Guess what? Older workers get jobs. It might take a little more time for a myriad of reasons from your salary demands to your own lack of imagination about the kind of work you’re applying for, but employers really aren’t out to shun workers over 50.
They do want grown-ups in the shop. We tend to be loyal, even-keeled, reliable. We bring intangibles to the workplace from experience to a vast network of connections. These are not something the whippersnapper cohort can even dream to do at this stage in their lives.
Sure there are all the niggling concerns many employers have, even if they don’t verbalize them, like you aren’t going to play well with younger workers (or bosses). You will only want to do things the way you have done them in the past. You’re a Luddite when it comes to technology. And shockingly, probably to you anyway, that you don’t have the grit anymore to really bring the energy and enthusiasm to the job.
And, let’s be honest, for some of you, they’re spot on. But I have realized from interviewing and counseling dozens upon dozens of jobseekers who are over 50 trying to find work in a variety of fields that the reason you don’t get tapped is because you are guilty of making core mistakes. I doubt any of these no-nos will startle you, but they are all, and I mean it, all worth remembering.
Here are my top 11 mistakes that over 50 job seekers who successfully find great jobs don’t make.
2. Your résumé sucks. Sorry to be so blunt. You haven’t had to show anyone a résumé in years. I get it. So you throw something together and think it’s clear to anyone who reads it how amazing you are, how top of the line, award-winning spectacular. But not everyone even knows the significance of your accolades.
The key is to rein your résumé in to no more than two pages. Most recruiters will scan it in 20 or 30 seconds. Choose a traditional font, such as Times New Roman, in 9- to 12-point size, and use black type on white paper. Other fonts to consider are Arial, Calibri, Cambria and Tahoma.
Stick to the most recent 10 to 15 years of experience. Avoid giving dates when it comes to decades-old experience — and only include jobs if they’re relevant to the work you’re currently seeking. There’s no need for college graduation dates. Match the experience and skills you cite in your résumé with the exact skills employers say they’re seeking in their job posting.
Your résumé must tell a story, not provide a list of job titles and dates. Slide in short snippets such as you cut costs by a certain percentage, increased sales by 25 percent, or delivered project months ahead of schedule.
Proofread your résumé. Of course, you do this, but it’s so easy to miss something. Print it out. Read it again the next day. Read it out loud. Ask someone else you trust to read it. Sloppy mistakes make it look like you’re careless and aren’t that interested in the job.
Finally, before you hit the send button on any electronic communication with a potential employer. Read your note again, out loud, just as you did with your résumé. Beware of auto spellcheck programs. Those instant corrections can be really wrong.
3. You’re too cool to look needy. Most people don’t really use their network to get a job. And the truth is people hire people they know, or people they know know. This has been the case for ages. It’s human nature and the fear of making a bad hire makes employers extremely risk adverse, particularly in today’s work environment.
You have got to pick up the darn phone. Ask for help and advice. Networking, as I like to say, is just one letter off from not working. If you don’t establish any personal connection to the company, it’s probably a waste of time to even fill out the application
Don’t be reticent about digging way back into your network even to colleagues you worked with three decades ago, or high school classmates, even parents of your kid’s friends. What’s the point of not taking advantage of all the years you have spent in the world– and all those whose lives have intersected with yours who might be in a position to help you?
Unless you were a real jerk to them, or incompetent, most people will want to help you. It makes them feel good. I love it when I can connect people to a possible opportunity, and I suspect most others do as well.