Staying in the Game Past 50

Man fixing his tie

Do you feel you’ve exceeded your career shelf-life? Do you wonder how to get your message across when the recruiter interviewing you is half your age? You are not alone.

As we live longer and healthier lives, retiring at the traditional age of 65 is no longer the desire of many baby boomers who want to remain productive and contribute to society in a meaningful way. At the same time, newer generations are taking their place in the workforce resulting in a sizable population of 50 somethings coexisting with an equally large group of millennials.

A common misconception is that the unemployment rate for older workers is higher than that of younger workers. While this is not the case, once out of work, older job seekers do have greater difficulties re-entering the workforce. On average, it takes five months longer for late-career professionals to find a job than their younger counterparts, according to an AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

But, there is hope for late-career professionals! Here are six tips for marketing yourself when you’ve been in the workforce 25 years or more.

Know your value

In his recent article in Harvard Business Review, Chip Conley talks about joining the team at Airbnb at age 52, more than two decades older than the CEO and the oldest of the senior staff. He makes the point that experienced workers have years of knowledge dealing with a variety of business scenarios from building teams to working with boards and investors. This knowledge base can be a tremendous asset to organizations with a less experienced management team.

Before applying for any role, research the challenges your target employer might be facing and clarify your value proposition so that you can confidently articulate it. Read this post for more on crafting your compelling elevator pitch.

Get comfortable with social media

96% of employers use social media as a primary recruiting tool, so just because you didn’t grow up with it, that’s not an excuse for not using it. One of the best ways for a boomer to relate to a millennial is through the use of, and appreciation for, information sharing technology. You don’t have to spend weeks learning Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but for job seekers, using LinkedIn is a must. Recruiters and hiring managers will check out your LinkedIn profile as a matter of course, and without a profile, you may be inadvertently branding yourself a relic.

Leverage your network

More than 70% of job seekers land their new job through a contact. When you apply online and there’s a recruiter involved in the process, the recruiter’s goal is to whittle down the number of applicants, so there’s a chance you’ll get passed over if they think you’re overqualified or too expensive.

Organizations much prefer to hire individuals who have been referred to them, and if your internal contact can vouch for your capabilities and refer you to the hiring manager, you can avoid the black hole of the online recruiting system and avoid elimination by the organization’s recruiter.

Update your look

Since relatability is a major factor in hiring, dressing in a more contemporary manner can help. You don’t have to wear clothes that would be appropriate for a 25-year old; in fact, you shouldn’t. But you do need to pay attention to your appearance.

If for example, Bill Clinton was President the last time you bought new eye glasses, it may be time for a new pair. Women, matchy-matchy suits may have been big in the eighties, but no longer. If you’re not sure what to wear for an interview, ask the recruiter or your millennial child, niece, or nephew. This is not to say you should go get that laser surgery, professional dye job, and gym membership pre-interview. Simply, a more contemporary look can go a long way in making you appear more relatable.

Pro Tip: Another way to get a peek into attire at a particular organization is to do some internet detective work. Try Google
Images, Facebook, and Instagram for a clue as to the level of professional dress found in the office. Of course, no matter what your age, overdressing a bit for an interview—as long as it’s a contemporary look—is still the safest route.

Project energy

Like it or not, first impressions are critical in an interview. Studies show that interviewers form opinions about job candidates within seconds of meeting them. Your goal is to project interest, and enthusiasm. Younger interviewers may incorrectly assume that more mature workers lack energy. It’s important to give the impression that you’re ready to hit the ground running, rather than winding down.

Consider entrepreneurial alternatives

Earlier in your career, job stability and benefits may have been a driving factor, as it is for many individuals raising families and saving for college educations and retirement. Once family responsibilities are no longer front and center, many older workers are ready to take the risk of an entrepreneurial alternative, especially after having experienced a lack of control in the traditional job market. In fact, people aged 55-64 have had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the US over the last ten years, including starting philanthropic endeavors.

To learn more about transitioning into the social-impact space or starting your own nonprofit as an older professional, check out the resources offered by Encore.org.

Age discrimination is real, and there is no way to sugar coat it. If you are realistic in your expectations and willing to be flexible and go about the process with an open mind and curiosity, you are likely to be working well into your 60s.

We’d love to hear about the challenges and successes you’ve had as a late-career job seeker. Please share your experiences and learnings by commenting below.

Susan Peppercorn HeadshotAbout the author: Susan Peppercorn is a career coach and writer with a passion for helping individuals go from surviving to thriving in their careers. Through her knowledge of personal branding, hiring practices and social media, she enables professionals to realize their career goals. Susan is founder and CEO of Positive Workplace Partners and author of the soon to be published book, Ditch Your Inner Critic: Let Go of Perfection to Thrive in Your Career.

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