5 Insider Tips for Job Seekers Over 50

Focused old woman with white hair at home using laptop.
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Looking for work in the best of times is a stressful, frustrating process filled with anxiety, rejection and the sinking feeling that it might never end — and these are hardly the best of times.

For older workers in the over-50 set, it only gets more complicated.

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The insecurity that comes with competing with younger professionals and the ageism that drives those emotions can make later-life job hunting enough to make you want to retire early whether you can afford it or not — but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you have the right work ethic, the right resume and, most importantly, the right mindset, you just might find that you have tools at your disposal that are the envy of your younger colleagues.

First, Get in the Right Frame of Mind

It’s undoubtedly intimidating for many older job hunters to compete with young, energetic, unattached and optimistic Gen Zers who are minting NFTs and buying up land in the Metaverse. But the good hiring managers don’t see it that way — and neither should you.

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“Recognize that your years of experience are an asset, not a liability,” said Nicole Johnson-Scales, executive career strategist and founder of Design Your Professional Joy.

“Many professionals over 50 fear age discrimination, but many companies still recognize the value of years of demonstrated success. This is a great opportunity to gain clarity and find a job that truly brings you joy. Take an inventory of your work experiences and identify what roles you enjoyed and why. Own your strengths and talents so you can clearly articulate what you will bring to this next role.”

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Be Patient and Break the Process Down Into Doable Tasks

Go into the process optimistic but realistic — it’s probably going to be a long, tedious ride with no shortage of disappointment, rejection and frustration along the way.

“Getting a job in the best of times is an exhausting, stressful, demanding experience,” said Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., career strategist and founder of CarlotaWorldwide. “We’ve just gone through a pandemic and political stress. Many people are battling trauma, so take a deep breath and create a strategy to allow yourself to succeed on your own terms.”

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The trick to getting through it is to break the job hunt down into manageable chunks that don’t feel as overwhelming as the process as a whole.

“Make a daily calendar of small, actionable, intelligent steps,” Zimmerman said. “I.e., networking, writing pointed cover letters, tweaking your resume and LinkedIn.”

You Have a Half-Century Worth of Relationships — Use Them

No matter your age, the mission is always the same when hunting for jobs — leverage your strengths to your advantage.

“By the age of 50, you have usually built up a strong network of connections through friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances,” said Andrei Kurtuy, co-founder and CCO at Novorésumé. “Use this to your advantage. Let them know you are job hunting and what your ideal career would be. If they know of an opportunity, they can then go one step further and recommend you to the hiring manager. As the famous saying goes, it’s often who you know, not what you know.”

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College Was a Long Time Ago, but If It’s Still Standing, It Can Still Help You

Nearly all colleges and universities have career centers that offer free career services to their students for life after graduation. Hold them to their promise.

“This is an excellent time to contact your college and/or grad school alumni associations and find out what free resources they offer alumni,” Zimmerman said. “Many universities, for example, are offering free career coaching and resume help to alumni. Reach out and ask for help. Also, if you already have a particular job, company or industry in mind, ask your alumni association if they will put you in touch with fellow alums who work for said company. Remember, your tuition pays their salaries, so don’t be shy.”

Be Deliberate About Language on Your Resume and at the Interview

Most career experts recommend that older job hunters avoid chronological resume-building with bulleted lists of positions held in decades past. They also caution against broaching the subject of age during the interview. Instead of listing or discussing jobs from long ago, highlight the accomplishments you’ve achieved, the challenges you’ve met, the technical skills that you’ve learned and the value that you’ve added.

“Extract your core strengths from your notable successes,” said career and life coach Marissa Fernandez. “Consider your key career accomplishments. These results tell a good story, but are likely specific to your current career and industry. Zoom out from each of those accomplishments. Ask yourself, ‘What skills did I leverage in order to achieve each one? Which of my unique set of skills have disproportionately contributed to my prior career successes?’ From there, you can consider what other roles or industries leverage those same skills. That exercise will help you broaden the aperture of potential paths forward that tap into your greatest strengths.”

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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