Tips for Older Job Seekers
Part 1: Hone Your Skills and Connect with Others

By Toni Vranjes

November 24, 2010

Older people are facing new challenges in today’s job market. To help with these challenges, Revive My Career is running a three-part series providing tips for job seekers age 40 and older. This first part examines getting started, becoming tech-savvy, and connecting with others. The second installment helps you prepare job-search tools and find job openings. The third part explores the steps to a successful interview, focusing on research, etiquette, body language, and attitude.

Prepare Yourself, Physically and Mentally

It’s no secret that landing a job can take an extremely long time. And older job seekers spend a longer time looking for work than younger people, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In October, the average duration of unemployment for people ages 55 and older was 44.3 weeks. By comparison, for people ages 25 to 54, the average was 37.2 weeks. For 16-to-24 year-olds, it was 24.5 weeks.

So have reasonable expectations, and anticipate rejection along the way — but never give up hope.

It’s also crucial to stay healthy and lead a balanced life. Eat right, exercise, and visit the doctor. Focus your mind by doing meditation or other relaxation techniques. Spend quality time with family and friends, and participate in your favorite hobbies. Humor also can be a stress reliever, so watch a funny movie. If necessary, share your feelings with a counselor or spiritual advisor.

Evaluate Your Interests and Abilities

Figure out the types of occupations that appeal to you, and determine what kinds of jobs would fit your lifestyle. Are you seeking a flexible schedule? Are you willing to travel?

Once you’ve figured out your ideal job, ask yourself whether you have the required skills, or whether you need training.

If you need guidance, take a career-aptitude test. Free evaluations are available at CareerPath and other websites.

Stay Current with Technology and Your Industry

If you don’t know how to use computers, you need to become familiar with them. You can learn basic computer skills by signing up for a class at a local career center or community college.

You should own your own computer and cell phone, so that you can practice your skills on your own equipment. Be familiar with modern ways of communicating, such as e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking through Facebook and other sites.

Learn the latest developments in your career field. Read relevant articles and books, and attend industry conferences. Also, consider taking classes at a community college or enrolling in online courses. One great way to enhance your professional skills is through a certificate program. This path allows you to gain expertise in a particular career field, and it’s usually quicker and less expensive than a formal graduate degree program.

Going back to school shows an employer that you’re disciplined and committed, says Yesenia Evangelista, of the California Employment Development Department (EDD). And that could you give an edge in the tough job market, adds Evangelista, an EDD employment-program representative in Los Angeles.

“You show them you’re not just sitting at home watching TV all day,” she says. “You’re doing something to upgrade your skills to put yourself back on the market.”

However, be cautious if you’re considering a switch to an entirely new career. Carefully study the pros and cons.

Search for Recruiters

If you want to work with recruiters who specialize in your industry, do some research first. Get referrals, and search online. Visit websites such as SearchFirm.com, Online Recruiters Directory, and Kennedy Information.

Network

As you prepare for the job search, make sure you connect with other people.

Join trade groups and alumni associations, and attend as many networking events as possible. In this high-tech age, it’s still important to meet with people in person.

Today, the Internet provides even more ways to connect. Network with others on websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Xing. Your contacts can provide career advice and tell you about job openings. Also, recruiters and hiring managers sometimes use these sites to find candidates.

Older job seekers have a key advantage in networking, says Tim Driver, CEO of career website Retirement Jobs, which is based in Waltham, Mass.

“People over 50 tend to have larger networks,” he says. “They’ve lived longer and met more people.”

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