When you are looking for great quotes to headline a blog article, you can’t get any better than Yogi Berra. The famous NY Yankees baseball legend was a treasure trove of one-liners and armchair wisdom. My all-time favorite must be “Always go to other people's funerals. Otherwise, they won't go to yours.” But when it comes to the job search process and the over 50 job seeker, he nailed it with “It ain't over till it's over.” In reality, he was referring to the Yankees chances in 1973 to come from behind and still win the division pennant. But who’s counting? Yogi’s wisdom can also tell the over 50 job seeker a few things about the job search process.
Ageism in the workplace is real. Let’s not beat around the bush on this topic. Whether implicit or explicit, age discrimination in the job search process presents a real challenge for job seekers 50 years of age and older. In a 2018 survey conducted by AARP, the association found that fully 67% of surveyed workers 45 years of age or older had experienced age discrimination in the workplace. So, should we give up? Absolutely not. Perhaps the hill is a little steeper to climb, and the trip might take a little longer. No matter the challenge, you can still win the job search process and find your next great job. Here are four tips for the over 50 job seeker.
Networking is the only job search strategy that matters.
If you think you are going to find that next job only applying to postings online, you are on your way to Disappointment Town. Today’s job search technology, along with the sheer scale of competition for online postings, tilts the deck in favor of a younger crowd. While applicant tracking systems (ATS) are not explicitly designed to facilitate age discrimination, real-world results tell a different story. ATS technology can be a real obstacle for older applicants with filters that approximate applicant age and the absence of human touch. It is not surprising that the over 50 job seeker is looking at an empty email inbox with no interviews in sight. What you need is a network in your corner. The antidote to blind rejection is a network contact telling the hiring manager that “You need to meet with [insert your name here]. I believe his (her) experience and skill set is an excellent fit for your team.” My recent article about overcoming the fear of networking can get you started with helpful guidance and a process to build your network.
You are who you are.
As a group, recruiters and hiring managers tend to be knowledgeable individuals. Forget the “tip of the day” articles with suggestions on how to mask your age in a job search. Any initial phone screen or standard internet search query will reveal a close approximation of your actual age. Even if you somehow get through the door for the first-round interview, what kind of first impression are you making when the discrepancy becomes evident to your future employer? If it walks like a duck, it is a duck. You need to own your age and leverage it as a competitive advantage in the job search. Build out a personal brand that shows the value a seasoned professional can bring to an organization. An elevator pitch, resume and LinkedIn profile are the basics to build out your brand. For the over 50 job seeker, I recommend going a step beyond the competition. Showcase your experience and wisdom with thought leadership. Add articles and presentations to the media section of your LinkedIn profile.
Sell the bread you have on the truck.
Some sales reps want to wait for the next new product launch before starting the sales cycle. But in sales, you get paid for what you sell now (i.e., the bread currently on the truck). In a job search, you are the product. The bread is on the truck, and it is fresh. Over 50 job seekers have several advantages to offer in the hiring process:
Hiring managers are focused on results and STAR stories. More years of work experience means you have a more significant reserve of stories to share compared to the younger competition.
Younger competition tends to focus more on upward mobility. You are in the last third of your career. Your objective is not advancing to the next shiny new object. Build a talk track that highlights your retention potential and the ability to remain as a highly productive member of the team.
This article from AARP expands on some additional reasons why hiring the 50 and over worker can deliver a sustained competitive advantage for any organization.
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Age without evolution or continuous improvement is not an attractive quality. I am not talking about plastic surgery here! Instead, I am focused on constant learning. Experience, wisdom, and loyalty are not enough to win the job offer. You must be just as smart and up to date as the younger competition. That means you can’t just take your old learning into a new job search and expect to win. You need to study the job descriptions of your target positions for required knowledge and skills. Leverage your network and meet with individuals holding your current target position. Query them about the most critical skills and knowledge needed in their job today. The great news is that today, there are all sorts of low-cost alternatives to supplement your continuous learning. Check out learning and teaching sites like Udemy, Coursera, and Lynda (LinkedIn Learning) as examples of websites where you can take courses for a nominal fee to stay current on almost any topic.
These four tips are an excellent start. But they mean nothing and will do nothing if you don’t believe in yourself. I speak with over 50 job seekers weekly. I read the job forums daily. The frustration and resignation of older job seekers are not simmering below the surface. It is out front and on full display. The common theme in both sources of data is lots of online job applications and little to no networking activity. To quote Yogi Berra one last time “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.” Exactly right Yogi. You aren’t networking. Stop looking for your next job in all the wrong places. Believe in your “50ish” year-old self and get out there and start building your network and creating your basket of opportunities. The results and a job offer will be sure to follow.
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.