Job searching at any age can be hard, but for older workers, it can be even worse.
What can you do to make sure your resume doesn’t get tossed? If you are hitting brick walls in your job search at age 40 or over, the best choice is to focus on what you can do. With a proactive approach, job seekers in mid and late career can increase their odds of getting hired. Here’s how:
Show you’re in sync. Hiring for ‘culture fit‘ has become a buzzword in recent years. What it means is hiring managers are looking for more than great credentials. They want to make sure you fit into the team, to reduce turnover and eliminate friction that can hurt productivity. Many firms now ask their employees to refer other talented people they know to fill openings for this reason. This can be taken to a cultish extreme that hurts folks who aren’t clones of the existing team. “Sadly, I believe that hiring priorities today run more to finding compliant drones who cosmetically fit into a defined corporate culture,” as one commenter on my last post on age discrimination put it. But you can make this trend work in your favor by keeping in touch with former colleagues who may be in a position to refer you to open positions at their firms.
And do yourself and potential employers a favor by researching their culture on their website, in news reports and on career sites like Vault before you accept an interview. Some 47-year-olds may love joining a company where everyone bonds by showing up once a week in a company T-shirt for team bowling night, while others may see it as a chore that takes them away from family responsibilities. If you’re truly “into” the culture of a firm, it will come across no matter what your age and give you an edge that others—even younger competitors—can’t fake.
Add to your arsenal. Fortunately, it has gotten a lot cheaper to pick up new professional skills through online courses than in the days when we were largely limited to in-person courses at a university. General Assembly offers unlimited access to on-demand and live-streamed online seminars in topics like content marketing, Excel hacks, and web design for $49 a month unlimited access. Given the growth in technology, enhancing your skills in that area can pay off. Treehouse (teamtreehouse.com) offers a program that promises to teach anyone how to code. You can learn HTML, CSS, and how to create iPhone apps. The basic membership is $25 a month. Lynda.com offers a wide variety of online video courses—on topics from using spreadsheets to using the ticket-selling site Eventbrite, for $25 a month.
Decide if you want to work for someone else. A couple of people posted comments mentioning that companies don’t really want seasoned pros who speak up if, for instance, a project won’t work. As one commenter put it, her “past managers built their egos by micro-managing their minions and cringing when a more experienced employee even asked a question or made an inquiry to better understand a problem.” Let’s be realistic. Corporate America demands you show a certain amount of conformity to survive. At a certain point in life, you may not want to go along with it. If you feel this way on almost every interview, maybe you’re ready to try a new path: to being your own boss.
I chuckled when someone looked at my bio and said in the comments on the post on age discrimination that I must be unemployed because I was a “former” senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine. It didn’t occur to her that I could be fully employed as a freelancer (and fortunately, I am). Suggesting the entrepreneurial route might seem like bad advice to those readers who really only feel “employed” if someone else has hired them for a permanent gig with benefits. But legions of people support themselves as independent professionals and many are quite successful. And there’s no one to tell you’re overqualified to do it!