Monday, July 13, 2009

Job-search tips for older workers.

The percentage of workers in the American labor force aged 65 and older climbed to 17.3% in 2008 from 12% a decade ago. And the oldest of the nation's 78-million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) turned 62 in 2008. However, the vast majority of these Americans don’t have enough saved to get out of the workforce at age 65. Tim Driver, who founded, an online career site for people over 50, said the site has seen traffic triple in the past year. And several federal bills now make it easier for older Americans to either re-enter or remain in the workforce and to provide tax incentives for companies that hire them.

If you’re currently over 50 and unemployed, you’re in effect ‘starting over.’ So, now's a good time to think about what you really want to do at this stage of your life. Would you be happier doing what you do on a part-time basis? Maybe you’ve always wanted to try something different instead? Finding a new job takes longer when you're older, so it's worth making sure you're committed to the path ahead. Here are some ideas to help you go forward:

• Through your networking and research, seek out employers where the leadership team skews older. These companies are less likely to view you as a fossil simply because you qualify for AARP. If a company's executives are in their 30s, you might be out of luck.

• Seek out age-friendly employers such as Borders, H&R Block, Staples, Target, AT&T, and Comcast. Look for job postings that use words like 'maturity', 'good judgment', and 'work experience.' Check out AARP's Best Employers for Workers 50+ at

• Alternatively, don’t think about your age. Focus on "making a connection" with the interviewer. In situations where you're seen as an individual rather than a demographic, you'll have a much better chance of being hired.

• Initially, your job is to persuade the interviewer that you have the enthusiasm and skills, plus the interest and ability to contribute. I have a friend who tells potential employers that her age is an asset – she’s stable, hard-working, responsible and healthy.

• Consider "dumbing down" your resume. It's unfortunate, but age discrimination is still alive and well. Plus you don’t want to be viewed as overqualified. If a company says it wants 10-years of experience, it might not want to pay for 20+ and may screen you out on that basis without even asking about your salary requirements.

• Prepare two resumes you can send out, one with all your experience, and another that’s shorter. It helps to always look like you're less experienced and knowledgeable than the person you're interviewing with.

• Don't put graduation dates on your resume. Present only the most recent 15-years of employment and summarize prior work in a single paragraph without dates or durations.

• Emphasize your capabilities, not your experience. Focus instead on the capabilities you’ve acquired during your worklife.

• Renn Zaphiropoulos, the founder of Versatec and later a Sr. VP with Xerox says, “Don’t tell me how hard you worked, don’t tell me how long you worked, tell me what you accomplished. Tell me what you can do for me. Don’t tell me you’re a self-starter or creative. Show me what you did to demonstrate these characteristics. Let the data speak for you.” And that’s exactly what your executive summary should do.

• Buy a computer and a smart phone or a PDA: That way, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re up-to-date and technically savvy.

• Practice answering awkward questions such as, "How long do you plan to work?" and "Do you believe you’re overqualified for this job?"

• Reach out to former employers to find out what non-traditional work arrangements (job-sharing, part-time and seasonal work) might be available to you.

• Contact agencies that specialize in placing people in contract positions. These jobs are typically for a set period of time at a set rate of pay where you’re self-employed as an independent contractor. Typically, no benefits are provided.

• Use Social Networking Web sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo to further your job search.

And finally, be patient. When you're over 55, finding a new management or executive job generally takes twice as long as it does for younger people. Perseverance is the key to success - and this is increasingly true the older you get. “Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” – Ovid

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