7 job search tips for older workers

Today, many older workers are facing a challenge they thought was far behind them: finding a job. Continuing economic woes have found some retirees returning to the workforce, while other workers have been let go from what they thought would be their life-long employment. Money isn’t the only reason older works are seeking new opportunities. Many people want to stay active and engaged — not to mention share their expertise.

If they can get their foot in the door, that is. Finding that next great opportunity can be a challenge at any stage of one’s career, but older workers also face unfair stereotypes about their age. Many employers see them as less energetic and less enthusiastic as younger candidates, or worry that they’re simply killing time until retirement. Unfortunately, these misconceptions can keep employers from harnessing the wealth and expertise of older candidates.

“Many employers are reluctant even to consider applicants aged 50+,” says Sarah Welstead of Retired Worker, a website for retired people who want to work on a part-time or contract basis. “In many ways, looking for a job after retirement is a lot like looking for your first real job right out of school: you have to work a little harder to get your foot in the door and tell employers why they should hire you.”

Addressing age discrimination in the workplace

Experts say older job-seekers can address age discrimination and find meaningful employment by following these 7 tips.

1. Update your appearance. If your clothing and hairstyle aren’t current, many employers will assume your skills are also out of date. If you haven’t worked recently, you’ll find offices more casual than they used to be. In most industries, the days of the power suit are long past.

“You don’t have to be a fashion plate or spend a lot of money: a pair of khakis and a couple of shirts from Gap can cost less than $100 and will ensure that employers aren’t distracted by wondering whether you’re too ‘old-fashioned’ for their company,” Welstead says. “And don’t forget to stay in shape!”

2. Be patient. While finding a job can be hard work at any age, older workers need to be even more patient and diligent. Many older workers assume that after 35+ years of experience, a job will fall into their lap. Unfortunately, however, many employers are reluctant to consider older workers.

3. Be confident – but not too much. Don’t be shy about a little self-promotion. Tell employers what your strengths are and how they will benefit by hiring you. Remember, however, that while confidence is key, cockiness can work against you.

4. Flash the BlackBerry or smart phone. Older workers often get a bad rap for their unwillingness or inability to adapt to change – particularly when it comes to technology. Looking to improve your computer skills? Consider taking a course or online tutorial.

5. Network, network, network. Not surprisingly, many job leads come from friends, family or colleagues. In addition to your personal network, find work opportunities on employment websites, job boards, corporate websites, temporary agencies, networking and job clubs, career fairs and headhunters.

6. Focus on experience, not age. Fight negative age stereotypes by focusing on your knowledge and real-world experience. Take pride in your achievements, maturity, and wisdom. When it comes to updating your resume, some experts advise focusing on the most relevant experience of the past 10 to 20 years and when listing university or college degrees, leaving off the year of graduation.

7. Consider a career change. Many older people find meaningful work consulting for businesses (particularly small businesses) in their area of expertise. Others may decide to start their own small business. Here are some smart tips on start-ups.