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Strategies for older job seekers to find work

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How quickly you will find work in today’s unstable economy could depend on where you live, the type of work you are seeking, and the level of competition for the available jobs in your area of work.

However, If you are age 50 or older and been out of work for a while, statistics have shown that your chances of finding work will take a bit longer compared to younger job seekers.

The unemployment rate for older job seekers remains high despite the numbers falling down a bit from what they were during the Great Recession. The numbers of older workers that have dropped out of the labor force but say they still want to find work was about 1.7 million in February according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents a large percent of people who want to work but numbers are not included in the unemployment rate.

Without question there is some age discrimination against the older job seeker, but still there are many employers who welcome older job seekers, provided that they have the necessary required skills to do the work they are seeking.

Why do some older job seekers struggle to find work, while others seem to have few problems getting hired? According to some recruiters and hiring managers, it has less to do with job seekers grey hairs or wrinkles, and more to do with their work experience and the direction of their career path.

Some hiring managers and recruiters claim they actually prefer older workers. Some say older workers generally come with more experience than younger workers and they are often more reliable and less willing leave the job within a year for other opportunities.

However, many over age 50 job seekers have reported that landing a new position becomes harder after they turn 50. Many believe their difficulty in finding work is due to age discrimination.

Although there is no question that age discrimination does exist at some level in corporate America, despite such form of discrimination being illegal. However, there are still many over age 50 job seekers being recruited and hired by several companies of all sizes.

The key is that older job seekers must have the experience and skills that an organization is seeking; exhibit good interview skills, including the ability to articulate how they can help an employer achieve its objectives; and show that they are motivated and energized to do the job.

The challenges of finding work by older job seekers

According to some recruiters, the most successful older job seekers are those with histories of progressively increasing responsibilities in specific areas. By the time many of these workers reach their 50s, they typically have achieved a long list of significant accomplishments. Such older workers have reached a level of experience in their careers that is commensurate with where they should be.

However, those less successful older workers that have not reach the level of success of their more successful counterpart, are now competing for job openings against younger job seekers in their 30s and 40s who typically earn less and may exude more energy. Many employers are more likely to hire such younger workers who they perceive to be more flexible, technologically savvy and able to grow with the company.

From a financial standpoint for budget cutting conscious hiring managers, the older job seeker would probably cost them more to hire. However, many over age 50 job seekers today are accepting lower salaries than they received from their previously job, especially if they have been out of work for a longer period of time.

However, employers are also less willing to hire older job seekers because they may be overqualified for jobs they are seeking. Also, many employers don’t believe highly experience workers would stick around after taking a large pay cut job. They believe once older workers find a job closer to a salary they are accustom to receiving, they would move on quickly to that higher paying opportunity.

According to some recruiters, what also adds to the longer length of time for older job seekers to find work is their unwillingness to be more flexible. Some recruiters say that many older job seekers are reluctant to change industries than their younger counterparts. However, some of this is due in part that they usually tend to have greater financial commitments that make it harder to start over with an entry level job.

Many job seekers over age 50 are also less able to relocate to find work. Some are more likely tied down by a mortgage or a spouse’s job, making it less appealing to uproot and move to remote location.

However recent census data have shown that middle-aged and older people are increasingly striking out for greener pastures. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, more than 7 million Americans moved between states in 2012. This was the highest number of long-distance moves in four years. However, not all these relocation moves were older job seekers. Some moves were due to relocation for retirement and other non-work seeking reasons.

Older job seeker tactics for getting hired

Recruiter and hiring managers say despite many of the road blocks older job seeker face in the job market, including some age discrimination, there are some approaches and shifts in thinking by older job seekers that may help them find work more quickly. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Be the solution to problems. If you can solve companies’ problems and have the valued skills that they are looking for, regardless of your age, you have a good chance of being hired. Most companies don’t hire you because of your age, but because of your ability to come up with solutions to their problems. You will have more success as a job seeker if you show how your skills can solve problems. Therefore, go to interviews with a consultant mentality. Talk about how you can solve the hiring manager problems and give examples!
  • Let your resume reflect your accomplishments. When describing more recent jobs on your resume, expand on your accomplishment and contributions rather than simply citing your experience. Show employers you are an achiever and you will get their attention!
  • Be positive and energized. Employers want to hire people with an upbeat and positive attitude. When interviewing for a job, you need to reflect this type of attitude whether you are being interviewed in person or over the telephone. The more enthusiasm and energy you reflect during your interview, the more likeable you become to the interviewer.
  • Continue to educate yourself. Regardless of your age, you should keep learning new skills. Whether it’s done formally or informally, learn new skills or enhance the skills you already have. Consider taking a business course or going back to school to get a degree or advance degree. Evaluate your skills and determine what areas that need improvement and then go work them. Many companies place great value on education and training. When interviewing for a job show that you are open to additional education and training opportunities, it could increase your chances of getting hired.
  • Search for jobs at websites that cater to older job seekers. There are many websites that post good paying jobs for older job seekers. Consider conducting your job search of these sites in addition to the larger online job boards. Here are a few of the top websites for older job seekers: http://www.seniorjobbank.org/, http://www.workforce50.com/, http://www.seniors4hire.org/ and http://www.theretiredworker.com/
  • Consider relocating to find work. Job opportunities vary regionally and from state to state. For example, in North Dakota unemployment is at an all-time low at 2.6 percent. Many willing workers are not where the jobs are. So, if you are having problems finding work in your geographic area and don’t mind relocating, consider it as an option.

According to a poll taken by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in 2013, among Americans age 50 and older who have jobs, 82 percent expect to work in some form during retirement. This is an indication that older workers will continue to be in the job market for years to come and therefore must learn to master the skill of getting hired.

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