Today job seekers and career changers encompass all ages; however, I find that older job seekers age 55 years and older believe that “age discrimination” is a barrier they face when they apply for jobs. Whether this is true or not, a new labor statistics in April may shed some bright light on this issue.
Fox Business (April 5, 2012) stated that 65% of the jobs hired came from the ages of 55 years and older. The report came from the Department of Labor.
Even with the statistical evidence, I want to share possible reasons why older workers make a valuable choice in the job market:
- They are experienced workers, managers and leaders in all different types of work and have overcome the challenges of the last downturns in the economy during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.
- They are committed and loyal to those who hire them. They are less likely to skip around from job to job looking for a higher salary because they understand their worth and can show examples of their experience, knowledge, skills and abilities that demonstrate their worth.
- They are continuous learners. They have had to make drastic changes in their work skills when technology (desktop computers, email, internet, online group meetings and now social media networks) entered and became a vital part of the workplace. They like to read and learn. Their abilities to analyze complex problems and create solutions that work are evident in their accomplishments.
- They can build person to person relationships and manage multiple tasks and competing priorities. They understand how to give and receive advice and feedback in a positive manner. They have worked under different types of bosses. Most importantly, they work until an assignment or job is done with minimal supervision or oversight once they learn the work.
- They are able to collaborate and work with all the different generations. They know when to work as a team and when to work independently and alone.
These are only a few of the attributes older workers and professionals bring to the job market.
Challenges Older Job Seekers Face
Most of the older job seekers I meet and coach share their concerns about the challenges they face and have to overcome in order to compete in this tough job market. I compiled some of the competencies and strengths that make an older worker more competitive. They:
- Feel comfortable working for a younger boss and multiple managers.
- Can integrate and learn the fast moving technologies (social media networks, advanced computer programs, navigate the internet and websites, and conduct virtual conference meetings). These are only examples of technology that has been integrated into the workplace.
- Updated their appearance to show a current image.
- It could be as easy as wearing a pant suit with low heels, a sweater with a nice skirt and suitable hose and heels or flats. Ensuring they have a becoming hair cut. Coloring the hair is optional. For women make up should cover and be light.
- As for men, they need to ensure that the cut of their jacket, pants or suit and tie (if needed) are as up to date as possible. They need to keep their hair and face clean and neat looking. Example, a trimmed mustache or beard may be acceptable.
- Analyze their strengths and talents as well as core competencies. They are able to communicate these competencies in accomplishment, value and results driven terms. They are able to brand and market themselves in cover letters, networking online and in person, and interactive interviewing. They don’t take their “work for granted” assuming others can see their worth.
Tips on Leveling the Playing Field
When I work with older job seekers, we review job search skills, strategies and tools that are necessary in a competitive job search. I try to help my clients build and implement a strategic job search plan the include some of the ideas listed below:
- Updated resume and cover letter that looks professional and can be customized easily as needed.
- Identify a niche, a special type of job or jobs, different position titles, list of companies or organizations you would like to work next. Create accomplishment statements that match key job requirements found in the job announcements.
- Develop networking skills and include both in person and online networks. LinkedIn is a professional business to business social media network resource. Use your abilities to connect and build rapport with others.
- Interview skills are important and preparing for those interviews takes time and effort. There are many books that can help you. LifePath Associates LLC has a webinar, How to Ace the Interview and Launch Yourself Ahead of the Pack.
- Follow up in person and in writing can make a difference in standing out and being noticed. I have stories from clients who “went that extra mile” and sent a thank you note to people they met or contacted. In many instances, they received the feedback from the hiring manager that this extra effort helped them stand out in the crowd. I guess all the emphasis on writing notes for proper etiquette from our grandmother, mom and teachers help older job seekers feel more comfortable writing thank you notes.
Ideas to Help Build Confidence Competing in the Job Market
When I coach job seekers 55 years and older, we work together to build confidence. I listed some key reasons and tips that help older job seekers compete in the job market against younger job seekers.
- Show your professional image in your resume, cover letters, and conversations. Appear confident and demonstrate experiences that can help the potential employer.
- Build on the facts that Baby Boomers focus on being more healthy and active in life; that they think of “retirement” years in different terms than their parents. They expect to work longer or at least keep busy in meaningful volunteer work, community service or self-employment work.
- They are continuous learners and so can adapt to new trends in technology and workplace dynamics. They bring confidence and ability to work with different people in diverse conditions due to the length of their life and work experiences. Baby Boomers can work independently as well as in groups. They understand the need for technology and have embraced most of it.
- They are loyal and hard workers. They demonstrate humility and respect for others. They communicate in terms of value and results and work to avoid taking themselves for granted. They like to “make a difference” in their work environment. Also they know when to show initiative and when to follow policy and procedures.
Lastly, it is a statistical fact that when the 55 years and older worker can retire, they will leave the workforce en masse. The reality for employers is they can’t replace the entire workforce they will lose with younger generations; there are not enough younger generations born to fill the hole. Technology doesn’t replace all that the human worker contributes to their employer and business. Employers will have to plan how they utilize the assets from all the different generations, including keeping the older generation around on a full time or part time basis. These ideas were forecast in the beginning of the 21st century.
If you want to learn more, please visit our website at www.theartofcareersurvival.com and/or look at our newest book, The Art of Career Survival: Never Fear Joblessness Again! on Amazon.com. Order your copy now from Amazon
Good luck navigating your job search even in tough times.