In a recent Harvard Business report, it was stated that in the U.S., job vacancies have outnumbered job applicants since 2018. That was certainly true during the Pandemic, and nothing has changed in the few short months that we have been allowed back to the office, working face-to-face with colleagues.
This disparity between vacancies and applicants is largely a result of baby boomers reaching retirement at a rate faster than millennials are able to step into their place. And many retired early during the Pandemic as layoffs coincided with the need to isolate. To continue to grow our economy however, companies need to take action by bringing older people back to work and giving them meaningful, important jobs. This may seem simple, but when it comes right down to reviewing resumes and judging skill sets, age bias is a serious hurdle.
Many companies prioritize hiring cheaper, younger workers who they believe are more valuable than someone more expensive with more expertise. Contrary to popular belief, however, older, more tenured people are more successful entrepreneurs. Those over the age of 40 are three times more likely to create successful companies as a result of their patient, collaborative natures, and their lack of have a “need to prove myself” attitude. Companies that want to see our economy flourish need to take action and provide these more-experienced workers more opportunities.
If you are an older worker who can bring all the skills and experience to the table, you will still need to convince employers that you are the right person for the job.
You can’t hide the fact that you are an older, more experienced worker. Nor would you want to. So how can you stand out in this competitive job market? Read on.
- Emphasize your experience.
As an older job seeker, you can draw on decades of work experience. This work history is something younger workers simply do not have. The most recent experience is of greatest value to the potential employer. If they can see that you are accustomed to working with people day-to-day, your value increases, and they recognize they can rely on you to show up, interface with colleagues and get the work done.
- Highlight your skills.
Make a list of all the skills you have developed, both in the workplace and outside of work. Yes, doing the books for the non-profit you volunteer with may be an added skill that set you apart.
Then, look at job listings in the fields you want. Circle any skills on your own list that fit the requirements of the job. Pay particular attention to the transferable skills you have, such as communication or managerial skills that will be useful in almost any job. Think about the skills and qualities you have as a result of your years of experience. Whether or not you have been in the labor force recently, you likely have qualities gained from experience that employers will want. For example, employees over 50 are particularly reliable, detail-oriented, and patient. They also have strong leadership skills.
- Consider developing new skills.
Think about any skills that will be necessary for the job, that you either lack or have not used in a while. Take some time to develop these skills. Take a class, watch YouTube videos or check out LinkedIn Learning.
Even though you likely already have a number of contacts in your field, you can always make more. Consider joining or rejoining a professional association in your field. Revamp your LinkedIn profile. Email or call your family and friends and let them know about your job search. Networking is an ideal way to make connections that could lead to a job.
Age-Proof Your Resume and Cover Letter
One way to overcome the perception that your age is an issue is to age-proof and edit your resume. Limiting what you include on your resume, from a chronological perspective, can help job seekers avoid the stigma of being considered “too old” by a prospective employer. Make sure your references to job skills and accomplishments use contemporary vocabulary.
When writing your resume and your cover letters, there’s no need to mention every job you’ve ever had. Include only the most recent positions and, if you attended college, list your programs and degrees without reference to the dates.
Many people, particularly those who have enjoyed long and meaningful careers, do like to work. In the wise words of Stephen Hawking:
“Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it.”
It represents an opportunity to give value to others and the community; it gives you a network of friends and associates to be with; and it gives you something to do with your intellectual and physical energy. Why would we want to retire if we love our work and it brings mean to our lives?
You’ve chosen a good time to return to work and I would be pleased and proud to help you discover the value experience you have in your arsenal that makes you valuable to your next employer.