Younger workers just starting out in their careers have more competition for jobs than they’ve had in a long time. That’s because more than ever before, older workers are remaining in the workforce, either holding onto current jobs or looking for new ones. Recent research shows:
- 17.4 percent of people ages 65 and older have been working or looking for work this year, compared with only 12.9 percent in 2000 (Source: Bloomberg).
- 44 percent of employees ages 55 and older think it is unlikely they will find a position matched to their experience and compensation level within the next six months (Source: Glassdoor.com).
- Many older workers are looking for entry-level jobs, including internships. 63 percent of workers age 55 and older who were laid off in the last 12 months said they have applied for jobs below the level at which they were previously employed (Source: CareerBuilder).
With all these findings, it means younger applicants must compete with those who have years more experience for even the most entry-level positions.
So how can younger workers distinguish themselves and compete successfully with more mature, more experienced workers? Here are a few tips:
- Offer evidence of your skills. “Younger workers need to realize that promising to learn quickly, to do a great job, or to work hard, is not as powerful as showing,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of career coaching firm SixFigureStart and co-author of How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times (2010, Two Harbors Press). “What older workers have are more years to collect examples to show. So younger workers need to collect examples. These do not need to be from paid work. Younger workers can highlight projects they’ve done for school, extracurricular activities, or community service. Still, the most important competitive tool younger workers will have is the ability to provide evidence of their skills. In this market, employers don’t have to take a chance on an unproven hopeful.”
- Demonstrate that your age makes you flexible. “Use youth to your advantage,” says Joey V. Price, a 23-year-old human resources specialist and the founder of Push Consultant Group, LLC, a career search services firm. “Are you able to work flexible hours? Enjoy working with a Blackberry 24/7? Can you work later hours or come in earlier than most? Show that your value to the firm extends beyond 9 to 5.”
- Show your enthusiasm for the position and field. “I landed my current gig because my Director was impressed that I had a serious passion for the field and that I had not been jaded by life [and by] experience in the field,” Price says. “Providing that spark to your team is a great way to add value to a firm.”
- Talk about long-term commitment and making a contribution. “No one is going to believe that they will get five years out of an older worker,” says Bruce Hurwitz, an executive recruiter and career counselor with Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. “It is assumed that the next job for an older worker will probably be their last job before retirement. A younger worker can talk about how he or she wants to make an impact and grow. In this way, the employer knows that they will get the biggest possible return on their investment of time and money in training the new employee.”
- Network—in person. “We love our personal technology; it’s given us freedom we never had before,” says Darcy Eikenberg, a leadership and workplace coach and president of Coach Darcy LLC. “But don’t confuse clicking with connecting. Face-to-face is still the gold standard in developing trust, knowledge, and connection — things we all long for. If you have the option to be face-to-face, show up. Create opportunities to network by inviting someone to coffee or lunch instead of hashing an important issue out over email. Brief and upbeat voicemails and short handwritten notes to express appreciation and thanks are also simple, easy tools that help you get noticed, connect more, and get the job.”