Your Guide To Job Searching After 50

older employees age discriminationBy Kaitlin Madden

There's no question that job searching gets harder after the age of 50. Although age discrimination is illegal, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Many employers have pre-conceived notions about older workers. Among the most common: Their salaries are high, their energy is low and they're not up-to-date on the latest technologies.

"Recruiters and companies are definitely less interested in hiring people – regardless of how strong their career has been - when they reach the age of 50," says Tucker Mays, co-author of the book "Fired at 50: How to Overcome the Greatest Executive Job Search Challenge." "Many are considered, by this age, to be inflexible in their management style - that they're not going to be able to adjust to, say, smaller companies if they're coming from a larger company. Or if they've been with a company for a long period of time and are now leaving, that they're just going to be doing things the way that one company had trained them for all those years."

If you're over the age of 50, the key to a successful job search is not only to disprove the negative stereotypes that exist, but to show employers the benefits your extra years of experience can bring to the table.

Countering the age bias

There are a number of ways job seekers over 50 can mitigate employers' subconscious, age-related stereotypes says Bob Sloane, Mays' "Fired at 50" co-author.

Foremost, he says, it's essential to make a good first impression. "It's so important for [job seekers over 50] to keep in shape, both in order to make that really great first impression and to demonstrate that they have the energy which is often unfairly expected that they won't. They have to exude that energy."

If you don't already, Mays and Sloane suggest exercising regularly. "Walking, jogging and weekend athletic activities have been proven to increase metabolism, cognitive ability and physical appearance," they write in "Fired at 50."

Also important is emphasizing a flexible management style, technological proficiency, ability to learn new skills and the willingness to work for a younger boss. "Very often today it's going to be likely that somebody over 50 will be interviewing with a prospective boss who is considerably younger," Sloane notes.

Before going into an interview, come up with concrete examples of how you've mastered new technologies, how you've worked with and for younger generations, and how your management style has developed through the years.

Proving your worth

After decades in the workforce, older workers possess life skills, talent and abilities that younger workers don't have. Emphasizing these strengths can set experienced job seekers apart.

"We cite four great strengths that you develop over time that give 50+ job seekers a superior advantage over younger individuals," Mays says. "They are problem solving skills, people management ability, good judgment and leadership. Experienced workers are usually able to solve problems faster by identifying them quicker and finding the right ways to solve them, for example. They can use their success stories in these four key areas to help prove their age is an asset."

Conducting a successful job search

Many 50+ job seekers are finding themselves in a job search for the first time in years – even decades. If you fall into this category, and are unsure how to go about your job search, consider the following.

Expand your network

Job seekers over 50 often have well-developed professional networks. Leveraged correctly, your network can drastically reduce the time you spend looking for a job.

Sloane and Mays believe that your network is best used not to find connections to jobs, but to find connections to other people.

"[Finding a job] is really a matter of time management and how job seekers spend their time, and our advice is to spend the most time on productive job search methods while de-emphasizing less-productive channels," Sloane says. "What that really means is they need to spend 80 percent of their time networking to individuals they did not already know, prior to their search. It is all a matter of getting referrals - you want to get through the people you already know to get their help to meet people you've never met before."

Sloane suggests building up your networking efforts until you're meeting or connecting with 100 new contacts per month, and to continue at that level until they find a job. "I know that sounds like a very lofty level, but with the use of some social networking tools, like LinkedIn in particular, it is easier nowadays to accelerate your networking because you can get to new people on a broader basis faster," he says.

Focus on small companies

The best place to look for jobs if you're over 50? Small companies, Mays says.

"The reasons [to focus on smaller companies] are first, that there are 20 times as many small companies – those with sales of under $100 million - in America as there are above $100 million, which means there are many more opportunities in that space. Secondly, those companies seem to be far less concerned about age, and in many cases they really prefer and like individuals with great experience who can help them with their business."

Hang in there

In today's economy, the job search is taking longer for people of all ages, so it's important not to give up hope. As Sloane and Mays point out in their book, "There are over 13,000,000 companies in America. You only need one, and one always needs you." Hang in there.

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Recently Fortune Magazine published an article about older workers and I posted a blog post about it. If you would check it out and let me know what you think, that would be great.

January 15 2012 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Come on, guys. Give Jon a break. He's masquerading as a young person, hanging out on an article about older workers. How cool can he be? Lol He's either as old as everyone else here and just pretending, or a total loser with nowhere else to hang out because he has no friends. What's that we used to call them? Nerds? Goobers? Lol again.

January 10 2012 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

50 ah so young yet a kiss of death in the job market. I am 59 with 2 masters degrees, a licensed psychologist and a PhD in hypnotherapy. Looks are part of the reason for discrimination but the biggest block is the large numbers of unemployed. So many businesses would rather pay ,for example, 25K for a 23 yr old math teacher with a BS than a 55 yr old taecher with an MS in Math for 45k $$$$ not quality.
Old used to be 60+ now it is 45 and heading to 40.

January 10 2012 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Buddy Maxwell

This is hilarious. I'm an overqualified 80-year-old, with 45 years as a journeyman printer, bookbinder, & lithograohic engraver. None of you young whippersnappers can afford to pay me, so I'll stay happily retired. If you need any advice or problem solving, don't bother me, just figure it out yourself. I laugh at all the mistakes that you dummies make with practically everything I read nowadays.

January 10 2012 at 6:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am truly grateful Jon is not my child. So sad. I am 63 years old, work three jobs, take care of three grandchilren, do 4-5 hours daily homework with oldest grandchild, take care of a home and a husband and guarantee I can run circles around any thirty year old and have proven it. Sadly this economy has forced me to do this, but am deeply grateful I am able and love working, cannot imagine sitting on my a--!!
God bless you Jon, hope you are very successful and not forced to work so hard, but if you are, hope you have the stamina to do so. young grandma

January 10 2012 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best way to fight age bias? Let's see, 7 letters, begins with "L".......

January 10 2012 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Jon your gonna be over 40 and it'll be even harder then for you to find employment. Your a jerk

January 10 2012 at 5:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Gotta love the picture attached to this article on the AOL welcome page. (I realize we do not all see the same introduction and/or links) "It is still possible to land a great job!" with a smiling woman in a supermarket wearing an apron looking like she is thrilled to be working in the produce section. Real encouraging.

January 10 2012 at 5:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lilliancastner's comment

That's exactly what I thought. Oh boy... $7.50/hour, and 20 hours a week!

January 10 2012 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Workers in the IT field are finding their job is outsourced to visa workers making their careers harder to maintain just like in manufacturing

January 10 2012 at 5:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

US manufacturers have stiff competition with China so they demand too much from employees an most ultimately outsource jobs by building plants there. Talk about job gaps the more factories cut jobs the more these workers have to find similar work to maintain their skills and pay levels causing repeated periods of working until the next job ends

January 10 2012 at 5:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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