If you’re looking for a job right now, you’re not alone — although that probably doesn’t make you feel any better.
Latest estimates are that 4 million Americans are unemployed and seeking work. If you’re female, over 50 and looking for a job, you may feel you’re up against insurmountable odds. But take heart. There are still companies out there hiring — and many of those companies can benefit greatly from your years of experience and thoughtful perspectives.
After the Great Recession, I worked for a nonprofit where part of my job was coordinating a group for female job seekers over 50, most of whom had been “detached” from the workforce for some time. For some of our participants, it had been a few months; in some cases, it had been a couple of decades. Many of them didn’t know where to begin to look for a job. They were worried that even if they did get an interview, they’d never be hired once the interviewers found out how old they were. “No one is going to want to hire an old fogey like me,” one of the participants said.
Not true! Attitudes are shifting, and many companies value the things more experienced workers can bring to the table. In the program I coordinated, we saw several women get jobs before the program even ended. They successfully connected with opportunities (and interviewers) that saw the value they could bring to an organization. They were able to showcase their skills and abilities and land interviews (and jobs!) by following the following tips, in particular.
Conventional wisdom has changed, and it’s no longer necessary for your resume to reflect every job you’ve had since you left high school or college. Resumes only need to go back 15 years, 20 at the maximum. Additionally, if it’s been more than 15 years since you graduated from high school, college, or graduate school, leave your graduation date(s) off your resume. It’s not about hiding anything, but about keeping the focus on what you know and what you can do.
If you’ve recently taken classes or training, make sure you list that at the top of the “education” section of your resume. Employers are interested in candidates with up-to-date skills. If you haven’t taken a class lately, now’s a great time to do it! Low-cost or free classes teaching currently in-demand skills like data analytics are available through online universities, or on sites like Coursera. Consider taking a class in something you would like to know more about. It’s a great way to demonstrate to employers you’re invested in lifelong learning and aren’t afraid to try something new.
Working your network and letting people know you’re looking for a job can help you land an amazing opportunity! If you’re thinking to yourself “I don’t have a network,” think about all the people you’ve met over the years while volunteering, at your place of worship, through involvement with your child’s school, at your spouse or partner’s workplace, through classes you’ve taken or events you’ve attended… those people are all part of your network! Research has shown that people on the periphery of your network — what are called “weak connections," or people who you don’t know that well — are the most likely contacts who can connect you to a job. It takes courage to ask someone you don’t know well to coffee, but look at it as practice. In your job search, you’ll be meeting lots of new people, so networking can help you get better at small talk and talking about your accomplishments and goals.
We can lose the ability to see our own accomplishments and experience clearly and understand how to speak about them effectively. Before you send out your resume, have a trusted (honest!) friend or family member (or a career or resume coach) review it. What makes a resume stand out has changed over the years — what worked for you in the past may not work in today’s world, where computers read resumes before people do. If you haven’t interviewed in a long time, enlist a friend to ask you behavioral interview questions so you can practice.
Looking for a job is a skill, and like all skills, it takes practice to master. Part of what makes job seeking so intimidating is that we subject ourselves to feedback — said or unsaid — that we sometimes don’t feel ready to hear. Getting feedback on your resume and interview style in advance of applying or interviewing for a job can make a difference on your mindset and help you feel more confident about how you present yourself.
Good luck on your job search!
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