Are you over 50? Do you worry that your age will keep you from getting your next job offer? Feeling like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of job applications?
Take heart: A recent research study released by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas shows that older workers have actually held the advantage in landing new jobs created out of the recession. How much of an edge? Of the 4.3 million jobs created in the past three years, nearly 3 million have gone to people over the age of 55! At present, there’s a lower unemployment rate for older workers.
The unemployment rate among those 44 and older is approximately 6.5% according to recent Department of Labor reports. Comparatively, the unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds is 12.9% and those between the ages of 24 and 34 suffer a 8.2% unemployment rate.
But don’t be fooled by the numbers: Finding a job if you’re over 50 can be tough, especially if you have extensive experience that commands a comparatively high salary — or are applying for jobs where you’d be significantly younger than your supervisor. Here are five strategies that may work for you:
1. Anticipate employer objections — and counteract them! There are stereotypes associated with employees at all age levels: some say recent college grads are too concerned about work-life balance to focus on extended projects requiring extra hours, 40-somethings are cynical and drink too much coffee, and Baby Boomers don’t keep up with technology, have outdated skills, and aren’t physically able to do the job. But you are not a stereotype — and you can counteract these myths.
How to show that you are tech savvy:
Put a QR code that links to your resume or LinkedIn profile on your personal business card. Complete your LinkedIn profile in the first person — and share your interests, not just what you’ve done in the past. This will invite other people to connect with you.
How to show that you are physically fit:
Participate in sporting events such as local 5K events — even if they are short walks. Your time results will likely be posted online and show up in a Google search. That you didn’t win doesn’t matter, nor does your time. Showing up demonstrates you are active and take care of your health — and that’s important to employers, as healthcare and sick time out of the office is expensive for any business.
2. Know your rights — and what employers can and can’t ask. The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 protect the rights of workers over 40 and apply to any employer or government agency that has over 20 employees.Here’s a handy list of facts about age discrimination that provides an overview of guidelines employers must follow.
3. Put your photo online — even if employers can’t ask you for it. While employers can’t ask for photos on resumes — and some companies have policies on whether or not employers can Google applicants — a proactive way to handle the issue of age is to put a picture of you online that looks professional and youthful. It’s okay to hire a professional photographer or edit your photo to make yourself look as healthy and vigorous as possible.
4. Avoid interview traps that make you look defensive. I recently spoke with a job seeker who interviewed with a manager that complained “many of her co-workers were gray hairs over 50 who were resistant to change.”
The job seeker replied that he would actually be their junior. He didn’t get the job offer and learned later that the manager said she “didn’t like his attitude.”
An alternative strategy for similar situations: Counteract the stereotype. If told about others who are resistant to change — give examples of times you have worked well with co-workers of all ages, then share stories about how you’ve lead change or mastered new technology.
There’s no reason to share your age in an interview conversation ever. (Here’s a quick overview of illegal interview questions employers can’t ask. Check the DOL fact sheet for information about how and when employers can ask questions about birth dates.)
5. Take advantage of special resources and programs available to help and use your talents. There’s a movement that recognizes the significant value older employees bring to organizations. Encore Careers provides advice on how to create a “second act” that combines passion, purpose, and a paycheck: the site shares information about training opportunities and gives a limited number of $100,000 fellowships every year to recognize extraordinary efforts.You can also check out special career resources and programs available from the AARP.
We hope you’ll find these five strategies to be helpful. Do you have any other strategies that have worked well for you — or questions you’d like the answers to? Share.