Advice for Older Americans Looking for Employment

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By Gabriel Bristol, president/CEO of Intelicare Direct

When a worker “of a certain age” find themselves on the outside looking in to the employment realm, it’s easy to be disheartened and concerned.

While you won’t find a middle or senior manager who will admit it openly for fear of legal repercussions but ageism against older Americans re-entering the workforce is real. 

Often leaders are afraid to offer seasoned applicants positions because of stereotypes. They fear they will be slow, cranky, out of touch or chronic complainers.

After a recent conversation with a friend experience these very difficulties, I found myself offering her these 3 tips to re-energize her job search.

Take time to reflect

Whether you were unexpectedly downsized from your last employer or realized a few months into retirement that it “just wasn’t for you,” your next position most likely really will be your last, so make it count and most importantly make sure it offers you a level of fulfillment.  If you spent your career as a systems analyst and hated the last several years chances are you will hate it once again, maybe even more vehemently.  Why not take the time to think about what truly excites you or sparks your interest?  If you love people but your former job as an accountant did not put you front and center with the public maybe this is the time to think about embarking on that career in sales, hospitality, or retail.

Put aside your own biases

Just like younger bosses may have pre-conceived notions about older employees, older applicants may have pre-conceived notions and biases against younger bosses. Do phrases such, as “she/he hasn’t been around long enough to know how things work” or “too young to know better,” ring a bell? If so, chances are you have been practicing a reverse form of ageism. Chances are also good that your biases will come out in subtle and not-so-subtle ways during the interview process and your potential new boss will surely pick up on it.  Put aside your pre-conceived notions and plunge into the interview process with an open mind and an accepting attitude.

Presentation matters

Older applicants, freshen up your presentation. This applies to resumes as well as appearance.  If you have not updated your resume in the last 3 or 4 years (or longer) chances are that it now contains outdated words and phrasing that may not resonate with the twenty-something or thirty-something who most likely is screening it for relevancy.  Does your resume use the word “synergies?” This is a word that has mostly fallen out of favor and simply substituting it for “teamwork” or “cooperation” may be more effective. Does your resume contain the word “robust?” What about the words “durable” or “vigorous” instead? They are more direct thus more relatable. Does your resume boast of your Microsoft office prowess? If so nix it. Computers are not new to the workplace and this skillset is almost a given at this point, unless specifically stated in the job posting, including it may seem out of touch.

Whether you are young, middle aged, or older your physical appearance matters. Being of a certain age does not give you carte blanche to ignore your image. It is important to give visual cues through your grooming and wardrobe as to your energy level, confidence, and professionalism. This does not mean a 55 year old distinguished gentlemen should wear a $200 pair of Diesel jeans to an interview, but neither should he rock a pair of polyester pants with an expandable elastic waist.

Don’t be intimidated

Confidence is a tricky thing, especially when you’ve been told “no” over and over. If you’re insecure before going into a job interview, it will show. It will also be hard to conquer the nerves AND remember to bring up the key points of your experience that make you a good fit for the position. Hold your head up high, walk in with energy and show your confidence.

Before embarking on the next chapter of your career, take time to reflect on what it is that will fulfill you then put aside any prejudices or pre-conceived notions you may have.

Finally, put your best foot forward and take the leap.  Somewhere out there is an organization waiting for someone with your unique skills and experience, where you will have both the opportunity to learn and to mentor.

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