Job hunting in your 50s can be a challenge

Job hunting can be an unsettling time. Whether you’ve handed in your notice or been laid off, now is the time to take a long hard look at what you have to offer and how to market yourself to your next potential employer. And whether you like it or not, when you’re an older worker, there’s also your age to consider. Job hunting in your 50s can be tough.

Age discrimination may be against the law but that doesn’t stop people having preconceived ideas about those of you who are job hunting in your 50s or older.  If you feel that your advancing years may be a major obstacle to getting another job, it’s time to box clever.

Start with the realisation that the employment landscape is a very different place than it was 5, 10 or 15 years ago. While it may have been a long time since you last applied for a job, the key thing now is to make sure you present yourself well for today’s market.

1. Bring your CV up to date

Starting with the basics, when job hunting in your 50s, it’s advisable to resist the temptation to list your entire career back catalogue or cram too much information onto the CV. Being perfectly blunt, no-one wants to know! Clear the clutter to keep it super relevant to the job you’re applying for and cap your employment history at 15 years ago maximum so it doesn’t date you any more than necessary.

Employers are interested to hear what you can do for them now. A couple of pages of current skills and relevant achievements should be more than enough to sell yourself to a potential employer. If you’re struggling to turn your career chronology into a more contemporary format, here’s useful template you can use.

2. Start networking

Years of career experience are bound to have given you a wide network of business contacts, which can come in very useful now. Many jobs are not openly advertised, so time spent networking should constitute an essential part of your job search activity. You never know where your next job might be coming from.

Whether through trade or professional associations, or social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, now is the time to make new contacts and renew old acquaintances. Top of the list should be your LinkedIn profile. Often your first online impression to a potential new boss, a well thought out and well-presented LinkedIn page is arguably even more important than a good CV.

3. Review your appearance

Like it or not, looks matter hugely in our increasingly visual world. This can be particularly hard for an ageing person since any attempt to compete with younger generations in terms of appearance is doomed to failure. To regain your confidence, the trick is to shift the mindset towards other qualities associated with youthfulness – energy, vitality, spirit, creativity – and let them show in the way you look.

To stay current, both men and women over 50 should periodically evaluate their wardrobe, replacing outdated garments with more classic styles and age-appropriate versions of their old favourites. Even some jeans brands can look professional and modern at any. Top off the modern look with a great haircut and colour.

4. Prepare for interview

If your interview skills are a bit rusty, it’s important to practise before the big meeting. This includes virtual job interviews using video conferencing technology, which is becoming more commonplace. Familiarise yourself with the platform and do a trial run, perhaps conducting a mock interview with a friend, to get totally comfortable with the format. Here’s a good video to explain what to do.

Come prepared with the expectation that you will have to answer questions relating to your age, however subtly they may be phrased. The way you deal with this topic can make or break your chances of getting the job. Shift the focus from seeing age as a drawback to establishing yourself as an experienced leader with a wealth of relevant skills that should be an asset to the organisation. Your past track record is the strongest indicator of your future performance, so think about your key accomplishments and use them to promote yourself.

5. Address your tech ability

Older workers are often assumed to be less knowledgeable around computers and mobile devices, simply because they didn’t grow up as digital natives. This can be a real concern for employers and it’s a good idea to address the elephant in the room and allay their often completely unfounded fears.

From basic IT skills to internet fluency and the latest tech in your field of expertise, if you have the skills you should make a point of mentioning how you’ve been keeping abreast with developments, and how you’re leveraging tools and platforms to solve issues or create results.

6. Be flexible about roles and salaries

It’s important to be aware of the possibility that a new job in your 50s may not mean career progression. A flexible mindset is key, even if it means applying for a lower-level position or take a pay cut. While you wouldn’t wish to undersell yourself, you don’t want to price yourself out of the market either.

Suggest a salary range that may mean less than you were earning previously. Show during the interview that you are willing to adapt to a new role and are relishing the prospect of a new start. Most importantly, demonstrate your passion for the company and their values and how they align with you, both professionally and personally.

Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and recent graduate. Annie has written for various online and print publications and specialises in business and career development.