Today’s job market holds special challenges for mature job-seekers. Hiring opportunities are limited and the competition for jobs remains stiff. Moreover, although our years of experience provide potential employers with numerous benefits, candidates over 50 need to overcome some unfortunate preconceptions. To be successful, you will want to be aware of the pitfalls and avoid the three common mistakes older applicants make.
#1 The Appearance of Complacency
Perhaps the most pervasively negative stereotype younger employers hold against mature job-seekers is their belief that people over 50 lack the technical skills for the job. The mindset of many hiring managers in their thirties and forties is that we’ve lost our drive and are simply marking time until retirement.
As a mature job-seeker, you’ll have to go out of your way to stress your commitment to keeping your skills current and remaining up-to-date with the latest technical advances in your field. There is no way around this—lacking technical proficiency is today’s ultimate deal breaker. Therefore, if you need to brush up on your skills, do so. You don’t want to lose out on a great position when a little training could make all the difference.
There are a number of low-fee and free sites that will give you the skills you’ll need. Here are two to get you started:
#2 The Hesitancy to Toot Your Own Horn
Many in our age group grew up believing that modesty is a virtue. This may be true in a number of circumstances, but a job search is not one of them. In addition to possessing the skills you’ll need for the position, you have to market yourself with assertion and let employers know you’ve got these skills in spades. Your talents and abilities are your saleable qualities, so don’t hide your light under a bushel—in fact, be bold and sell them with confidence!
You already know that the key skills for your line of work must be scattered liberally throughout the body of your resume. Then you’ll want to go on to substantiate these skills with examples of you performing your work at its best—making certain to stress the results you’ve produced and quantify your achievements whenever possible.
But take it one step further. Add a section underneath your formal education and call it “Ongoing Professional Development.” Employers want workers who are committed to lifelong learning so this phrase says it all. That’s where you will cite any relevant classes or coursework that underscore your commitment to keeping your skill sets current.
While networking and during a job interview, proactively mention your talents and accomplishments, how you’ve continually updated your technical skills, and how your contributions have made a significant difference to the success of your team. Again—do not be shy. In today’s competitive market, you’ll need to play to win!
#3 Allowing the Media Hype Get You Down
By far the biggest mistake any job-seeker over 50 can make is to believe the media hype about your limited chances for success. Of course you’ll want to be realistic but it’s awfully difficult to present yourself with confidence if you buy into all the doom and gloom.
Remember the media is known for (almost always) spinning bad news, so consider the source. The statistics they cite are, by definition, generalities—and do not reflect on your own chances for success. Your opportunities are based on the methods you use to conduct your search, the contacts in your network, the number of opportunities available in your area, how many hours per day you put into your search, and a whole host of other factors that are relevant to you as an individual.
Confidence in your abilities and enthusiasm for what you will bring to the position and the company are critical to your success. So, as I like to say, anticipate success—nothing beats a confident candidate with the skills to do the job and a winning attitude!