What you may not have is confidence that you will actually be able to do so. You may feel as though the market place has potentially written you off.
I always feel sad when I hear the all-too-common statement that ‘unemployed people over 50 will not get another job’. I know that in most cases, with the right support, it is not true. Wishing to retire is a totally valid career choice. However, it is a great pity to enter a forced retirement merely because you lack the skills to persuade another employer to hire you.
I am in my mid-fifties and I have never got the impression that my clients dismiss me because of my age. My husband is 65 and he is an acknowledged international expert in his field. If we can persuade the market place to buy us, so can you.
Nonetheless, as Baby Boomers retire and the power moves decisively to younger generations, you may need to work a bit harder to pick up that next role if you are an older worker.
So what do you do?
Tip #1: Update your appearance
One of the most critical areas for an older worker to manage is their personal appearance. If you look old-fashioned and resistant to change, it will be much more difficult to get another job. Here are some areas to take a good, hard look at.
1. Drill down into the reality that you face and the outcome that you are trying to achieve.
What are the norms of the industry that you operate in? What level of seniority are you targeting? One of the current judgement calls for male professionals, for example, is the suit and tie or suit and no tie decision.
2. Get a modern haircut and present a well-groomed image.
It works wonders for giving you an energetic look and people associate energy with youth and enthusiasm.
3. Assess core aspects of your visual image.
If you wear glasses, ensure that they are in vogue. If you sport a beard, it should be a modern style.
4. Revamp your wardrobe.
On the whole, clean lines work best. Find an outfit that is just slightly edgy, one that makes an (appropriate-for-your-marketplace) statement. That way, you will look stylish and up-to-date.
5. Ascertain whether your market is so competitive that you to need to cover micro issues.
At the most formal end of the market, you may even be assessed on the type of watch that you wear. This can extend to a judgement for women with long hair about whether to wear your hair in a French roll rather than a ponytail – that’s how nuanced it can be.
Tip #2: Create a strong online presence
Sites such as LinkedIn are becoming almost exponential in their importance and usefulness. And, nothing screams ‘resistant to change’ more than an older worker who is not even on LinkedIn.
There are multiple blogs available to advise you on how to optimise your professional online presence. It’s never too late to get started on this.
1. Present an up-to-date image.
Use lively language in your postings and display an attractive, professional-looking photo.
2. Publish third party testimonials.
Ask work connections and clients (if possible) for recommendations so that there is a consistent message about your value. This provides independent confirmation that back up the claims you are making.
3. Contribute to Groups in your technical area.
It is possible to gain expert status in a surprisingly short period of time with sensible, on-point comments.
4. Post sensible content on a weekly basis.
Keep yourself front of mind with your connections.
Tip #3: Hone your interview skills
There is no doubt that some employers worry about hiring an older worker. Often, as soon as an older worker walks into the interview room, the prospective employer’s antennae are on high alert. Your interview performance alone can make the difference between an involuntary retirement and ongoing, productive employment.
1. Start your campaign to sharpen your interview skills as soon as possible.
It might take some months for you to improve your interview persona and change entrenched responses. Practise, practise, practise – preferably out loud.
2. Send a message that you are flexible and strategic.
Incorporate examples of you accepting/promoting workplace change into your answers in the early stages of the interview. This will help to ease any concern that you are resistant to change.
3. Demonstrate enthusiasm and energy.
Both your voice and your responses to interview questions should be lively and upbeat. Your language needs to be natural and not overly formal.
4. Provide evidence that your technical and IT skills are up to date.
Don’t miss out on a job because you’ve fallen behind with mainstream technology. Even better, display cutting edge knowledge and information in your technical area.
5. Construct your answers to sound like someone normal and sensible.
You want the listener to think: ‘I’d like to work with her, she sounds nice’.
6. Film yourself on your camera as you practise complete answers to various interview questions.
I know it’s embarrassing but it’s amazing what you see when you play it back.
Tip #4: Access emotional and strategic support
Everyone needs someone to help them through a Job Search campaign. This is even more important if you are an older worker because many of the issues are actually between your ears.
1. Find someone to help you counter negative fears and thought patterns.
They can also assist you to find ways to manage your demeanour.
2. Garner their support to counter that nasty little voice in your head.
You know, the one that pipes up when things go wrong, ‘Well no-one’s going to hire me anyway because I’m too old.’
3. Find an optimistic problem-solver to help you to uncover opportunities that you may not see.
They can also help you to focus on strategic Job Search activities.
It’s time to drop the negativity
This message about over 50′s has been with us ever since I started working in the area of Career Transition, many years ago now. Almost the first thing an older worker would say to me was: ‘I know I’m not going to be able to get another job at my age.’
This was during the early 2000s when the Adelaide job market was just awful. Back then, it was generally true that the corporate world had a definite bias against older workers. And yet, my clients found work.
In the current market place, which will never rival the difficulty of those days, I can think of none of my clients where their age is an issue. Find someone you can trust to alert you to any changes you may need to make and then get started.
aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au
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