“Spent some time feelin inferior, standing in front of my mirror,” sings Rod Stewart in his 1970s-era lyric.
If you’re over 50 and looking for a job, feeling inferior isn’t so unusual. The truth is, I know a lot of people who feel like castoffs in today’s job market.
What are you up against? Some employers figure your salary demands are out of their ballpark, or that you’re set in your ways, lack cutting edge skills, or perhaps even the energy to do the job. And then there’s the nagging issue that you’re not in it for the long haul. Retirement age lurks not that many years down the road for some seekers.
Here are ten tips to make you standout and get the job.
1. Cast a wide net. Don’t try to replicate your old job in your previous industry. Change it up. Look at your skill set and past experience as transferable to lots of different challenges and fields. If you’re switching industries, you’re not reinventing yourself entirely. You’re redirecting skills you already have in place, not retraining for entirely new ones.
Reframe your experience. You’re selling how your deep knowledge-base and skills can solve business problems in the future regardless of the employer. As Navy captain Donald Covington, who I profile in my book What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job, discovered, his leadership and management skills dovetailed sweetly with his second act as the company manager for the nonprofit, Big Apple Circus. “The military and the circus are not as different as you might think,” he told me with a laugh.
2. Focus on smaller companies and nonprofits. They’re more likely to value your experience, as Covington found. Fewer employees mean all hands on deck need to bring their “A” game. You can provide the depth of practical knowledge and versatility that’s worth two junior hires, and the learning curve is not as steep.
3. Network. In this era of online resumes, it’s all about who you know that can get you in the chair for a face-to-face meeting. People want to hire someone who comes with the blessing of an existing employee or colleague. It makes their job easier. That’s a card younger workers can’t play. Join LinkedIn. It’s great way to pull together your professional network.
4. Ask for help. Many corporations provide career coaches and counseling on a limited basis to help employees who have retired or lost their jobs. Skip the pride. Accept it. Check out career centers operated by area colleges or local government agencies offering workshops on résumé writing, career counseling, job fairs, and retraining programs.
* If there’s a particular industry you’re gunning for, join an association affiliated with it, and seek out volunteer opportunities. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences.
* Get involved with alumni groups and the career center at your alma mater where you can find help with résumé polishing, smoothing your interviewing skills and networking opportunities.
5. Be up-to-date with the latest technology. You should be at ease with desktops, laptops and the basic software programs needed for the job your applying for. Mobile technology should not be a stumbling block. Think iPhone, iPad, Android, Twitter, web navigation.
6. Keep your resume alive. Volunteer for a non-profit organization or do pro-bono work, advises Maggie Mistal, a well-respected career coach and Sirius XM radio host. See Maggie’s tips in this post.
I agree with Maggie. As I see it, the rewards are three-fold–an opportunity to network and get your foot in the door with future employers or fields. It feels good, and you’re doing something for someone else-a trifecta.
Use your skills to create your own business or non-profit project at home. Add some classes to boost your expertise in a new arena, say nonprofit fundraising, if that’s an area that appeals to you. Travel experiences, too, show that you’ve been actively learning and growing, Mistal adds. You’ll probably bump up personal or professional references at the same time.
7. Pitch your age as a plus. Workers over fifty tend to be self-starters, know how to get the job done, and don’t need as much handholding as those with less experience. You need to be able to articulate your value. Have some swagger.
This is where a well-crafted resume is key. Achievements trump titles and responsibilities. Kick off your resume with specific examples of what you have accomplished in various positions.
“The No. 1 mistake made on resumes is writing only about job tasks and never writing about what was achieved in each position,” writes executive career coach Barbara Safani on this AOL Job Board post.
“Hiring managers want resumes that convey strong stories of success and tangible examples of how you have helped the companies you’ve worked for make money, save time, improve efficiency, reduce redundancies, and grow the business,” she says. “But usually what hiring managers get are resumes with a long list of job tasks.”
8. Fine-tune your interview skills. It may have been a while since you have been on the other side of the table. Don’t be nervous. It helps if you psychologically approach the interview as if you’re a highly-paid consultant called in to trouble-shoot.
Focus on the company’s needs, not yours. Go beyond the current job description. By taking a genuine interest in the firm you’re interviewing with, learning about the company’s history and goals, and talking to people who work there, you can demonstrate that.
* If you have done your homework on the firm and Google alerts kept you up-to-date on the latest developments with the company and its competitors, you’ll have lots to pull from in your conversation.
* State clearly what you think needs to be done and why, based on your experience, you’re the one to do it. Refrain from throwing out names of powerful people you worked with two decades ago–makes you seem ancient. And who really cares?
9. Don’t be a know it all with a chip on your shoulder. Inevitably, the talk will turn to you. The interviewer needs to learn as much about you as possible, but steer clear of lengthy résumé regurgitation. Answer questions with crisp, dignified responses. Take time beforehand to internally focus on your best moments, what situations you shine in, and be clear in interviews that if they put you in those situations, you will perform. Don’t bad mouth past employers, even if you are bitter from being ushered out the door in a downsizing move.
10. Overqualified? Deal with it. That’s if you want the gig. If you do, repeat after me: What matters to me at this stage is having the opportunity to work with outstanding people in a company whose values and products I believe in and where my skills and experience can be used in a meaningful way. They could only be so lucky to get someone who can bring even more oomph than they need.