How Middle-Aged Job-Seekers Can Make Their Case

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Any job-seeker of a “certain age,” as the saying goes, knows how difficult it is to land a quality job, especially after being laid off and lacking current job experience to leverage when seeking a new position.

According to The Wall Street Journal, about 3.5 million U.S. adults between 45 and 64 were out of work through mid-2012, with 39% of those numbers unemployed for a year or longer. While the unemployed rate for middle-age workers is about half of their 20-something counterparts, it’s much harder for a 50-year-old to land a good-paying job with benefits than a younger, cheaper and – fair or unfair – potentially more energetic 25-year-old.

Sure, experience counts for a great deal with hiring managers, and experience for middle-aged workers is a great card to play when talking to a potential employer about a new job.

But there are other cards up the sleeves of the 45-64 set that are either are ignored, forgotten or unrealized. And not playing them can really cost an older worker in a highly competitive job market.

So says Harris Allied, a New York City-based executive recruiting firm. Managing Director Kathy Harris has some definite ideas on how older workers can use their experience and savvy to land a great job, and it all starts with managing expectations.

“These job-seekers need to be ready to compromise on their salary requirements as well as the industry they want to work in. And they should consider both consulting arrangements and full-time employment,” Harris says.

Middle-aged job-seekers need to make a compelling case to employers, and that’s where a “career-narrative” can be a game changer.

“Job-seekers with some 20 or 30 years’ experience bring a lot to the table in terms of workplace savvy and real-world expertise,” Harris says, “but they need to be able to tell that story in a compelling way. Having a two- or three-page resume is not enough. They need to develop a career narrative from beginning to end to tell their career story. I recommend these job-seekers rewrite their resume from scratch rather than merely updating it. This way you can take a more holistic look at all the skills and expertise you bring to the table and tell the story in a more streamlined fashion.”

The multipage resume is another nonstarter, Harris says. That’s particularly so if the resume is weighted toward jobs and career achievements that are a decade or two old. It’s also a good idea to get a professional to review your resume and suggest improvements.

“Make sure you give the reader a good picture of the trajectory of your career. Lastly, even though resumes are submitted online these days, appearance matters. The best move would be to consult with a recruiter who can offer you guidance on how your resume reads and looks to potential employers,” Harris says.

Here are some additional point-by-point tips from Harris for middle-age job-seekers:

Stay cool when interviewing with younger managers. The chances are good you’ll be interviewing with a younger hiring manager younger. Harris advises staying cool and avoiding red-flag terms such as “when I was your age.”

Have fire in the belly. Harris says managers love to hire employees who show “vim and vigor.” Show a company your entire career has been defined by your energy and fire to succeed; that’s the type of compelling story Harris wants you to tell.

Ace the interview. Don’t mention old technologies you have used in a job interview – managers are especially watching for that, Harris says. Also, ask ahead about any dress code, since the traditional “blue suit” office culture is going by the wayside. Plan ahead for some good questions to ask – that’s where Google and company websites can really help.

Your “thank you” note should be done via email. Hand-written notes went out of style long ago, Harris says.

Use social networking. It can help gain a foothold with new employers. “Perhaps most important is the need to network,” she adds. “Know how it works and be sure to get out there and meet with people once a week for drinks, dinner or coffee. The days when you reviewed the classifieds on Sunday mornings are long gone. LinkedIn is a great tool to connect with old – and make new – contacts. Today, finding a new job is about connecting with the right people that can help make an introduction for you,” Harris says.

That’s great food for thought for middle-age workers. The jobs are out there, but the landscape has changed. That means that to some extent, they’ll have to change, too.

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