Many employers have a lot of opinions and stereotypes about older workers. They think:
- They are over the hill
- They cost too much
- Their skills are out of date
- They can’t work with younger workers
- They won’t take direction from less-experienced bosses
No one wants to hire me–I’m too old
I run into a lot of older workers who have been out of work for a long time: six months, a year, two years, and more. Many have given up, though they’re still technically in the hunt. A lot of them feel bitter. I often hear them say, “No one wants people over fifty anymore.”
So what can you do to make sure that you’re not one of those who languish in long-term unemployment?
1, Be sure you’re handling the fundamentals well
Many of the long-term unemployed aren’t running very good job campaigns. Their resumes are mediocre—or worse, they don’t have a credible LinkedIn presence, they don’t speak about themselves well, and they don’t have a solid marketing plan. Sitting at home in front of the computer sending out bad resumes all day is highly unlikely to get you hired.
This might get you calls for commission-only sales jobs or multi-level marketing schemes, but not good jobs.
I recently worked with an over-fifty client who had been laid off after working for the same company for over 18 years. Since then, she had been out of work for nine months, despite her impressive credentials and solid track record. But she didn’t know how to sell herself. For years, she’d kept her nose to the grindstone and did great work, but never tooted her horn. She didn’t have to because everyone at work knew how good she was. But when the company let her go, that changed. She had to sell herself.
After I helped her upgrade her marketing materials and self-presentation and develop a solid marketing plan, she quickly got hired – and avoided the stigma of “long-term unemployed.”
2. Be sure your skills are up to date
It’s hard to compete if your skills aren’t current. Get training if you need it, so you’ll have the “right stuff” employers want. Low on cash? A lot of excellent training is available free or very inexpensively. If you’re near a community college, they may have affordable courses in what you need. Your local community center or public library may have free courses, and there is a lot of good material online. Just one excellent online resource is Lynda.com, with many offerings in software training and more. You can access it for a low monthly fee – or check with your public library. My local library gives cardholders free access to Lynda.com, and you can even access it from your home computer.
3. Address the technology issue
Let them know that you’re not a “dinosaur” and you know something about technology. If you’re on social media, put your social media links on your resume. Likewise, be sure your command of technology is visible on your resume. Many younger hiring decision makers prefer texting, so communicating with them this way shows you know how to do it. You might take a tablet with you to the interview. You don’t even have to open it; just have it with you. Borrow one if you don’t own one. You may want to confront this issue proactively in job interviews.
4. Use a job interview strategy that works: Look for “pain”
It’s not good enough to handle job interviews like everyone else. If you do, the boss may think, “Why should I hire this expensive guy/woman (meaning YOU) when I could hire that college grad I met with yesterday for cheap?”
It is important to do what good sales reps do. They know that people usually don’t buy unless they are in some kind of pain. People might say, “My car works just fine. I don’t need a new one.” But if that sales rep asks good probing questions, they may uncover some pain. The sales rep might find out that the prospect:
- Was very embarrassed when she couldn’t attend a party at a friend’s house because her car broke down.
- Lives next to a family that just got a new sports car–and HATES being shown up by this neighbor.
- Wants to visit family, but doesn’t trust the car on a long trip.
Aha! PAIN! Now there may be room for a sale!
So act like a good sales rep. Probe to find the employer’s pain. They’re not hiring just because there’s an opening. The pain may look like this:
- The Public Relations Department is in hot water for bungling a sensitive call from a major newspaper. It made the company appear clueless, and the company president is LIVID.
- An ace project manager is moving to Alaska, and the boss is worried about all those upcoming critical deliverables.
- Sales are down and the boss is under the gun to turn things around-FAST.
After uncovering the boss’s pain, you can talk about how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and how your experience and talent will make an impact far beyond what recent college grads can do.
You’ve been around the block a few times, and have deep knowledge of how things work. Your database “cup” of useful contacts runneth over. You’ve demonstrated that you can be cool under fire and fix disasters. You’ve got good judgement. Plus, unlike the 20-somethings who often change jobs every couple of years, you’re a stable kind of person whom the boss can count on to stay around for a while.
5. Convince the boss that you can work with younger people
The boss may very well be wary of you, concerned that you’re not going to take direction. She may think you’re going to be another arrogant SOB, like the last older guy she interviewed who didn’t want to take orders from a younger person – especially not a woman.
Smile at the boss and put her at ease. Reassure her that you enjoy working with younger people and the great synergy that comes from teams composed of workers from different generations. If it’s true, you might say that you’ve done the high-level, high-stress jobs like hers, and at this point, you’re content to work under her.
Be sure to have a conversation with her about what you can do to make her look like a superstar.
Is it time to take control of your career? Let’s have a no-obligation conversation about your situation. Don’t procrastinate, call today at 847 673 0339.
Remember, though age discrimination presents a tough challenge, people can – and DO – overcome it and finish their careers doing satisfying, well-paid work. According to an AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll of baby boomers, 61 percent surveyed said their age is not an issue at work; 25 percent called it an asset.