The recession has been hard for everyone, but evidence suggests that Americans in their 50s and 60s have seen the biggest reductions in earning power of all age groups, according to this New York Times report. Household income for this age group is 21 percent lower than what it was in 2010, according to this Urban Institute report.
So, it seems that people over 50 have the steepest hill to climb to return to prerecession prosperity levels. This climb is made harder by the fact that people over 50 face age discrimination, too: the Urban Institute found that people over 50 were 20 percent less likely than people between the ages of 25 and 34 to become reemployed during the recession.
So, I thought I would compile some job search tips specifically geared toward people over 50, to help them find work or boost their careers.
1. Leverage Your Networking Advantages
Word of mouth is still the No. 1 way to get jobs for all age groups, and this is one area where people over 50 may have an advantage over the young — which they should leverage. It’s very likely that a larger portion of an older person’s social network will be more established, made up of people who occupy middle and senior management positions, meaning they may have much greater access to hiring-decision makers than younger workers.
People over 50 should exploit this situation to their advantage by making networking a core part of their job seeking strategies.
2.Emphasize Your Added Value
Many older workers fear being rejected because they are “overqualified.” However, there is nothing negative about being overqualified, and older workers should be confident and prepared to immediately squash such ill-informed and invalid objections — in the nicest way possible, of course. Two studies reported on by the Harvard Business Review show that overqualified workers actually outperform less qualified workers and stay longer.
3. Get in Tune with Hiring Managers
This study from the Career Advisory Board shows a disconnect between senior-level candidates — often older candidates — and hiring managers. It seems that recruiters/hiring managers want to be serenaded with rhetoric that relates to strategic perspective, global outlook, and business acumen, but senior candidates talk about qualities like strong worth ethic and self-motivation. So, people over 50 should adapt their interview techniques and outlooks to be more global, big-picture oriented, and commercial to really show their value.
4. Embrace Technology and Innovation
According to this Adecco study, just 5 percent of hiring managers say that millennials need to develop stronger technological skills, but 72 percent think older workers need to improve in this area. The older workers can embrace technology as a crucial way to remove barriers and make themselves seem like employable candidates.
Older workers should buy themselves a monthly subscription to a tech magazine and adopt as many of the modern technological innovations as they can to show they are flexible and open to technological innovations.
5. Broaden Your Horizons
The job market is in a state of flux. Many established industries are in decline due to technological automation while many new industries and professions are springing up around them.
There’s a good chance that older workers may find themselves in obselete or declining career paths, which makes it harder for them to find jobs within their established areas. One of the key tactics that people over 50 can adopt when looking for a job is broadening their horizons. They can re-skill and move out of declining sectors and into new, booming industries.
I’d be interested to hear any specific tips you have for people over 50 trying to find their way to employment.