Using age as an advantage when looking for work

April 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
They say age is just a number, but it really does matter when it comes to landing a job.

The numbers show once people are laid off, workers over the age of 55 stay unemployed longer than any other age group.

Middle age workers not only face competition from younger workers, but they are also fighting against what many believe are negative stereotypes about older people. We talked to a career counselor who shares some ways you can turn those negatives into positives.

Terry Nemec, 57, is determined to think positive when it comes to her job search. But she admits that after being constantly rejected, and told she is over qualified, it's hard not to think her age could be a problem.

Researchers say once laid off, workers in their fifties are 20 percent less likely to become re-employed than their younger counter parts. Eileen Williams, a career counselor who works with job-seekers in mid-life, says it often has to do with employers perception of mature workers. "And many time younger employers think that older workers don't have the technical skills for the job, we are old, and tired we are slow."

Williams says older job-seekers can dispel a lot of these stereotypes by changing, what she calls, non-verbal messages they give off just by the way they dress, look, and carry themselves.

Terry's awareness that she's competing against much younger people caused her to make some lifestyle changes. "I exercise constantly, I've also changed my diet. I've tried to be younger in my clothing and, just try to give off a more upbeat, energetic attitude when I go in."

Williams encourages nurture workers to look at their age as a positive. She says by mid-life you've amassed a life time of skills. The kind of skills employers need such as problem solving and critical thinking. "Employers have issues that need to be resolved, issues they are dealing with projects that need to be completed. So sell your demonstrated skills in these areas."

"Employers have issues that need to be resolved, issues they are dealing with projects that need to be completed. So sell your demonstrated skills in these areas," said Williams.

When it comes to actually mounting that job search, those in mid-life need a different approach. Williams says you have to be pro-active. She advices you seek out companies where you would like to work and find someone in your network who can help you make contact and then make your pitch. "And ask them if possible you would like to meet with them for a very brief time. I would approach them from the format 'I'm doing research on these particular companies,' not necessarily 'I'm a job-seeker.'"

The goal is to build relationships that can not only help you eventually land a job, but in the process change employers perceptions, that may lead them to believe you're not able to compete with someone younger.

"Because I know that I have the energy and the drive and I know I can compete with someone that age. Just give me a change that's all I want," said Nemec.

Mature workers like Terry are also dealing with the fact that they have been out of school for a long time. If you graduated from college in the 70's you might need to brush up on your skills.

Next week we will introduce you to some low cost tools that can help.


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