World-famous chef Julia Child didn’t make her debut on “The French Chef” until the age of 51, Laura Ingalls Wilder (of “Little House on the Prairie” fame) published her first book at age 65, and the late actor John Mahoney was 53 when he landed the role that would make him a star – as Martin Crane on “Frasier.”
Clearly, success can come at any age; however, that doesn’t make finding a job after the age of 50 any easier. It’s sad but true that although age discrimination is illegal, it still exists. Many employers have preconceived notions about older workers. Among the most common: They cost too much, they lack motivation, and they either don’t understand or fear technology.
Despite research that dispels these myths, these negative stereotypes persist; however, they needn’t hold you back. If you’re over 50, the key to a successful job search is not only to disprove the negative stereotypes that exist, but to show employers the benefits your extra years of experience can bring them.
Make over your resume and cover letter
Don’t give employers the chance to immediately dismiss you based on your age by “age-proofing” your resume. There’s no need to mention every job you’ve ever had. Limit your work experience to the last 10 – 15 years and keep it relevant to the job you’re hoping to land. (This may mean created different resumes for different jobs.) If you have a college or professional degree, leave the dates off your resume.
Your cover letter is critical, as well. Review these cover letter tips for older job seekers to learn what to include in your cover letter, how to showcase your skills, and how to effectively market your candidacy to employers.
Highlight what sets you apart
Your experience and years in the workforce give you critical life skills, talents and abilities that younger workers don’t have. Emphasizing these strengths can set you apart. These strengths include (but certainly aren’t limited to) your problem-solving skills, work ethic, good judgment and leadership. Come up with concrete examples of times you’ve displayed these skills to help prove that your experience is an asset.
Address employers’ concerns
When interviewing (and even when writing your cover letter), address any concerns an employer might have about hiring someone over 50. Talk about your flexible management style, technological proficiency, ability to learn new skills and the willingness to work for a younger boss. Before going into an interview, come up with concrete examples of how you’ve mastered new technologies, how you’ve worked with and for younger generations and how your management style has developed through the years.
Conducting a successful job search
Many 50-plus job seekers are finding themselves in a job search for the first time in years – even decades. If you fall into this category, and are unsure how to go about your job search, consider the following:
Expand your network: While a lot about the workplace has changed since mature workers first entered the workforce, one thing remains true: the adage that “it’s who you know” still applies. The benefit of being a job seeker over 50 is that you probably have a well-developed professional network. Reach out to your network to let them know you’re looking for work, ask for referrals, and be open to making new connections. Also, take advantage of social media to build your network and accelerate your job search.
Focus on small companies: If you’re over 50, you might find more opportunities by focusing your search on a small company. Not only are there simply more small companies around, but small companies tend to be less concerned with age and more concerned with finding individuals with great experience who can help them grow their business.
Focus on growing fields: A recent report from AARP suggests the following careers are particularly hungry for experienced workers and could be great fits for workers over 50. Below is a sampling of positions (see the full list here):
- Health diagnosing and treating practitioners: These include pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists, therapists and dentists.
- Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing: These include sales representatives,sales executives, sales consultants and direct salespersonjobs.
- Computer occupations: These include computer and information research scientists, computer system analysts, programmers and computer user support specialists.
- Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations and sales managers. These include advertising and promotions managers, marketing managers and public relations positions.
- Motor vehicle operators: These include ambulance drivers, bus drivers, tractor-trailer truck drivers and delivery-services drivers.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. With the unemployment rate at 3.9 percent, it’s a job seeker’s market, and you have more to offer than you know.