Changing careers, or even just companies, is a daunting prospect for anyone, but if you’re older, you may feel like the barriers between you and your dream job are particularly high. After all, the workplace has changed significantly in recent years, and if you’ve stayed in one position (or been out of the job market) for a while, then it may seem like the entire working world has transformed into a web of tech and social media jobs.
But while technologies around job hunting have changed, employers have not. They’re still looking for hard workers, self-starters, and good communicators. You may have to resort to new methods to show potential employers that you meet these demands, but the good news is that with a lifetime of experience, you’re way ahead of young newcomers to the job market—no matter how technologically savvy they may be!
Still, there are pitfalls that older job hunters tend to fall into, and you need to make sure you’re aware of them in order to come out ahead of the pack. Being able to change with the times will only make you a more invaluable resource to your employers. Here are some of the mistakes older job hunters commonly make and how you can fix them. Happy hunting!
Not having a LinkedIn profile
Want to show potential employers that you’re still in the loop? Get on LinkedIn. This website is like a resume, a social network, and a classified-ads section all rolled into one. You can’t underestimate the importance of having a well-crafted LinkedIn page—it’s basically your online representative in the job world. You can list your experience, write a bio, show your skills, include links and clips of your past work, and upload a professional photo. Having a good-looking LinkedIn page is invaluable. Even if you don’t share your profile with a potential employer, chances are that upon receiving your resume they’ll look you up on the popular site. So make sure your profile is fully filled out and up to snuff.
Not having a (professional) digital presence
Don’t just stop at LinkedIn. Many employers check out their applicants on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It seems mind-boggling—Facebook helps people get jobs?—but these sites are great places for employers to gather information beyond what you put on your resume. They can get a better feel for what sort of person you are, what your interests are, and what you care about. If a potential employer scouts out your profile and sees photos of you volunteering, or a link to a personal project, they’ll see that you’re a self-starter with ambition. And if they see you “yelling” at people online and posting conspiracy theories? Well, you might be waiting a while for a callback.
Limiting your search to the offline world
Your local newspaper used to be the place to look for jobs, but these days, everything lives online. LinkedIn is a great website for finding job postings related to your interests, but there are a variety of others, too. Indeed (www.indeed.com) aggregate postings from all over the web, making it a good place to start. If you’re interested in more niche positions, check to see if there are message boards or job boards online related to your field, and don’t be afraid to strike up an online conversation with people. You never know whom they might know.
Forgetting about your network
It’s a good idea to look online for work, but it’s also easy to spend all day Googling and believing that you’ve accomplished something. In reality, whether it’s online or in person, the thing that is most likely to get you a job is connecting with people, and that’s what you need to focus on. Lots of older job-seekers feel like they should be able to get by on their qualifications alone, but the job world is, and always has been, about nepotism. So get in touch with old contacts, friends, and people you’ve worked with, and see if they know of any openings.
Having a poorly organized, overly long resume
If you’ve been in the working world for many years, listing all your professional experience might take up several pages. And while looking at that list of accomplishments might make you feel fabulous, it will probably horrify a potential employer. Hiring companies want to see that you can cut the fat and distill all your experience into a page or two of pertinent information. You want your resume to be snappy. Use bullet points to list your past achievements. Use strong verbs. Choose a clear, professional font. Chances are a potential employer will only look at your resume for about 30 seconds—so offer up something memorable. If your resume includes your job at McDonalds twenty years ago, your resume might have some problems you’ll likely want to fix.
Having a resume with no flair
While some older workers have held several different positions, many find themselves looking for a new role after years of being at the same job. While not having many great jobs on your resume isn’t ideal, it’s really only a problem if you don’t know how to present the experience that you do have. Don’t just plunk your job in the middle of the page and begrudgingly hand it in like a grade-school book report. Make it look good. List your achievements at your old job (chances are potential employers will be impressed by your reliability). Write a statement of purpose. List skills you’ve developed and places where you’ve volunteered. List your interests. When HR sees your resume, they’ll see a real person, not just words on a page. And get a nice-looking template (or, if you have a few bucks to spare, a designer to create yours). Courier font just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Getting back into the job market can be bewildering, particularly when you look at a job’s list of requirements. These lists often feel inscrutable and acronym heavy (“Familiarity with concepts of SEO, SEM, PPCS, and XML required”). But when an employer writes their list of “wants” in an employee, they are imagining their ideal candidate—and they’re just as likely to find a unicorn. Everyone feels underqualified for jobs, but the people who get them are the ones who apply anyway, emphasizing the experience that they do have and their willingness to learn. If there’s an area you know nothing about, the Internet is a great place for a primer. Go to a website like Lynda.com, or even YouTube, and see what you can find out on your own. When you see an acronym you don’t know, don’t despair—make like a millennial and Google it!
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