The American economy is showing signs of life and improvement. It is more evident in some cities than others. If securing employment remains a challenge for millions of unemployed Americans, then consider the additional burdens and plight of 40+, middle-agers and seniors.
A job seeker just out of college or those a decade (or so) into the job market might have hurdles to overcome, but in the job market, it may be nothing that the right suit, a well-tailored resume and possibly a college degree can’t fix. For gray haired and mature workers, the barriers may be less easily repaired.
Just at the time seniors’ career objectives have become clear and their work history is chocked full of valid and important details, employers can begin to interpret the lengthy background as a little ‘long in the tooth.’
Many senior job seekers regularly dye their hair to belie their true age, but for those who sport the natural silvers, snow-tops or balding hair, they can appear to an employer as a short-lived employee, a costly potential health risk or too difficult to train or retrain. All of which are, of course, prejudices and not necessarily the reality. Welcome to the "Gray Divide."
Mature workers, as well as, the workforce as a whole may face the barriers of ever-burgeoning technologies. Every few months advances in technology and technological devices relegate current knowledge obsolete. It is a continuing challenge for the entire workforce. For veteran workers, the need to continually upgrade skills and certifications can be daunting.
Many middle-aged workers are part of the “sandwich generation”, wedged between putting children through college while perilously balancing the needs of more senior parents who require expensive healthcare, assistance with financial needs or even paying for long-term skilled care. So even after retirement age, some may have to work.
How to overcome barriers to senior employment
Do your homework: Any task worth doing is worth doing well. The only way to conduct an effective job search strategy is to know with what you’re working. Do your research to learn something about the companies to which you are applying. Some companies have a reputation for reaching-out to a younger demographic. If this is true, don’t waste time trying to peddle your skills to them. Try smaller companies who may be looking for seasoned employees that can offer multiple skills and abilities so they don’t have to hire additional employees.
Upgrade technologically: technology and the professional image it affords the job seeker has changed the employment landscape forever. Times have changed. Face-to-face contact is likely not to take place until you’re deep in the process. Initial interactions may be limited to several procedures that are strictly digital. Most applications are submitted via computer. Many corporations outsource screening activities; they do not review resumes in-house at all. Make sure you give yourself the best advantage in a competitive job hunt. Online job search, applying, posting and responding to job ads requires some digital savvy.
Some seniors have shunned the need for a cell phone or any use for electronic communication. Consider getting a cell phone; even a prepaid cell phone makes you more accessible. Also, don’t be surprised if you receive quick or hurried responses from the HR representatives an I-Phone or Blackberry.
Consider going back to school: taking a class, obtaining new certifications or even getting a college degree is a good way to refresh your skills.
Organize your workplace tools: when looking for a job, the job search becomes your daily work. In times gone-by, looking for a job involved actual leg-work in hitting the bricks with a stack of professionally printed resumes on the best stationery; knocking on doors and a well-rehearsed speech outlining exactly what you had to offer in less than 3-minutes.
Today, job seekers must have basic office tools ready. A good telephone number for receiving calls is essential. Be sure to set-up a voice-mail prompt that has a professional sounding message. a good computer, printer and fax machine are the basics of your home office. The job seeker will find it essential to get their digital house in order. The second most important tool is an email address that does not give any personal identifiers and has a professional address, it should include a form of your name (no sexysenior). For example: email@example.com is appropriate.
Being well-prepared for the job hunt can highlight your primary, as well as, you secondary skill-set. You may be rewarded with a coveted second look. That's all you want; for your resume and cover letter to gain the attention of the prospective employer.