Looking for employment at any age can present unique challenges. If you are a seasoned professional, you may be competing with contenders who have fresher skills, or you could come across age biases in the marketplace. Follow these 10 tips to overcome potential hurdles and give yourself a competitive advantage when looking for meaningful work.
1. Get on it
The time to start your job search is now. If you’ve been laid off, avoid temptation to do work around the house or catch up on your scrapbooking. Don’t take the summer or the holidays off! Companies are always hiring and you could miss out. Learn more about the importance of getting started with your search right away.
2. Spiff up your look
A modern haircut, a stylish pair of glasses and fashionable clothing makes people stop and take notice at any age. You want your first impression to project a positive image – one that says you care about your appearance and are current in your approach and thinking. People like to hire employees with energy and enthusiasm; looking polished and current can project both. If you aren’t sure about what to wear, take advantage of the free personal shopping resources offered at many retail stores. Ask a hip friend for help. Do lots of window-shopping, see how the mannequins are outfitted and, of course, check out catalogues and magazines. You want to be yourself, just current and polished.
3. Be realistic about your salary expectations
If you have been laid off there is a strong likelihood you will end up with a similar or lower salary than your previous position. Remember, choosing a job on salary alone is never good for the employee or the company. Look at the bigger picture – commute, culture, the team, flexibility, benefits – if you are not willing to consider a smaller paycheck, you will miss out on great opportunities.
4. Sharpen skills and training
Contract assignments are an effective way to put your skills on display while making a solid hourly rate. It will also help you work yourself back into the job market while honing your skills. If you think additional training will make your skills more current, there are many free programs available through unemployment offices. It’s worth checking them out to see if one could be right for you.
5. Identify your unique skills
Recognize the skills you have to offer as well as the skills in demand. Think about your background and the ways you contribute best to an organization. Which of your skills are relevant to today’s marketplace? Which are most in demand? What are the skills that can make you more marketable? If you are returning to work after a career break, think about the skills you have used in the past and have developed in raising your family such as scheduling, budget management, organizing, catering, or problem resolution. These skills can be packaged and updated for the job market.
6. Update your skills
If your skills are not current, invest time getting them there. For example, if you work in administration, are you up-to-date with the latest Microsoft tools? Classes are available through adult education programs. If you are a programmer, are you proficient with the latest technologies? Make sure you have the relevant social media accounts too, and know how to use them. Social media is one of the fastest-growing areas for new job creation, and it’s also an important skill to accompany many jobs. When creating or updating your LinkedIn account, for example, be sure the crucial information matches your resume exactly. If you are a member of any professional associations, take advantage of any training they offer. Make sure your professional accreditations are up-to-date, too.
7. Refresh your resume and your online profiles
Your resume must contain key words to describe your skills and job titles that are meaningful to employers. Resumes with a skill summary at the top can be very effective. Reference job boards for ideas. Having the right key words will make you more likely to be selected for an interview. When it comes to your graduation date, it’s a personal decision and an accepted approach to omit the year. Additionally, you can consolidate much older, relevant jobs by just listing the company, location, title and the years, without any descriptions. This can help rein in a very long resume without losing key information. Make sure any LinkedIn or other profile photo is current. Look professional, of course, but consider swapping out the stuffy suit and tie for a more relaxed jacket and pants. Ask a confidante if your clothing, hairstyles and other accessories are current or if they make you look dated.
8. Use your network
Networking is still one of the most powerful ways to find job. Network online with people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Tell friends, family and former colleagues you are looking for employment. Attend local networking events and bring your resume. Share a business card; you can create them inexpensively on websites like Vistaprint. Create a list of everyone you know, including your insurance agent, dentist and accountant; you never know who can help you land a job. Don’t forget to make a list of companies to approach, and then consider who can make introductions for you. LinkedIn is a great tool for this. Read more about networking from other WinterWyman experts.
9. Prepare for job interviews
Take time to prepare before you meet with a company. If you don’t have a copy of the job description, ask for one. Research the company online. If you have the name of the interviewer ahead of time, Google the person and check them out on LinkedIn. Look for any common ground liked shared contacts, companies schools or interests. Prepare answers for potential interview questions. Think about situations you’ve handled which illustrate how you put your skills into practice. Think about your roles and your results. During an interview, do your best to build rapport with the interviewer, and try to make the meeting more of a conversation than an interrogation. When the conversation is flowing, age doesn’t matter. Check out more effective interviewing tips.
10. Let your confidence shine
Smile! People love to hire employees with an upbeat, positive attitude. You have more life experience than applicants newer to the job market. You have more knowledge dealing with crisis situations. You have more experience communicating across the generations. Research indicates mature workers are highly reliable and have a very strong work ethic. You could be an excellent mentor to less experienced members of the team. Remember all of your strengths during the interview process. Experienced workers are often ready to go when the job starts, and this makes their manager’s work-life easier.
Stay positive, look the part, take the right approach and have confidence in your abilities! Strong workers are always desirable candidates. It is very possible to find meaningful employment at any stage of your career.Career advice | Contracting | Finding a job | Interviewing tips for job seekers | Job search advice