Strategic Conversations with Barbara

How to position yourself to get hired after 50

“To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”—Pearl S. Buck

No matter their position or level of education, my clients over 50 have concerns about how employable they are. In every case I reassure and advise them to take control of what they can and move forward with the steps that will enable their success.

I also add facts to reduce their anxiety of being passed over because of their age: one-third of Maine’s population is between 55 and 74 (the boomer demographic), and the younger generation is growing at a snail’s pace. This alarming statistic has resulted in a marketplace that needs talent across industries.

However, not everyone over 50 is guaranteed a job, despite the projected skills gap in Maine that may extend into the next decade.

Presenting an impressive “professional brand” makes you more competitive and is essential to securing the best opportunity. Here are three essential “must-dos” for the over-50 job search:

1. Clearly communicate your skills and competencies: Looking for a job requires you to be honest and frank about your strengths and talents with concise examples of when you demonstrated them. It is not a time to be modest or take for granted what you do well.

Your resume should present your relevant and most recent experiences with an emphasis on what you achieved, not just what you did. Anyone over 50 should not list their entire work history. What you did early in your career is hardly reflective of the competencies you have today, and it can make your resume go beyond the preferred two pages.

Never include the year you graduated from college or high school. “Keep them guessing” is the advice I often give.

Your LinkedIn profile should rank well in searches for people with your skill set. Key to a good ranking is a complete profile (All-Star status), a headline that includes searchable key words (rather than your most recent title), 250-plus connections, and job titles in your experience section that align with positions consistent with your job target.

Since coaching how to improve LinkedIn profiles is a specialty at Heart At Work, we emphasize the importance of personalizing your profile rather than merely cutting and pasting in your resume. And we do not recommend uploading your resume—you want to have something for the prospective employer to ask you for!

2. Focus on your target: Twenty-five years ago, you would identify a job title from a rather short list of possible positions and apply through the local newspaper. Now, you’d limit yourself by aiming only for specific titles, and jobs are now advertised online. Today’s job seekers need to know where their skills align with opportunities in the marketplace, as well as the organizations that need what they have to offer. This is the focus of a successful job search.

3. Be strategic in your conversations: The term “networking” is bantered around in any job search conversation. However, few people truly understand what it means to engage in successful networking.

At Heart At Work, we prefer the term “strategic conversations” rather than “networking” because it is important to think carefully about what you want as a result from the meeting.

Know why you are meeting with your contact, be able to state your strengths, and ask for what you want as a takeaway (typically the promise of an email introduction to someone else). The heart of the conversation is about current challenges they are facing and how your skills might add to solutions. This strategy is not about “selling yourself,” but rather about exploring options to find a good match for what you offer.

It’s true that finding a job has changed dramatically from when you were younger. But remember that you’ve increased your experience and developed your skills and become more comfortable with yourself since then.

Now it’s time to put your talents and self-knowledge together in a work environment that fits your life stage and all that you bring to the marketplace.

Barbara Babkirk is a master career counselor and principal at Heart At Work Associates, a career counseling and outplacement firm in Portland that assists professionals transition to work that aligns with their skills and life stage priorities. Barbara’s specialty is working with baby boomers who are exploring their next chapter. Contact her at: [email protected]

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