The Mature Approach to Job Hunting
A how-to for older job seekers hoping NOT to act their age
By Rebecca Martin
Losing a job is traumatic for anyone, but it’s especially so for mature and older workers aged 45 to 70. While the current economy presents challenges for all who seek employment, middle-aged and older individuals who find themselves without work have a set of obstacles all their own to overcome.
The good news: Resources exist to assist them in doing so. Some simple steps can help job seekers in their 50s, 60s and 70s face their challenges, get noticed — and get hired.
Challenge #1: Fear
After years of financial and emotional security, mature and older workers who lose their jobs fear losing their spouses and homes as well because they simply can’t imagine that anyone will hire them at their age.
Solution: Career or psychological counseling and grief support can help older job seekers move beyond their fears to a more productive stage in their job search.
Challenge #2: Technological Illiteracy
Often, older workers haven’t had to look for a job in decades and don’t know how the Internet can facilitate their search. They feel daunted by competing with 20- and 30-somethings in an unfamiliar job market using technology foreign to them.
Solution: Local employment development departments (Google “employment development” and your state to find them) offer older workers who feel aimless in the face of technology much needed direction — as well as tips on finding the specific (and often free) computer training they need. So, too, can the 1,782 One-Stop Career Centers in the U.S. These facilities, located in all 50 states, provide job seekers across the age spectrum a full complement of employment-related services.
Furthermore, exploring Web sites like www.craigslist.org, www.careerbuilder.com and www.monster.com — perhaps with a young mentor — will demonstrate the role of job boards in today’s employment market.
Challenge #3: Cultural Disorientation
Mature and older workers typically approach employment expecting hierarchical structure, authoritative leadership and closed communication. However, today’s workplace involves tremendous diversity, collaboration and an openness they may find uncomfortable.
Solution: Again, career coaches serve to bridge this gap for mature and older workers. They can provide much needed perspective on what hiring managers — many of whom are in their 20s and 30s — are looking for, both in a resume and during an interview. In addition, a career coach can prepare job seekers of any age for the negotiating process they’ll face when they do land a job, an especially critical service for older workers who haven’t had to hammer out salaries and other details in years.
Challenge #4: Networking Lapses
Individuals who have worked long-term for the same company — particularly mature and older workers who banked on staying with their employer for life — often let their well of networking contacts dry up over time. And in an era when who you know, actually or virtually, matters ever more than what you know, a dearth of social connections can limit employment options.
Solution: Attending meetings of professional associations for a given industry will build knowledge of current trends in the field as well as relationships invaluable in a job search. Creating virtual connections, too, with both acquaintances and potential employers via social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace will help older job seekers both enhance their technology skills and find jobs that never make their local newspaper’s classifieds.
By mastering these job search challenges through career coaching, computer training, employment assistance and networking, mature and older workers will improve the odds of attracting hiring managers’ attention and garnering the respect they deserve for their loyalty and intellectual capital. And with that attention and respect, they can and will find work worthy of their abilities and experience.
Rebecca Martin founded Dear Jane…, a Livermore, Calif.-based career advisement company, after more than a decade’s experience as a headhunter and corporate recruiter in Silicon Valley. She guides clients through career assessments, resume writing, interviewing and salary negotiations.