Finding a new job at 50 has its challenges. But there are also advantages to hiring an older worker. That’s why, as an older job seeker, you need to be aware of the biases, obstacles and misconceptions so you can win over your future employer with your relevant, valuable experience.
This guide will teach you how to get a good job after 50, and help you understand the state of the job market for older professionals.
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What It’s Like Searching For A Job After 50
There are many who find themselves looking for a new job later in life, and I would love to say it is easy. There are challenges, some internal and some external, that make job search harder for those over 50.
But first, let’s take a quick look at the state of the job market for professionals over 50 so you understand what’s happening.
The Number Of Workers Over 50 Is Growing
We are living longer, taking better care of our health and as a result, many workers chose to stay in the workforce longer (well past the traditional retirement age of 65).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted the labor force participation rate:
“ is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population—most notably, people ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older—through 2024.”
Many Professionals Over 50 Are In Management Roles
Furthermore, workers over 50 have typically peaked in their careers.
“Workers ages 55 and older were employed across many types of occupations in 2016, according to BLS. More than 42 percent of these workers were in management, professional, and related occupations, a somewhat higher proportion than that for all workers.” BLS 2017
That’s not to say there aren’t greater times ahead for these older workers in management roles. The truth is, they may no longer be interested in a leadership role. As a result, many 50+ are looking for a new career either by choice or forced into one due to downsizing, which usually impacts older workers.
There Are Advantages To Searching For A Job After 50
An employee over 50 brings wisdom and experience to the job. They also tend to:
- Have better leadership skills
- Have a strong work ethic
- Stay in jobs longer and take fewer days off
- Be more loyal employees
- Have strong networks
So if you are wondering how to get a job after 50, and show off the assets of an older worker, follow the tips below.
Tips For Job Hunting After 50
No matter the reason, embarking on a job search later in your career requires reflection and research. It’s not as easy as throwing your resume on job sites. Furthermore, the job search landscape has changed. Recruiters are researching candidates online to learn more about them. And not having a LinkedIn profile or positive online reputation can hurt older candidates. It may further boost the bias that older workers are not tech savvy.
So why wouldn’t employers want to hire a seasoned professional who has vast amounts of knowledge? Good question. The tips below should help you understand the often flawed logic of some recruiters and hiring managers and how to get a good job after 50.
1. Reevaluate What’s Important
At this point in your career and life, it’s likely that your values have changed. You may not want a position that requires working extreme hours. Take some time to think about what’s important to you at this stage in your life so you will be able to pursue the right types of roles with the right types of organizations.
Clients I’ve worked with often say that giving back or making a difference is now more important to them. I’ve also worked with older job seekers who were more concerned about having flexibility in their work schedule.
Use your redefined values to explore the types of roles and types of organizations that would be a fit for what you are looking for. You are in no way locked in to the same type of job you once held. It’s quite common for job seekers over age 50 to want something different. You aren’t the first person over 50 who has decided to reinvent their career aspirations.
There are some things you should think about. Do you want:
- More or less responsibility?
- To give back and work for a non-profit?
- Freedom to travel and work remotely?
- To work part-time?
- To start your own business?
- Something to keep you busy until you retire
You have so many options to choose from. So your next step is to define what you are looking for.
2. Know What You Are Looking For
HR or recruiters aren’t match makers. They put people in clearly defined roles. During your conversations and on all your job search marketing materials (resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile) you want to make it crystal clear what roles you are looking for. And I say role because not all companies use the same job titles.
Your last employer may have called you a Marketing Manager, but other companies may call this New Business Development Manager, Sales Manager, or even Business Intelligence Manager.
Having conversations with people you know can help you get clarification in a way that feels safer. Your network may know about openings or be able to make introductions. So it’s important to have conversations.
3. Have Conversations
Job seekers over 50 have a major advantage over their younger competition. You have a long list of contacts in your network, and these people are your ticket to a new job.
Most job seekers rely on searching online job boards for opportunities. And while that seems like the obvious solution, it isn’t the preferred method for hiring by employers. In fact, more jobs are filled through referrals than any other source. This means you’ll want to tap into the power of your vast network to help pave the way to a job interview.
Having conversations with past colleagues, vendors, friends and even family provides you with the opportunity to share exactly what you are looking for.
If you feel ashamed or embarrassed by the fact that you are looking for a new job at this point in your career. You should know that millions of older workers have found themselves unemployed later in life. You aren’t alone.
4. Know Where You Want To Work
It’s equally important for you to define the types of employers you would like to work for. Often this is referred to as a target list. Your decision can be based on location, industry, reputation/culture, size or other factors.
It will help you network more strategically if you create a list of 40-50 companies you would like to pursue. As you talk to people you should ask for introductions to people who work for some of the companies on your target list or ask what they know about those companies.
5. Be Prepared To Overcome “You’re Too Expensive”
You won’t be seen as too-expensive if you help the employer solve their problems faster or less-expensively. An advantage to being an older worker is that you have experience saving companies money, streamlining processes and improving productivity. Be sure to share those examples and explain how you can get the same results for a future employer.
Employers have pay bands and budgets for each job. These pay ranges can vary by size of company and industry as well. It’s up to you to do the salary research so you understand what the ranges are for the work you are pursuing. Your last salary may not be in line with what other companies pay.
6. You’re Perfectly Qualified, Not Overqualified
If you have 20+ years of experience and the job only asks for 5-7, you are overqualified.
A common concern about hiring someone who may be overqualified is that they’ll get bored or frustrated and leave. If you are not willing to do a lesser job (for lesser pay) don’t bother pursuing these types of jobs.
Keep in mind that there are more jobs at the lower levels of a company and fewer senior roles. And senior roles tend to be filled by promoting internal candidates. This is why it’s important for you to network with company insiders.
And if you truly want to step down from your previous responsibilities or break into a new industry at a lower level, you’ll want to mention that in your opening conversation or correspondence.
You can positively explain this by starting with “I’m interested in pursuing a job as a X because it brings me back to work I loved doing the most.” This could be getting closer to the customer and seeing the impact, working on a team of like-minded thinkers, or whatever your reason is. Focus on the exact skills/talents/abilities the employer is looking for.
7. Don’t Say Been There, Done That
You certainly have “been there and done that,” but your experience and expertise can sometimes be seen as intimidating. Will you be telling them how to do it your way? So instead of focusing solely on your previous success, help your future employer see how you are open to embracing new ideas.
Innovation and disruption are the new buzz words for companies. Companies are looking for employees who can help take them to the next level. This requires older job seekers to be familiar with new technology, new ways of doing things and not being afraid to try untested ideas.
8. Speak Technology
It’s not enough to say you “learn new technology quickly.” Companies want someone who can help apply new methodologies or tools. Are you comfortable enough with the technology to talk to your future employer about how they can use it or modify it to improve their business functions?
The best way to find out how important the software is to a company is by speaking with someone who works inside the company. If you discover it is critically important, you’ll want to learn everything you can about the software by watching Youtube videos, attending courses and getting your hands on the technology.
9. Show You Are Relevant
Are your skills fresh? Are you a life-long-learner? It’s easy to be so focused on our current job that we forget to stick our heads out of the sand and see what other companies are doing and follow new tools and trends in our industry.
One of the best ways to stay up-to-date on things happening in your industry is to read industry news, hold a professional association membership and/or enroll in training. And it doesn’t hurt to enhance your personal reputation and personal brand by getting quoted in industry publications, participating in conferences and being a guest on podcasts or live streamed shows.
10. Show Ambition
Another concern about over 50 workers is that they just want to coast through their remaining years in the workforce. Employers want to know that you are committed to working and that you’ll do the work well.
They aren’t as concerned that you’ll work for them for 10 years, but they do want to see you are enthusiastic about working for them in the available role. It’s up to you to show the employer you are interested in working for them and not just there to collect a paycheck.
11. Prove You’re Flexible
Can you make rapid changes? Can you embrace new ideas? Flexibility and adaptability are required skills in today’s workforce when things can change quickly. Provide stories on your resume and in your LinkedIn experience section of times when you’ve had to adapt, change or re-invent.
12. Partner With Younger Workers
You will most likely be older than your colleagues but age is just a number. Show that you are a mentor and collaborator with all ages and levels.
As an experienced professional, showing your ability to work well with different types of people is something you have more practice at than others. Let this advantage shine and know that it is an asset to a future employer.
13. Retool Your Resume
To avoid being seen as old or irrelevant, you want your resume to look like it was created recently. One of the easiest ways to freshen up your resume is by updating the font you use to something more modern, such as Ariel or Calibri.
Another thing that screams old is a yahoo or hotmail email address. Switch to gmail account. You can also eliminate these old sections from your resume: a generic objective statement and “references available upon request.”
For more ideas on what you can do to give your resume a more modern look, review modern resume examples online. Pay attention to the resume trends by industry and type of role.
There are still a couple more things you can do to update your resume:
First, remove graduation dates from education older than 5 years. (Recent education dates are good!) Second, you may need to cut your resume off at 10-15 years. If you have been with one company for more than 15 years, consider listing only the jobs held in the last 15 years. And only put the dates next to the jobs, not the full term of employment. You see, your most recent experience is what employers are most interested in. It shows what you are capable of today.
Finally, include examples and stories that accentuate the skills mentioned above. Be sure to list more accomplishments under your recent jobs and spend less time and space on older jobs.
14. Leverage LinkedIn
LinkedIn is so much more than an online resume. It’s a powerful platform to meet new people, have conversations, and learn. Invest time updating the information in your LinkedIn profile, ensure you are regularly commenting or posting updates, and you are regularly connecting with people you meet and used to know.
15. Master Interview Preparation
Now that you’re at the interview phase of job search, it’s time to put all these tips into practice. Your entire interview, from your answer to “tell me about yourself,” to “why do you want to work here” to the types of questions you ask, all help show the interviewer you are not the stereotypical Boomer.
Here are a few more things to do to help you master the interview. Familiarize yourself with video interview technology before the interview. Evaluate your wardrobe, hairstyle and eye glasses to make sure they help you look contemporary. Finally, during your interview, convey energy and enthusiasm (also be prepared for common behavioral interview questions).
16. Plan and Prepare For A Longer Search
Your search may take longer than you want, and there are a couple of reasons for this:
First, there are fewer openings for the types of roles you are looking for because companies have fewer senior roles. And second, it may be more challenging for you to explain your career change.
To help you plan, the rough estimate is one month of job search for every $10,000 you made. This means if you were making $90,000, you can expect to spend 9 months looking for a new job.
Figuring out how to get a good job after 50 is uniquely challenging. But the biases or incorrect assumptions employers have about older workers won’t apply to you if you use the strategies and tips outlined above.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.