although over 6 years removed from the official end of the Great Recession, the statistics surrounding U.S. unemployment still appear grim. Over 12 million Americans remain out of work.
Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, came of age during an era of prosperity and optimism. By and large, they grew up feeling very confident and secure about their futures, believing hard work and following the rules would leave them “set for life.” Those expectations seemed justified until the economic downturn prompted massive lay-offs and government budget cutbacks. As a result, the Boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, suddenly find themselves out of a job — some for long periods of time — and trying to cope with their rapidly eroding American Dream.
It can be especially challenging to find a new job in your 50s and 60s. The unemployment rate for older workers is lower than that of younger workers, but once out of work, older workers seem to have greater difficulties landing a new position. Here are some strategies to find a new job position after age 50.
Start with the following strategies:
Start your job search right away. Don’t wait until your unemployment runs out to start searching for a new position. “It does seem like prospects are best for the unemployed as soon as they leave their jobs, so it might be a good idea to start job searching right at the beginning, rather than easing into job searching while on unemployment,” says Joanna Lahey, an associate professor at Texas A&M University who studies age discrimination. A large gap on your resume and a growing sense of frustration with the job search process can make it even more difficult to get hired again.
Work your network. Although there are certainly many modern ways to find jobs online and through social media, having contacts at the company you would like to work for is still one of the best ways to find out about openings and get hired. “The No. 1 way to find a job is through personal contacts,” Lahey says. “You can avoid a lot of implicit discrimination if someone who knows you is willing to vouch for you.”
Don’t mention your age or the interviewer’s age. You don’t want to call attention to your age by listing jobs you held over 20 years ago on your resume or mentioning your age during the interview process. Equally as important, don’t comment on the age of a younger manager. “Even if the person interviewing you is no older than your children, never make any reference to their age, thinly veiled or otherwise,” says Nancy Collamer, a career coach and author of “Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement.” “Making seemingly innocent comments like, ‘Did you enjoy college?’ could easily be misinterpreted as a condescending and unwelcome remark.”
Reassure a younger manager. Some managers may feel uncomfortable supervising someone who is more experienced than they are. “The big thing to keep in mind is that the person supervising you or making the hiring decision may well be younger than you are, and insecure about supervising someone with more experience,” says Peter Cappelli, a management professor and director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “So it is important to let them know you are OK with the role you’re applying for, that you don’t want their job and that you are expecting to take direction from them.”
Explain why you’re not overqualified. Having 20 or 30 years of work experience can make you seem overqualified for many positions. “Make sure your cover letter explains why you’re right for the job you’re applying to,” Lahey says. “Explain any gaps or why you’re applying for something for which it seems like you’re overqualified.”
Shorten your resume. You don’t need to include every position you have ever held on your resume. “Don’t make your resume a history lesson. Highlight your most recent achievements and the new talents you’re acquiring,” Collamer says. “In general, you should keep the spotlight on the last 10 years of relevant experience.”
Demonstrate your fluency with technology. Older workers are often perceived as being unable to effectively use technology. Make it clear to potential employers that you are tech-savvy and continuing to keep up with new developments. “I think the single most important thing you can do to overcome age bias is to demonstrate your comfort with technology and social media during the interview process,” Collamer says. “There are lots of different ways to subtly let potential employers know you’re tech-friendly: Include your LinkedIn URL on your resume, mention an interesting article you found on the employer’s Twitter feed or be a regular contributor to industry-related groups on LinkedIn.
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