Monday, August 2, 2010

Job Search Tips for Older Workers

Statistically speaking, there are more people retiring out of the workforce than are entering it. If that is true, why is it taking some people, more specifically, older people, so long to find a job?

Older workers can console themselves in the fact that the tides are finally changing and that employers are slowing beginning to understand the value in hiring older workers. Mature workers represent a significant source of highly skilled, experienced and flexible employees that employers cannot afford to overlook any longer.

Now that baby-boomers are saying that they either need or want to work well past the conventional age of retirement, the employment market is ripe for a win-win situation.

There is no question that many employers are reluctant to hire more mature workers and are loathe to admit it. For the older worker, this means that they will have to try harder to get the attention of these employers. Looking for a job when you are close to the age of retirement is akin to looking for your first 'real' job right out of school; this age group is tasked with clearly articulating why they should be hired rather than that young whipper-snapper with the next/previous interview spot.

Some tips to help the older workers get the opportunities they deserve include the following:

  1. Update your appearance. If your clothing and hairstyle aren’t current, many employers will assume your skills are also out of date, as well.

  2. Stay in shape. Employers will always opt to hire individuals who take the time to look after themselves.

  3. Be patient. Finding a new job is hard work at any age. As an older worker, you have the advantage in knowing that working hard is not a foreign concept to you and perseverance and diligence come more easily with practice. Searching for a new job is a marathon, not a sprint.

  4. Be confident. This tip is a double-edged sword. Confidence is important, but not so much that hiring managers will fear that you will have their job within 6 months of being hired. Stick to your list of reasons why the company will benefit from hiring you and that you are happy to share what you have learned with whomever chooses to take advantage of that wealth of experience.

  5. Flash a Blackberry or an iPhone. Older workers often get a bad rap for their unwillingness or inability to adapt to change when it comes to technology. While you don't need to be a computer genius, most employers expect you to feel comfortable with a computer and accessing the internet.

  6. Update computer skills. Basic computer skills can be improved by taking a course either on-line or in-person. Mastering basic software programs as Excel and PowerPoint could be a real plus. Older workers can also get help at their local library. Public Libraries have computers with free internet access as well as a library staff to help you get started.

  7. Network! Network! Network! Many job leads come from friends, family or colleagues. Working part-time until the perfect job opportunity appears is also an option.

  8. Use more than one job search method. In addition to personal networks, job opportunities can be found in the classified section of the newspaper, employment websites, job boards, corporate websites, temporary agencies, job clubs, career fairs and head-hunters. The chances of securing a new job are directly proportional to the number of job search strategies pursued.

  9. Focus on experience, not age. Fight negative age stereotypes by focusing on the knowledge gained through real-world experience.

  10. Choose a good résumé format. Review the different styles of résumé that are available and choose the style that does the best job of highlighting transferable skills and talents. Always include the scholastic credentials earned but not necessarily the year in which they were earned.

  11. Consider volunteering. Many experienced workers find a renewed sense of purpose by sharing their skills and knowledge with others.

  12. Consider starting a consulting business. Consulting for businesses (particularly small businesses) can also lead to securing a full time job. This tip can help older workers in two ways:
    • It helps cover up gaps in employment history
    • It helps increase networking opportunities


“Career Matters” is an on-line community blog hosted by Mary Salvino. It is designed for those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. Alternatively, you can e-mail Mary directly at Mary.Salvino@shaw.ca