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Succeed in your job search

Job hunting when you’re over 50 can be a frustrating and painful experience

Recent studies indicate that many Brits over the age of 55 plan to work at least until age 69. The proportion of workers aged over 50 has risen significantly over the last 20 years, according to a new analysis by the Trades Union Congress. The report  found that the jobs market has changed significantly for older workers since 1992, when 56.5% of people aged between 50 and 64 were in work. By December 2010, 64.9% of the same age group were working

Over the same period, the proportion of those aged over 64 in the working population rose from 5.5% to 9%

Much of this is not entirely down to choice. The recession and the gloomy long term economic outlook means that many people just don’t have enough money to retire. For this group, finding work is a necessity, but the bad news is that most over 55s who look for a job face challenges in finding one

If you’re in this position you probably think it’s due to actual or perceived age discrimination. Well get over it - it isn’t. It’s all about what you’re doing wrong or not doing at all. Here are some common mistakes older job seekers make, as exemplified by the following common faulty assumptions:

-  “I’ll just do what I was doing before”
-  “My experience speaks for itself. They’re lucky to have me”
-  “I don’t have time for this touchy-feely stuff about what work means to me - just give me a job”
-  “I know! I’ll become a consultant…!”
-  “Of course I’m good with computers”
-  “I’ll just use a recruiter for some career coaching”
-  “I’ve always been successful, so why should things be different now?”

If this is you, you could benefit by making making major changes in what you present about yourself to potential employers

Here are 5 critical success strategies to employ if you’re an older job-seeker or mid-career employee:

1. Acknowledge the new realities of the job market - anger about perceived age bias won’t get you a job. The fact is there are still opportunities for older job-seekers; these will increase in many sectors as the recession recedes. In the meantime, older job-seekers can do three things to better understand the market. First, identify nearby industries and organizations in the region that are stable or growing. Second, look for organisations with a workforce culture that respects all workers. Finally, older job-seekers should look for opportunities in small- to medium-sized companies, which create the majority of new jobs. Self-employment is one other option

2. Reframe your experience to demonstrate future value - you can’t let your resume speak for yourself. You must identify and articulate what specific value you can bring to an organisation, while simultaneously recognising that your underlying skill set must constantly evolve. For example, knowledge of Internet marketing was still new for most marketing managers eight years ago. Today it is a prerequisite for working in marketing. Facebook and twitter are still relatively new - can you capitalise by articulating how a company can use them as marketing tools? It’s not just about networking and brand building. It’s about clarifying what you have to offer and developing the contacts you need to be taken seriously to compete in this job market

3. Nurture your network - every job seeker needs to use their existing network, but it’s especially critical for older job-seekers. It’s easiest to do so when you’re clear about your passion and you can connect with people who have similar interests. Discovering your zeal for an area lets you naturally develop and demonstrate expertise, which connects you to people with related interests. These connections are more likely to be a source of new job opportunities than a network of individuals with unrelated interests. Not all networking is about meeting people who might help you find work. It should also be about learning.  try finding a volunteer organisation with younger people. It’s an advantage to be able to say, ‘I’ve been working with 20-year-olds’

4. DOS Is dead: update your computer skills - there’s no argument here; you MUST update your computer skills. If you aren’t familiar with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn you need to learn about them- fast. That doesn’t mean you have to reorganize your life entirely around the latest communication and networking technologies. But you should try them and be able to talk about them, so you aren’t caught unprepared the next time a 40-year-old hiring manager asks, “Are you on Twitter?” The older you are it’s likely the more time you need to invest to address this challenge directly, if you hope to stay competitive

5. Do the maths - then manage your ambivalence - you may be facing conflicting pressures around work and retirement. You may think you’re depriving someone younger of a job or career advance by working. You need to be hard headed about your actual financial AND emotional needs, especially for consistent and stable sources of retirement income and satisfying employment, as you struggle with making a decision about finding work

If you don’t recognize that there are good reasons why, as an older job seeker, you may be viewed differently in the job market, you’re in for a rude awakening. Lots of us will need late-career employment in the years ahead, so don’t ignore what you  have to do to make yourself relevant and successful in today’s changing employment market

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