Overcoming the So-Called “Age Barrier”: Tips for the Mature Job Seeker

You’ve worked at the same firm for more than two decades. You’ve gotten several promotions and well-deserved raises due to your performance. You’ve made a comfortable living for yourself and you’ve got a financial plan in place. You figure you’ll stay here until you retire.

Then one day, you’re brought into an office, where you’re told the company is experiencing a merger and your position is no longer necessary. You’re unceremoniously “let go.”

Suddenly, you find yourself unemployed at 50, maybe even older. You’ve still got two kids in college, and you’re not financially ready to retire, but now there’s an “age barrier” to face. You now have to find a way to present yourself as employable in a work force that is flooded with Millennial-aged young adults.

Sound hopeless? Believe me, it’s not. There are many ways for mature job seekers to become gainfully employed again. But it’s going to look and feel different than the last time you looked for a job, and you’re going to need to go about your job search in a more creative way than the average college grad. Here are a few tips to get you thinking in the right direction.

Focus on Networking

You can obviously look for work at the standard job websites—Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.—but the reality is that every time you send your resume to one of those job postings, it’s going to go into a virtual pile with hundreds (if not thousands) of other applicants, many of whom are less than half your age, loaded with ambition and willing to work for less money. You could get hired that way, but the odds are slim at best. As a mature job seeker, chances are your new job opportunity is going to come through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth networking. Put your energy where it’s going to have the most impact. Get in touch with your circle of friends and colleagues and let them know you’re on the hunt for a new position. Find the people of influence within your social circle, invite them to coffee and share your career goals with them. Your allies are your secret weapon, and networking is your new best friend. An excellent word-of-mouth referral not only can overcome any negative perceptions about your age—it can also open doors to lucrative positions before they even get posted on those job sites.

Update Your Resume, Highlighting Your Skills and Accomplishments

In this day of instant information, begin with the assumption that you only have 30 seconds to impress a recruiter or prospective employer and structure your resume accordingly. Highlight your skills and career successes more than your job record, as employers today are more interested in what you can bring to the company than how long you held your last job. Place the most important information to the top left of the page. Get help from a professional resume writer, if necessary.

Update Your Skills and Certifications

If you have been “coasting” at your previous position without bothering to get continuing education, now is the perfect time to do it—especially if you’re planning to stay within your same job description and skill set. Learn the latest software programs that others in your profession are using. If need be, renew or upgrade your professional certifications to make yourself look better on paper.

Hire a Career Coach

Of course, one of the best ways for a mature job seeker to overcome the so-called “age barrier” in a competitive job market is to work with a skilled career coach—someone who knows the current trends in hiring and can help put your skills in the best light. Additionally, a career coach may be able to evaluate your strengths and recommend new career options you might not have previously considered.

If you’d like deeper help and insights with your career search, I’m here to help. For a free 30-minute consultation, simply shoot me an email at terrylynn@giraffesconsulting.com, or give me a call at 646-320-1126.