While there’s plenty of universal job advice out there, there’s also a good amount of advice geared toward entry-level candidates, people looking to make a career change after five or 10 years in a specific industry, individuals intent on not job-hopping but career-building, entrepreneurs, and the going-back-to-school group.
Sometimes, it can seem as though few are offering legit tips to a group of people with decades of experience. I’m talking about the over-50 crowd. Where’s the specific advice for this group?
I reached out to several of our career coaches for tailored advice for this particular group of professionals, and here’s what they had to say.
1. Think About Where You’re Valued
Try looking at sectors in which age isn’t viewed as a potential liability, but, rather, as an asset. Think about roles, industries, or particular companies at which senior practitioners would likely be highly valued. Could you be a fit for one of these?
Examples of this may be jobs in which the clients are older adults (e.g., caregiver, retirement services, healthcare, and so on), or young people who need the guidance or support of someone with experience and wisdom (e.g., nonprofits that serve underprivileged youth and schools). Brainstorm what roles might leverage your career capital and, at the same time, don’t underestimate the value of your maturity.
Searching for a new position after you’ve been working for more than a couple of decades can be a frustrating slog in a job market swimming with Millennials. You might thing that youth is king, but that’s simply not the case. It’s up to you to stay relevant. Remove experience that’s more than 15 years old from your resume. Make sure your LinkedIn photo is one in which you’re smiling and confident. Present yourself as someone who’s a quick learner, and an adaptable and effective problem-solver with a depth of perspective and experience, who can speak to current market realities (using popular buzzwords doesn’t hurt!).
Age, no matter what the number, is an asset: Think of it as your stronghold in diversity. The truth is, diversity of thought is critical to the survival of many of today’s companies, who boast customers and users that span generations. Whatever generation you’re in, use your years of experience to your advantage to show that you understand and can serve the needs of a particular demographic.
Focus on your strengths in the job search. With age comes wisdom, perspective, maturity, experience (both work and life). Market yourself around these important qualities. Keep your skills updated and seek training if you're a little rusty, or if you're interested in adding new tools to your toolbox. Your age isn't within your control, but your actions and attitude are.
Unfortunately, ageism exists, but, fortunately, a resume is not meant to list chronologically everything you've ever done in your career. Employers are most interested in the results you've delivered, especially in the last 10 to 15 years. The goal when crafting your resume should be to create a compelling, results-driven narrative that shares what you’ve accomplished and what you're capable of today. If you’re concerned about age discrimination, it’s OK to leave the date off of your education, since it’s not relevant to what you bring to the table.
Often, older, experienced job hunters feel like it’s too late for them to pursue anything new, but that’s patently untrue. In a study by Pay Scale, it was found that 82% of people who chose to make a career change after the age of 45 were successful in their transition—and many reported feeling happier in their new positions and earning more as well. So, if you’re fantasizing about a totally new career, do your homework, find out what’s required, head back to school if you need to or take the necessary courses, and have confidence in yourself. Throw your hat in the ring because there’s really nothing to lose.
Read voraciously about your industry, your favorite skill set, and keep up-to-the-minute on trends in your field. Don’t get caught in a meeting or conversation not knowing about the latest social media platform or the newest publications that industry insiders are reading to stay abreast. If there’s a hot topic or concept that everyone’s talking about, you should be, too. Stay ahead of the curve with both your skill set and knowledge, and your age won’t hold you back.
Numerous research and surveys indicate that 80 to 85% of today's jobs are landed through networking. Go beyond just forwarding your resume and asking others to “look out for you.” Instead, arm your network with specific information that they can share with their connections when opportunities arise that match your interests. Provide them with a list of talking points or accomplishments that will clearly detail how your experience matches positions or roles that are a fit for you. The easier you make it for others to advocate for you the more likely you'll have success in securing a new opportunity.
Experienced hires really do have a leg up in the job search. You can use your decades of work history and diverse, nuanced background to your advantage by positioning yourself as a consultant, rather than an employee. This can set you at a higher salary bracket and give you a more flexible schedule. With age comes the knowledge of what a dream job means to you—and opportunities to create it.