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5 Smart Job Search Strategies for Older Professionals

5 Smart Job Search Strategies for Older Professionals
Credit: dotshock/Shutterstock

Although multigenerational offices are common in today's business world, millennials make up the largest portion of the workforce — and for older workers, it can sometimes feel like Gen Y is all employers care about. The competition with the growing younger workforce is a real concern for older professionals.

Lisa Rangel, certified professional resume writer and owner of Chameleon Resumes, said the majority of the job search clients she works with are ages 45 to 65. Many of these job seekers have fears of not being able to find a job because of their age, she said.

"Unfortunately, ageism is real and something that job seekers need to cope with," Rangel said. "It's often cited as a reason they are experiencing no results or poor results in their job search."

The workplace has changed, and those changes directly affect older job seekers. In past generations, people stayed in jobs, got promoted and earned seniority, and retired at the top of their game, said Marilyn Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at The Bush School at Texas A&M. The recession and gig economy scrambled that formula, she said. [See Related Story: Over 50? 5 Smart Tips for Landing a New Job]

"Now, people of all ages may be applying for the same position," Santiesteban said. "[But] ageism is what you make of it. If you've stayed on top of your game and have high industry visibility, older applicants won't experience much, if any, disadvantage."  

Of course, you can't change your age, so it's best to understand the circumstances and learn how to combat ageism in your job search.

Rangel offered the following tips to help older workers land an interview.

If you want to be hired based on merit, start by discussing your skills and qualifications. If you don't want your age to be the first thing a hiring manager notices, don't lead by discussing your seniority and decades of experience, Rangel said.

Everyone is being wrongly judged in some way. For example, job seekers older than 40 think age competition is holding them back, and job seekers younger than 30 think they get wrongly judged for not being qualified.

"Everyone is [or feels they are] experiencing bias, so don't assume you are unique or being persecuted," Rangel said. "Accept it, and plan accordingly."

Resume trends change constantly, and what worked 15 to 20 years ago will not work today, Rangel said. Furthermore, if you're still working with the resume format your college's career center taught you to write and have just been adding your jobs as they happen, then you're in for a very rude awakening.

"You wouldn't wear a suit from 1995, so why would you use a resume format from the same era?" Rangel said. "The days of sending in paper resumes are gone. Objectives have also been thrown out with yesterday's trash. Additionally, everything has gone digital, so if you don't have a LinkedIn profile or a way to participate in mobile recruiting, then you're going to struggle finding job."

Like your resume, your skills shouldn't be outdated, either. Santiesteban suggested keeping up with skills in your field.

"Take every training class your employer provides," she suggested. "Go to your annual industry conference and learn what top people in your field are doing. Build networks like crazy, expand your skill set and take on new responsibilities."

Make sure your resume has a mobile number, email address and LinkedIn profile URL in the top section, where it's easily seen, Rangel said. Put some variation of your contact information in the summary section of your LinkedIn, Twitter and other online profiles, too. Google your name, and see what options come up. See if it is easy to contact you when clicking on those links, she said. Having that information available makes it easy for potential employers to get in contact.

Although it's good to touch upon past accomplishments during job interviews, remember to balance those out with some forward-thinking conversation. Don't forget to mention how your skills can help the company with its current issues, Rangel said. You should also mention how you can contribute to company goals both now and in the future, she added.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do at any age is to be proactive about your search — even if you face some younger competition — and keep trying until you land something.

"Can you control if someone isn't going to like you because you are visibly probably in your 50s? No," Rangel said. "Can you control how many times you send an email or make a phone call to advance your job search? Yes. Take control of your job search, and results will follow."

Author's note: Age discrimination in hiring is illegal. If you feel you've been discriminated against, know your rights.

Shannon Gausepohl

Shannon Gausepohl graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She has worked at a newspaper and in the public relations field. Shannon is a zealous bookworm, has her blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and loves her Blue Heeler mix, Tucker.