There are about 77 million baby boomers (born between 1946-1963) in the United States, and some estimate that 42 percent are delaying retirement and 25 percent say they’ll never retire.
The challenge is that for those over the age of 50, it takes 20 percent longer to get hired than a similarly trained 41- to 45-year-old.
Recently, I had the pleasure of serving as the keynote speaker for a career expo for an “Over 50” group of job seekers sponsored by the Jewish Council for the Aging, Fairfax County and Capital Business. With more than 1,000 in attendance, including numerous employers, and many informational sessions, it was a very successful day. I offered my top 10 career tips for the over-50 job seekers:
One of the best ways to get a job is by a recommendation from someone you know. You should be networking with people who can provide you with referrals — friends, family, mentors, past colleagues, people at companies you are targeting, etc. It is critical to always carry business cards with you. Use these events to brand yourself. Practice introducing yourself in less than 30 seconds: Give your “elevator pitch” (eye contact, smile, firm handshake), and be sure to share something unique to stand out.
The job application process is not the same as it was in the past. You could be asked to complete various assessments, be part of multiple interviews, be asked to give presentations, among other hurdles. Take the time to find out what you might encounter.
Focus on highlighting the past 10-15 years of skills and jobs rather than your entire 30+ years of experiences. Employers want to know whether you can do the job now, not what you did over your entire lifetime. If possible, fill in gaps in your resume with activities such as volunteer work, classes, certifications, starting a business, etc. List all technology credentials, including recent training and certifications. Try to leave off age identifying information (dates you went to college; older skills, such as obsolete programming languages). Be sure you have your résumé information on LinkedIn and other career-oriented Web sites.
This is where you connect with the employer, sell yourself and show that you have the energy, passion and excitement necessary to do the job. You have to show that you’ll fit in, so be sure to think carefully about how you want to be perceived. Consider a makeover. Updating your look can help in your job search. Focus on the employer — build the case on how much you want to work for the particular firm. Talk about your plans to grow and develop a career within the company with an idea that you will contribute for many years.
In a subtle way, give examples of your work experiences that highlight how you have worked with diverse individuals (across race, generations, ethnicity, gender, personality, functional expertise, etc.). Explain how you can serve as a leader AND a team member. Show that you are comfortable with mentoring others and willing to learn from others.
Reframe the discussion — rather than focusing on your past achievements, talk about your goals and why your experiences can benefit the company.
Show you are tech-savvy (via e-mail, texting, social media). Show how you are a continual learner by the certificates, online classes and other types of education you have completed to enhance your skills.
Be able to highlight how you use a collaborative style with diverse audiences. Use negotiation tactics in the job search (preparation is the most important element in your success; delay talking about compensation until after your receive a written offer: think about your target not your resistance point; use silence strategically; think about their interests along with yours; have an alternative; listen and ask questions).
Develop a support group (mentors, peers, younger people). Colleges frequently extend career services to alumni. Many libraries offer job search classes, clubs and other programs . Look at age-friendly employers (see those identified by Society for Human Resource Management, for example).
Don’t sell yourself short. Make sure everything you do speaks to your accomplishments and the value you can contribute.
Joyce E. A. Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.