It’s no secret that it’s more difficult to find a job in our late fifties and sixties than when we were younger. Additionally, many baby boomers live in fear of getting laid off or being replaced by younger workers. According to the AARP, the percentage of older workers claiming workplace age discrimination is the highest it’s been since 2003. With the combination of today’s raging inflation and the recent bear market deflating retirement accounts, many retirement-age boomers are remaining or returning to the workforce.
FACT: While millennials and gen-xers may not have the extensive experience of the baby boomer generation, they often will work for a lower salary.
For many years I’ve helped displaced homemakers, recent college graduates, former CIOs and CFOs, and everyone in-between prepare themselves for the job market. In addition, as an IT executive for a university and an electric utility, I hired dozens of IT trainers, software developers, and hardware technicians. Recently, I’ve assisted a number of my boomer friends who’ve either lost their job or live in fear of job termination. If you’re in either of these situations, here are some do’s and don’ts:
- If the company you work for is “reorganizing” a.k.a. “downsizing,” make yourself invaluable by finding new projects, duties, and process improvement methodology. Look for things that are needed, cost the company virtually nothing but your labor, and that no one else wants to do. Most people become demoralized and paralyzed in these situations. YOU need to be extra innovative and upbeat.
- Always make your boss look good. Take credit for what you’re doing, but make sure you share some of it with him/her. You need allies.
- No matter how intolerable the scenario where you’re working is, don’t quit until you’ve secured a new job. FACT: You’re more employable while you’re employed.
- Develop a professional résumé no longer than two pages. Emphasize your skills and accomplishments. Leave jobs you held in the seventies and eighties off the résumé unless you have no recent relevant experience. Consider removing graduation dates. NEVER lie on a résumé.
- Anticipate the interview and prepare for it. There are numerous books and websites on the topic. One of my favorites is James Storey’s The Art of the Interview. Practice interview questions with a friend who preferably has hiring experience.
- Check out websites such as ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and Monster.com. Keep a spreadsheet of positions you’ve applied for including names, dates, and responses.
- Tell everyone you know you’re looking for employment opportunities.
- Join social networking groups. FACT: Most jobs are secured through people you know.
- Call managers in companies where you would like to work. Tell them a brief description of your work experience and ask if they have fifteen minutes to meet with you about current or future opportunities with the organization. If they’re not hiring, ask if they know of available positions elsewhere and the names of who to contact. Follow up on these “leads” as soon as possible.
- Make a goal to call or e-mail five people a day. Tell them you are looking for a new challenge.
- Don’t depend on internet sites like Careerbuilder and Monster.com to be the only source of your job search. Don’t exclude them either.
- Don’t dress inappropriately in your attempt to look younger. Go for professional and stylish.
- To dye or not to dye your hair?Women do it all the time and it should look natural. Dudes, I’d advise against it but if you insist, go to a professional. Nothing looks worse than shoe-polish black hair.
- Don’t put down your current boss or company in an interview. The interviewer is thinking that’s how you’ll be speaking about them in a few years.
- Don’t offer information like, “I just need to work a few more years until I qualify for social security,” even if it’s true. Convince the employer you’re planning on working a respectable amount of time. FACT: One of the biggest deterrents for hiring older employees is the perception they’re only going to work a few more years.
- Don’t freak out. Confidence is attractive. You’ll find something. Or you can start a small business utilizing your skillset. I’ll save that topic for another blog.
Lara Reznik is a retired I.T. Manager and Career Specialist with an M.A. in Public Administration and Human Resources. She is also the author of three novels: The Girl From Long Guyland, The M&M Boys and Bagels & Salsa.