The Reality of the Job Search After 50

This week alone, on the same day, two candidates asked me about this very topic. Their concerns were if ageism is real and why they aren’t getting any interest when they have applied for many different roles. One even said bluntly, “How can I not be thought of as a dinosaur? After all, I have another 15 years or more to work.” Both candidates said they want to continue to learn, grow, add value, and be a mentor – they do indeed have much to offer.

What is the reality? Today about 33 percent of men and 25 percent of women are working until age 69. In terms of finding that next role, it takes approximately one year or more on average for those age 50+.

The workplace of today is also changing and rapidly including social change and work/life integration. Let’s review of few of the changes from the past:

  • Stability, predictability, rigid vs. Change, uncertainty, flexible
  • Paternalistic vs. Empowerment
  • Hierarchical vs. Flat
  • Homogeneity vs. Diversity
  • Individual contribution vs. Team
  • Tenure & loyalty vs. Rewarding for performance
  • One-time learning vs. Lifelong learning & development
  • On-site working vs. Telecommuting/virtual

According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), they found HR professionals see the following advantages to hiring older workers including:

  • Invaluable work experience (72%)
  • Stronger work ethic (69%)
  • More reliable (68%)

In addition, both workers and their managers agree experience in the workplace is invaluable. However, perception is reality. In another survey, hiring managers felt some “seasoned” workers had high salary demands, were over confident in their abilities and experience, as well as had difficulty adapting to new technologies and taking direction from a younger manager.

So, given all of this, what should I do? Acknowledge the reality and take the challenge head on!

  1. Focus on the future and how you can add value vs. dwelling on the past – duties and responsibilities.
  2. Update your technology skills including social media, especially LinkedIn.
  3. In terms of your resume, update it to include only the last 15-20 years and eliminate college graduation dates. Use action words that focus on accomplishments that portray energy and positivity.
  4. Expand your network and focus on networking events.
  5. Use your age and experience as an asset vs. liability. Elaborate on how you can and have driven business results in a variety of circumstances and situations as you have weathered a number of storms and economic cycles. Use your stability and long-term commitment as a positive vs. negative.
  6. Be ready to directly answer interview questions such as, “What will you be doing in 5 or 10 years? Don’t you think you’re overqualified for this role? How will you deal with reporting to a younger and less experienced manager?” Reassure the hiring manager you do not want their job and how you can help them.

In summary, coming full circle – stay positive, future focused, and competitive by continuing to learn and grow professionally. You do indeed have much to offer!

Mark Mueller

Mark is seasoned business executive with more than 25 years of experience. Mark has a strong background in financial and business operations management with a passion for business results, leadership, and achieving goals in a collaborative team environment.  Mark personally leverages his Gallup Strengths: Context, Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, and Consistency.  Mark is excited to bring you the Aureus Group portfolio of staffing/recruiting programs including project staffing, direct hire, interim executives, and retained search. Mark has a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Business Administration from Loras College in Dubuque, IA.  Mark also earned an MBA from the University of Rochester William E Simon School of Business located in Rochester, NY.

5 comments

  1. What do you do if you have addressed the issues Mark suggests and still get nowhere in the job search, for 14 years? There is no difficulty landing work elsewhere, but there is no movement at all locally.

  2. Mark’s comments are right on target. I volunteer with an organization that helps folks in job transition and age discrimination, especially in high tech, is very real. However, in addition to Mark’s very sound advice, please consider the following:

    There are three prejudices, or “elephants in the room” when a younger person is interviewing an older person. By default, their concern that an older candidate (1) Doesn’t have enough energy, enough capacity, a younger candidate has; (2) An older candidate is less creative, less flexible, than a younger candidate; (3) An older candidate is technologically behind a younger candidate.

    So, while it unlike a direct question on these three topics will occur during the interview process, as the older candidate provides their stories of work accomplishments, skills, talents, experience, they bring to the new company, it’s important that these stories hit these three concerns head-on with examples that directly address each of these concerns. You must leave the positive impression of high energy, creative and flexible, and technically current with a passion for continuous learning to stay that way, during the interview. You must address these elephants.

    However, you must also be prepared that none of this may work – our kids just don’t like hiring their parents. However, they LOVE them as contractors. Be creative and offer to consult. It’s low risk for the company, and a great opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring and how well you can fit into their culture.

    Finally, I understand that there are a few companies with affirmative programs to specifically hire the older work, simply because of our great skills and experience, especially all of our soft skills in dealing with people. We know how to team, how to mentor, how to encourage, how to communicate, how to listen, how to correct, how to support, how to serve, how to manage, how to lead. Spend some time looking for such companies; use your network and/or LinkedIn to make a warm connection inside of those companies; contact them and show how incredibly valuable you are, what a nice person you are, and how delighted you’d be to help them out.

  3. What happens if doing the actions noted in the blog and still no response in terms of getting interviews and/or job offers? You need to keep moving forward the job search and continuing to network and trying to reach the hiring managers. I know the search can be time consuming and emotionally challenging, but you must not give up because the perfect role can be right around the corner.

  4. Ageism is alive and well, and the reality is that everyone will age so what comes around will go around. There are no easy answers, just continue to learn to adapt and do not stay in one job with one company too long. The fact of the matter is you have to own and manage your career and to do that you have to think ahead and adapt to change. Easy to say difficult to learn for some. And if you are in tech be prepared to move, because Silicon Valley is not the be all for everyone and if you want a quality of life then be flexible!

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