SAN DIEGO – Though the job market has improved in recent years, many people are still out of work. Perhaps most troubling, many of those people are age 55 and older who are fearful of an uncertain future and a job market where they are seemingly overlooked. According to a 2012 study from the Government Accountability Office, the number of long-term unemployed people age 55 and older has more than doubled since the onset of the recession.
For many unemployed men and women over the age of 50, the harsh reality of a job market that does not value their experience or skill set is deeply disconcerting. But as difficult as the job market can be for older men and women, it’s not impossible to find a job, though it might take some ingenuity and perseverance.
• Don’t limit yourself. Those who were victimized by layoffs should expand their job searches to more than just their previous fields. While it’s definitely a good idea to maintain contacts in your old field and routinely look for openings in that field, it’s also a good idea to examine your skill set and experience and find a new field where these things apply. Chances are your years of experience are transferable to many fields, and redirecting your job hunting efforts to a new line of work might yield opportunities you are not even aware existed.
• Embrace the 21st Century. Many companies or organizations mistakenly assume that the digital age has passed older workers by. Workers in their 50s might be unfairly categorized as dinosaurs with no grasp of mobile technology or the latest software programs. But those applicants who can demonstrate their proficiency in the latest technologies, including mobile technologies like smart phones, tablets and social media, can put themselves above fellow applicants.
• Start working. If you are mired in long-term unemployment and spend every day at home, get out and start working. Volunteering is a great way to lift your spirits, network with other professionals and maybe even learn of employment opportunities you won’t hear about on the couch at home. And volunteering, be it with a charity or a professional organization is a great way to revive your resume and continue to add accomplishments despite your unemployment.
• Emphasize your age. Many unemployed men and women over 50 tend to look at their age as a hindrance that is preventing them from finding gainful employment. When emphasizing your age as a positive, don’t focus on job titles, which many other unemployed men and women your age likely highlight on their resumes. Instead, focus on specific achievements and accomplishments and reduce the emphasis you place on job tasks.
• Consider small companies. In smaller companies, employees tend to wear more hats and are more likely to value experience than a larger company. By the age of 50, many professionals have vast experience in a host of different positions, and that versatility is likely to appeal to a small company looking for employees who can multitask.
Finding a job after the age of 50 isn’t easy. But taking a broad approach and emphasizing as opposed to downplaying your experience might help you stand out among a crowded pool of applicants.