Being out of work is hard, being unemployed and in your 50’s can be impossible. While companies won’t admit it, age discrimination does exist, particularly in a tight job market where there are many more candidates than job openings. Although the problem crosses both genders, older women reentering the job market can have an even tougher time. According to the September jobs report, women 55 and older who have been out of work for longer than 27 weeks increased from 50.9% in August to 54% in September.
Older workers looking for employment may think they have to act or dress younger to land a job in this economy, but career experts and headhunters say they should use what they have to their favor: knowledge and experience.
“In life there are the Justin Bieber’s and the Sean Connery’s,” says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. “There’s no shame in being Sean Connery.”
According to Jaffe, often older job seekers make the mistake of focusing on their past achievements and calling attention to themselves, preemptively laying out an argument why their age won’t matter, when they should be talking about what their goals are for the future and why their wisdom and age can actually benefit the company.
“The question I want answered by someone (regardless of age) is are they playing their greatest hits or are they cranking out new music,” says Jaffe. He says to avoid talking about your age on an interview, but instead talk about how your experience puts you in the unique position to accurately judge situations and understand people’s behavior. “You don’t have to talk about trendy stuff or having great computer skills. Be that wise old guy,” says Jaffe.
While conveying your wisdom and experience on an interview is one thing, getting the interview is something different altogether. According to career experts, to prevent your resume from getting skipped over because of your age, leave off age identifying information. “Don’t include your entire work history,” says Alison Doyle, the job search expert for About.com. “The last ten to fifteen years is sufficient.” Doyle says she had one job seeker who had 35 years of experience on the resume and couldn’t understand why employers weren’t calling. She says having years and years of experience is a red flag. “They can guess how old you are right off the bat if you have thirty years of experience,” she says.
Another age identifier to leave off the resume is the dates you went to college. It’s not hard to figure out how old someone is if they graduated college in 1980. What’s more, make sure your skills are fresh on your resume and include current applications. Nothing screams outdated and out of touch then skills that have been obsolete for years. So even if you are an ace in Word Perfect or C++, don’t include it on your resume. “If you need to upgrade your skills be sure to do that,” says Doyle. “It makes a difference with employers.”
Whether you are 25 or 55, one of the best ways to get a job is to do so by recommendation from someone you know. That is why career experts say its impetrative that older workers tap connections and network in order to find a new job.
“You’re more likely to get a job from someone you know,” says Kerry Hannon, career expert and author of What’s Next? Find Your Dream Job. “Dig deep into your network and ask for help.” In addition to networking through traditional channels, Hannon says it’s important to get online and learn how to use social media like LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is a valuable tool to network within a given industry as well as meet new people that may be able to help you find employment. Hannon says it’s also important to keep your skills sharp, even if you’ve been laid off for a while. “Don’t just sit around and send out resumes,” says Hannon. “Take a course at the community college. Get out there and volunteer. You never know who you are going to meet that might help you get in the door.”