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The Secret to Finding a Job After the Age of 50

The Secret to Finding a Job After the Age of 50

They might have had Woodstock, the Stones and the sexual revolution, but for baby boomers looking for a job, times are tough. Convincing a prospective employer that your age is an asset, not a drawback, can be a tricky proposition. But it's not an impossible one.

Career coaches Tucker Mays and Bob Sloane said there are things older job hunters can do to help grease the hiring wheels.

"The unemployment rate for this age group [over 50] is now higher than that of any other and at the highest rate since the depression," said Mays and Sloane, partners in the executive search firm OptiMarket LLC. "Why is it that America's most skilled and experienced workers struggle to find work?"

Mays and Sloane said that most recruiters and companies admit privately that they are significantly less interested in hiring executives when they reach the age of 50. The most important thing you can do, they suggest, is be ready to help employers overcome their objections to hiring an older worker. Being proactive will go a long way toward alleviating their fears.

Mays and Sloane give you some ideas on how to address employers' concerns about hiring workers over the age of 50.

Assert your management style. During interviews, discuss how you modified your management approach to fit different challenges in different business cultures.  Specifically, describe how you had to revise your style when working on special projects that required you to adjust to changing priorities, make quick decisions with limited information, produce results with fewer resources and manage an ad hoc team of individuals who did not directly report to you.

Tell them you don't mind a younger boss. Cite examples during your career when you enabled a younger superior to succeed, grow and advance their careers. During an interview, emphasize that you will manage what your boss wants to get done now, so that he or she will have more time to work on what should be done in the future. Also, convey that you are as committed to their success as well as your own.

Explain your compensation needs. You will have a significant advantage over younger job candidates the more you are willing to accept less salary up front in exchange for a greater performance-based bonus. Companies prefer individuals who are willing to take some risk to prove themselves. For executives over 50, compensation flexibility can be a key factor in getting a job. A reduction of up to 20 percent from your previous salary is a reasonable lessened salary to accept.

Offer to talk about your technology skills. As every aspect of business continues to be impacted by our fast-changing technology environment, it is important that you know the latest technologies that are specific to your managerial function, whether they be general management, sales, marketing, finance, operations or human resources. To do this, it is advisable to attend industry or functional group training programs or conferences, and also to consult with trusted colleagues in your field.

Mays and Sloane also suggest you point out some of the advantages of hiring an older worker. They might include:

Problem-solving skills. Since you have faced more challenges and solved more problems, you can solve most problems faster than younger job-seeking competitors. This is a critical skill companies are in urgent need of in today’s fast-paced world.  Therefore, try to find examples where you quickly identified key drivers slowing performance, and developed solutions that achieved improved results in record time. Examples might be fixing delays in new product introduction, late shipments, cost overruns or declining quality control.

People management skills. By the time you reach age 50, you have discovered how to quickly and accurately assess who should stay and who should go, and how to make those who stay even better. When interviewing, give examples of people you managed who went on to successful careers, and others who struggled, but flourished when you changed their responsibilities to better match their abilities.

Judgment. From who to fire and who to hire to where to cut and where to spend, you’re in a better position to make the right decisions than many candidates who are younger than you and less experienced.  You can further strengthen your candidacy by discussing decisions you made that others either avoided or doubted that were successful.

Leadership. As few individuals are born leaders, this critical trait takes time to develop. Accordingly, most executives over 50 will poses greater leadership credentials than their younger counterparts. It is important during job interviews to describe examples where you led cross functional teams, initiated new program and projects, spearheaded a company’s shift in a new direction or motivated your people to achieve record results.