Dear Matt: I’m 56 years young and about to sell the business I have owned for eight years. I’d like to work another 10 years. Friends my age have had issues finding work, which they attribute to their age. What advice do you have for older job seekers?
Matt says: According to a Pew Research study and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 31.9 percent of those ages 65 to 74 will still be working by 2022. Ageism does exist, but the focus of any job search should be on the experience, value and skills you bring to a position.
Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch (irelaunch.com), a career re-entry resource for job seekers, says when it comes to age bias, “you can’t be defeated by it before you even walk out the door or else your job search will go nowhere. Don’t generalize from anyone else’s experience in terms of their job search success or failure. Each person’s situation is unique.”
So how do job seekers 55+ find work? By using their professional network. Get in touch with work colleagues from the past. Set up a LinkedIn profile and connect with those long lost contacts. Once connected, ask if you can set up a 20 minute phone call to find out how your industry has changed over the last five to eight years. Ask what technology skills and industry expertise is needed and what those having success are doing to stand out. Let them know you are in information-gathering mode. Make it clear you’re not asking them for a job.
When it comes to hiring seasoned workers, the biggest concerns employers have focus on these key points, says Bob Satterstrom, a Workforce Development Representative from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development:
• How long will you stay at the job? Can you prove this isn’t a short-term stop until retirement?
• Can you work with a younger boss and co-workers?
• Can adapt to new and different ways of doing things?
• Are your computer and other technology skills up-to-date?
• Will you fit the company culture?
Counter age bias concerns by making sure you come across focused, passionate and energetic about your next move, says Cohen. “Be positive, friendly and enthusiastic in your presentation.”
Satterstrom says applicants who are recommended or referred by someone the hiring manager knows and trusts have significantly better chances of being hired over candidates who blindly apply online. Focus on smaller companies and network your way into that company, he adds.
Cohen agrees. “Having the personal handoff from an old colleague or a past client will make all the difference in the world as to whether your résumé goes to the top of the pile and you get the interview.”
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