Job Search Tips for Older Workers (Resume Advice and More)
If you’re an older worker in a job search, there are a couple of key strategies that will make your life easier.
In this article, I’m going to share 10 effective job search tips for older workers that will help you get hired faster and save you a LOT of frustration.
We’ll start with resume advice and then go into other important topics and job search strategies for older workers.
Let’s get started…
Resume Advice for Older Workers
First, your resume does not need to be your life story. It’s a marketing document designed to show your next employer why you’d be successful in their job.
Most job seekers think their resume is only about them, but the truth is that it’s about the employer, too.
So decide how much work experience to include first! You can cut out the very beginning of your career if it’s no longer relevant. I’d recommend going back 10-20 years at most; probably 15 years on average.
And to avoid age discrimination on your resume, you may want to consider removing graduation dates, too.
Finally, make sure your resume is modern and up-to-date, with all of the right sections included. Here’s what to include on a resume.
Make sure you have a professional-sounding email address, too. And don’t include an objective statement, which is outdated and unnecessary. You also don’t need to say, “References available upon request,” which is assumed by employers.
Complete Your LinkedIn Profile
Many employers will search for you on LinkedIn even if you didn’t apply through the platform. So it’s important to have a LinkedIn profile that’s completed and up-to-date.
Set up an account, upload a professional-looking photo (don’t skip this step – recruiters are very skeptical of accounts without a photo because they’re often fake), and then add:
- Employment history
- Skills (fill out all 50 skill slots if possible – these skills serve as keywords on your profile to help you appear in more recruiter searches)
- A few paragraphs about yourself and the value you can add in your LinkedIn “About” section
- One or two recommendations written by colleagues (this is a great way to stand out)
- Your education
- Anything else that you think employers will find relevant (volunteer work, licenses and certifications, courses you’ve completed, etc.)
Consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile directly on your resume, too. (In the contact info, after your phone number and email. This gives your resume a modern look and provides employers with more information about you if they’re interested.
Note that your LinkedIn shouldn’t just be a copy of your skills and experience from your resume; it’s a different platform with different opportunities – such as recommendations, longer lists of skills, etc.
In general, content on LinkedIn should be skimmable. People do not want to read long paragraphs on LinkedIn.
I recommend putting everything possible in bullet format. You can include a brief one- or two-sentence introduction to a section before the bullets. But try to use bullets when you can, especially in your work history.
Networking Strategies for Older Job Seekers
One advantage you may have as an older worker is your network. Experienced workers should start their job search by thinking about who they know and who they can talk to directly.
Don’t go apply online and use job websites until you’ve thought about your own contacts who may be able to help you!
The fact is: Getting referred to a company by someone they know is the best AND fastest way to get interviews and get hired.
If you’ve built up a network throughout the years, take advantage of this opportunity.
This article has more info about networking and other good ways to find jobs.
Play to Your Advantages (Like Skills and Experience)
Another key advantage you have is your skills and in-depth experience. You’ve probably worked in a variety of companies and seen a variety of challenges. And you’ve acquired a depth to your skills that many other job seekers don’t have yet in their career.
As you enter the job market, be sure to take time to note your advantages and show off these unique traits that you possess. It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about age discrimination, worrying about whether companies still hire older workers, etc., and forget that you have advantages, too!
Emphasize this on your resume, your LinkedIn, and in job interviews especially!
Talk to Recruiters But Don’t Rely on Them
Older workers can use recruiters in their job search, but they shouldn’t rely on them. Recruiters are paid by employers to fill specific job openings.
They’re in the business of finding people for jobs, not finding jobs for people! That’s fundamentally different and is important to understand.
However, they can still be an asset in your job search, as long as you’re doing other activities on your own, too!
I recommend finding a few recruiters who specialize in your field of work AND your geographic location and starting a conversation. (For example, look for biotech recruiters in Boston, or sales recruiters in San Diego, etc.)
Sample Message to a Recruiter:
I saw that you recruit for management-level finance positions here in Dallas. I’m a finance professional with 15 years of experience in mergers and acquisitions, financial analysis, and team leadership. I’m considering a job change and would love to talk if you think it’d be a good fit to work together!
Note that recruiters are more likely to be able to help you if you’re staying within your industry and continuing on your present career path (roughly speaking).
If you’re making a big career change, they’re less likely to be able to help you in your search. This article explains more about how recruiters work.
And for more examples of messages you can send, read our new cold messaging guide for job seekers.
Be Mindful of Age Discrimination But Don’t Obsess Over It
Earlier, I mentioned a few resume writing tips for older workers that can help you avoid discrimination (such as removing graduation dates and only including your recent and relevant experience).
I also recommend researching employers on LinkedIn before applying to see who they currently employ. Do they seem to hire a mix of ages? Or is everyone in their 20’s or early 30’s?
You’re a lot more likely to find a new job if you target companies who have other employees in your age range.
After you’ve taken these steps, though, focus on what you control – your resume, how you apply, how you prepare for the interview, etc.
I see a lot of older job seekers becoming obsessed with age discrimination. Every time an interview goes poorly, they blame it on that. Every time they don’t hear back about an application, they assume this is the reason.
That mindset only prevents you from improving in your job search! The fact is, there are many reasons you may not be finding a job, and discrimination is just one.
Consider Contract Work
As a recruiter, I’ve seen a number of workers in their 50’s and 60’s obtain high-paying contract positions and end up enjoying the work!
I’m not sure if their employers would have committed to hiring them on a full-time, permanent basis, but they were able to earn $200 or more per hour as a consultant, usually obtaining contracts lasting multiple months.
So if you have a specialized skill set that employers need, yet you’re running into a barrier in your job search, consider looking into consulting jobs.
Have a Narrow Focus
I posted on my LinkedIn about this recently and I think this post says it best:
The bottom line is: You should sit down and decide what types of jobs to target before even beginning to apply (or network)!
If you’re open to any type of work whatsoever, you’re likely to get nothing at all.
If in doubt, ask yourself: Where will my skills help employers most? What type of company or industry needs my abilities the most and therefore can pay me the most?
And if you’re able to continue in your current industry, or pursue something closely related to your recent work, that’s best for finding a job quickly as an older worker. More about that next…
The Best Jobs for Older Workers
If you’re an older worker and want to get job offers quickly, the best jobs to pursue are jobs in your current line of work. You could pursue a lateral move (for example, searching for Manager positions when your last role was a Manager position), or you could try to obtain a slight step up (e.g. Senior Manager).
However, the more you look outside of your industry and current job function, the more difficult it will be to find work. One exception is if you have a strong history in a particular field but stepped away from it for a few years. In that case, it won’t be quite as hard to return.
For example, if you worked for 20 years as an Accountant and then took two years off to teach, it wouldn’t be as difficult for you to get back into the field of accounting.
You’d still face some interview questions about why you’re looking to come back, why you left in the first place, and what you’ve done to keep your skills current!
But it would be a lot easier for you than for someone trying to break into a totally new field with no proven track record.
The bottom line is: Experienced workers will have the most success when job searching in a field of work where they’ve already proven themselves.
Job Websites for Older Workers
These are the best job websites to utilize as an older job seeker:
Workforce 50 is a career resource website for seniors featuring job listings and helpful information. You can perform a job search by state, view their list of favorite employers by industry, and explore career data to help you make the right decisions on what types of jobs to pursue!
This is the first place we’d recommend going, and the best job website for older workers, seniors, and baby boomers.
The Retired Brains website has information on work from home jobs and part-time jobs to supplement your income in retirement. They also discuss how to start your own business in retirement.
If you’re hitting a dead-end in your full-time job search, this website could help you gather other ideas. (I mentioned earlier that considering contract work or freelance work is one of the best job search strategies older workers should consider, so this website can help with that!)
Job-Hunt.org publishes excellent content for older job seekers, both by the founder Susan Joyce and a number of excellent guest authors who contribute further info.
While the site is helpful to job seekers of all ages, I’ve found that Susan does a fantastic job of keeping her ear tuned to the current market trends for older/experienced workers in particular.
USA Jobs is the official US government website for federal job openings.
You can search by keyword and location, and the federal government is committed to offering opportunities to a wide variety of people including senior executives, people with disabilities, veterans, and more.
More Job Search Websites
For other job boards, I think you’re better off on the general job search sites… regardless of your age.
I researched multiple “over-50” job boards and most were disappointing and looked poorly-maintained.
One site just embedded Indeed’s job search form into their homepage and tried to play it off as their own job search technology. I then tried testing it, and it didn’t even work.
So here are the 10 best job search engines overall. These are much higher-quality sites than any over-50 job board I could find.
Conclusion: How Can Older Workers Find Jobs?
Older workers can find jobs by using their network, focusing on a specific type of role in their search, and targeting positions that are related to their past experience when possible.
They can also use recruiters, job boards, and other tools, but the main job search activities should be networking and applying directly to employers. Those are the best ways to get interviews and get hired as an older job seeker.
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