Out of Work? Here's Why Your Career Isn't Over

The unemployment rate among people over 50 is starting to improve. But for those out of work, it may as well be the height of the recession again.

While losing a job stinks for anyone, for older workers it can hurt even more, particularly if they have to take a job they perceive is beneath them.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs for various reasons,” says CEO Blake Nations. “People are having a hard time finding a job in the career or field they were in.”

There’s no question age is going to hinder your chances of becoming gainfully employed again. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around it. After all, many of the older unemployed workers have a lot of the skills the younger generation is lacking and just have to find a way to showcase that.

Keep your resume age neutral

“Older job seekers need to make sure they have an age neutral resume,” says Terry Pile, principal consultant at Career Advisors. “The reader should not be able to tell a job seeker’s age by their resume.”

Since the resume is the gateway to an interview, Pile says it should be void of things like twenty-five years of experience or seasoned veteran, and filled with more general language like solid experience or strong experience “After 5-10 years most people are really accomplished at their jobs,” she says. “So employers are thinking, ‘I can hire someone with 8 years of experience and pay them a lot less than someone with 18 and get the same kind of quality work.’” It’s also a good idea to leave out the early part of your career on your resume and to eliminate graduation dates as well.

Focus your job search where you are valued

Armed with your resume, the next thing you want to do is tap your network. If you’ve been in the industry for years, chances are you will have a deep and hopefully broad network that can help you land your next job. After all, people in your circle may be able to clue you in to job opportunities or pass your resume along. Mary Abbajay, principal at Careerstone Group LLC., says it’s also a smart idea to focus your job search in fields and industries where an older worker is valued and sought after. That means you may want to forgo applying for the startup and focus in areas such as education, healthcare, non-profits and government agencies, says Abbajay.

“The industry and the size do matter,” adds Pile. “Older workers have a better chance with small to mid-size companies. Technology startups and pharmaceutical sales have reputations for being industries for the ‘young.’ Banking, health care and consulting services generally appreciate a little gray.”

Volunteering can also be an avenue to landing a new job. Not only will it enable you to keep your skills fresh and perhaps gain new ones, but it will also broaden your network which could mean more opportunities to find employment. Abbajay says even taking classes serves a dual purpose. You’ll learning something and at the same time meeting more people.

Keep your appearance up with the times

For any job seeker, their appearance on interviews is going to matter, but for older workers it counts a little bit more. Walk into an interview with dated clothes or a frumpy hair do, and chances of age discrimination are going to increase. Come in with modern clothes and appearance and it won’t be that easy to figure out your age. That’s doesn’t mean you have to dress like a 25 year old, but you have to show you are up with the times. “You have to look at yourself and make sure you look contemporary,” says Abbajay. “You don’t want to look like the last time you cut your hair was 1985.”

You also don’t want to come off as condescending if you are interviewing with someone younger than you. Of course you want to showcase your energy, knowledge and work ethic, but you don’t want to do it in a way that will be off-putting to the interviewer. “Hiring managers tend to favor younger workers over older workers,” says Abbajay. “The thing is people 50 and older have a really strong work ethic, so in the interview talk about that.”