By Andrea C. Santiago
If you are an experienced or mature professional who has been laid off, finding that next job opportunity can be incredibly challenging, even disheartening at times.
According to the AARP, as of June 2012, jobless people who were 55 and older had been unemployed for almost 56 weeks, compared with an average of 38 weeks for all age groups. However, in some industries, people as young as 30 and 40 are considered “older.”
There is no easy answer for job seekers who are later in their careers. However, if you remain positive, active, and focused in your search, there are many things you can do to be the one who does get the job.
Stay Positive and Open-minded: Focus on positive aspects of your life, whether they are health-, family-, faith-, or skill-related, etc.
Don’t focus on your age or your employment status, but instead focus on your experience, skill set, and everything you bring to a company. Remain open-minded about your future—it may not look like you had imagined it would, but change can be good. You will work again, but your new career may be in a different industry, or may not pay as high as your last job. You may want to consider self-employment, or contracting your skills out independently.
Tap into Your Network: Your friends and loved ones know your capabilities better than anyone, and they don’t care what age you are. Be sure to include people from all generations in your network. The entry level associate you worked with 10 years ago who was 15 years your junior may now be a hiring manager. The most successful job seekers are those who maintain professional and personal contacts with a variety of people, and they network whether they are employed or unemployed.
Streamline Your Resume: Maintain multiple versions of your resume based on the job to which you’re applying. One resume should be for jobs within your industry, while other versions of your resume would be for lower level positions, or ones outside your current industry.
Be honest without completely giving away your age or level of experience. To avoid being immediately dismissed for being overqualified, play down high-level management experience when applying for lower level jobs. Also, don’t list your entire work history back to college or high school graduation. Fifteen years of work experience should suffice, unless there is something in your earlier career that you feel would help you get the job. Also, you don’t have to list the year you obtained your degree, if you feel that it would give away your age.
Look Your Best: At any age, your appearance is important when interviewing. Your image makes a strong first impression on the interviewer and can significantly impact the outcome of your interview. For older workers, you want to be age-appropriate, not outdated, or trying to be too trendy.
Dress professionally and in classic styles. A tailored suit, pants, or skirt will make you look your best. Small efforts can make a huge impact – updating your hair color and cut, whitening your teeth, and taking care of your skin can go a long way in helping you look your best.
If possible, exercise and eat healthy foods. As we age, bad personal habits take a greater toll on our appearance. If you come into the interview looking tired or out of shape, it will age you. Being fit helps you look and feel younger, and you will have more energy, which will help you to perform better in the interview.
Learn New Tricks: You undoubtedly possess a lot of knowledge from many years of experience. However, new technology, trends, and research may have impacted your field immensely since you last were on the job market. Be sure you are up to date by staying involved in your appropriate professional associations, continuing education credits, and industry news groups.
Target Growing, Industries That Are in High Demand: If you have 20 years invested in a dying industry, it may be time to consider a career change, or transition to another industry altogether. It’s difficult but necessary in certain circumstances. You may even have to take a few classes to learn the new field, but if you sell your transferable skills and make an effort to network in the field where you want to work, you can make headway into a new industry.