A little career counseling for older people can go a long way in making a difference between just getting a job and getting the job you want.
The Reality is Job Change
It is rare these days for a person to hold the same job their entire life. By the time someone reaches fifty or sixty, he or she might have had three to five careers and eight to ten jobs. Some of these career changes might have come about due to changing interests, and others might be due to downsizing or forced retirement.
Older Workers Want to Work
Older workers are increasingly looking for new career directions or jobs within their current career. Corporate downsizings often result in forced retirement for workers over the age of 55. Some workers are voluntarily changing their job focus and either looking for a new job or switching from full to part-time employment. An increasing number of workers are becoming self employed. Some older workers may be old enough to retire, but they have decided to continue working for the extra income or to stay involved in their community.
Some companies have realized that older workers can provide an added dimension to their workforce. The experience and knowledge which an older worker brings to a job, combined with a strong work ethic, often make the older worker an extra valuable asset.
Companies of all sizes have learned the added benefit of hiring older workers. Small companies in particular find that they benefit from the experience that an older worker brings to the job. They often require less training and can "hit the pavement running." The broad experience base of the older worker is a benefit to the small business since one employee may be able to bring broad expertise to the position.
AARP, an advocacy group for those over 50 years of age, annually surveys United States employers to seek out the companies that provide the best working environments, training and benefits for the older worker. AARP's current selections are included on the AARP website. The employers on this list can provide a good beginning for a job search.
Career Counseling for Older People
Many employers have stereotypes about the older worker such as:
- Being old means you have health problems that might cause you to miss a lot of work.
- Older workers need to be paid more than a younger person in the same position.
- Older workers are out of touch with new trends and resistant to new ideas.
It is up to the older job seeker to project an image that will overcome these biases. They need to believe in their own strengths and know how to communicate them to a prospective employer. For example, you can counteract many of the stereotypes about the older worker if you:
- Project your good health - Talk about your athletic activities and active interests when the interviewer asks, "Tell me about yourself."
- Talk about your skill levels - Discuss any recent training that you have taken to update your skills.
- Communicate your willingness to work - Many employers value your "old fashioned approach" to work, such as your willingness to work a full day as well as overtime and weekends when needed. These are work traits that are not always shared by younger employees who have family responsibilities that require them to leave the office early.
- Show your lack of concern about titles - Discuss your willingness to help in any area of need, without concern for specific, limiting responsibilities based on position title.
- Talk in long future horizons - Talk about your career path for the next twenty years, not just want you want to accomplish this year.
Rethink Your Resume
Make sure your resume shows your most recent work experiences, skills and education. Here are a few tips on using your resume to put your best foot forward:
- Use a current format and style - Review the current resume styles at job websites such as CareerPlanner.com
- Highlight your skills and strengths - It is more important to show what skills and abilities you can bring to the job for which you are applying than it is to talk about all the jobs you have had.
- Minimize the length of your work history - You don't need to include all 35 years of work experience on your resume. Focus on the jobs and responsibilities that would be the most attractive to your prospective employer.
- Note your college degrees and certifications - Don't include the year they were awarded.
Create a Winning Interview
The interview is a key place to demonstrate how your skills and style will fit within an organization. Be sure to prepare for your interview so that you can sell yourself effectively. Make a list of potentially difficult interview questions and practice your responses until you are comfortable. Be sure to follow these tips to showcase your added level of experience:
- Don't tell stories - Only talk about past experiences that relate to the job for which you are interviewing.
- Don't discuss your age - By law, the interviewer will avoid any age references during the interview. So, your age won't be a discussion point if you don't bring it up.
- Focus on your skills and accomplishments - Tell the interviewer what you can bring to their company with your expertise and experiences.
- Show your flexibility - Let the interviewer know you are willing to be flexible when it comes to job hours and that you might be willing to forego some of the benefits in exchange for added wages.
Your Age is An Asset
Don't lose sight of the fact that many employers value the expertise, work ethic, and skills that applicants of your age and background bring to the table. The length of your work history gives you added perspective on how to accomplish more in difficult situations. This can be a very valuable asset to an employer. All the career counseling for older people is not going to make a difference if you don't realize, and successfully communicate, what a valuable asset you will be to your prospective employer.