Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies Cheat Sheet - dummies
Cheat Sheet

Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies

By Kerry Hannon

Finding a job when you’re over 50 is a lot like finding a job when you’re under 50. You need to tailor your resume and cover letter to the organization and the position, network to gather information and spot any inside tracks to the jobs you want, look and feel your best during job interviews and other meet-and-greets, and hone your negotiating skills so you get more of what you want. This Cheat Sheet highlights the key tasks to master in as you pursue that dream job in your 50s and beyond.

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

Finding a Job after 50 by Pursuing Your Passion

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

Finding your dream job after 50 would be terrific. “Pursue your passion” sounds like great advice until you pause to think about it and realize that you have no idea what your passion is or how to get started. Here are some suggestions to ease you into those first steps:

  • Find a place to start. Make a list of what you want in the next phase of your career. Don’t look for a perfect path or ideal starting point.

  • Get things moving by taking small steps. One small step may be calling someone who works in a field that appeals to you to discuss possibilities.

  • Silence your inner enemy. Stop the negative self-talk. You got this.

  • Ask the basic questions. Dig deeper and get a clearer picture of what you truly want in your life and your options to get there.

  • Keep a journal. Journaling is a great way to map your new career direction.

  • Get a business card. A business card for what you want to do helps you to start moving in that direction.

  • Have a mental picture of where you want to go. Tape a photograph or collage to your office wall that represents what your new work life will look like.

  • Be practical. You may need to upgrade your skills and education, but take one class at a time.

  • Be a volunteer. Check out volunteer opportunities to test the waters.

  • Get your life in order. Get physically and financially fit. Strive to become more nimble.

Landing a Job after 50 by Putting Age Concerns to Rest

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Ageism is alive and well regardless of whether employers want to admit it. Unless an employer blatantly calls attention to your age as being a problem, you’d likely have a hard time proving it, so the best alternative is to look past your age and be as vibrant and relevant as possible. Here’s how:

  • Look your best. Be physically fit, well-groomed, and properly dressed. Trade in your old clothes and glasses and dress in more stylish garb. Get with the times.

  • Immerse yourself in technology. Employers worry that older workers will fumble with technology. Prove them wrong.

  • Build and maintain a strong online presence. Invisibility is a liability, demonstrating that someone is out-of-date and unable to navigate the online world. It’s critical to have a LinkedIn Profile and make “connections,” get recommendations and more. Depending on your expertise, you might consider having your own web page, Facebook page, and Twitter handle.

  • Establish your ability to learn and adapt. Take classes, find a mentor, and connect with younger people to demonstrate your humility and ability to learn from old and young alike.

  • Downplay yourself as a flight risk. Employers may worry that you’re taking a job just to ride out the years between now and your retirement. Demonstrate your passion and commitment to your profession and your enthusiasm for learning and contributing to the world. You’re not just in it for a job.

  • Market your age as a plus. You can hit the ground running without a lot of training and supervision. You know it, now sell it.

  • Practice positivity. You don’t need a face lift, you need a faith lift. Focus on lifting your spirit rather than your skin. A positive attitude is your best defense against ageism.

  • Stay present. Don’t chatter on in interviews about successes you had ten years ago. Focus on what you’ve done lately.

Ask people who know you well, whose opinions you value and trust, to evaluate you in writing: on your best skills and talents, your personality, and the roles you’ve been really good at. Let your people pump you up.

Auditing Your Job Skills to Get a Job after 50

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If you want to get a job after 50, you need to know what job skills you bring to the table. Job seekers often don’t know what they know or what skills they already have until they sit down and write a list. Make your own list, which will come in handy when revamping your résumé, filling out job applications, and preparing for interviews. Take an inventory of your skills and follow these steps:

  1. Write down any formal education you received in high school, college, or trade school that has given you a work skill, such as welding, programming, business management, or public speaking.

  2. Include any other coursework, seminars, or workshops you attended.

  3. List any licenses or certifications you currently hold or held in the past.

  4. Record any proficiencies you have in any subject areas.

    Perhaps you picked up a foreign language on your own, taught yourself how to build websites or blogs, or developed public speaking skills as a member of a local Toastmasters group.

  5. List all office software you’re proficient with, such as spreadsheet applications, presentation programs, database management software, desktop publishing or graphics programs, and blogging platforms.

  6. Jot down any hobbies that have taught you new skills or helped sharpen existing skills.

  7. List your soft skills.

    For example, maybe you’re good at solving problems, planning and overseeing projects, or resolving conflict.

  8. Ask friends, relatives, and former coworkers and supervisors to list your best qualities.

    You may not realize skills you possess until others call attention to them.

Don’t restrict yourself to skills you developed on the job. If you volunteered as treasurer for your local parent-teacher organization, for example, you have experience with financial management and budgeting. If you raised children, you have experience in child-care, scheduling, and training. How you developed your skills is less important than the fact that you have the skills and how you can present those skills in a way that meet an employer’s needs.

Networking Your Way to Your Next Job after 50

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If you want to get a job after 50, you need to do some real networking. Networking is one letter away from “not working.” Engage in a full-court press to let everyone in your personal and professional network know that you’re looking for a job. Here’s a checklist to make sure you’ve left no stone unturned:

  • Contact everyone you know via phone, email, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), U.S. postal mail, carrier pigeon, whatever it takes.

  • Look up former supervisors, touch base, and let them know you’re looking for work.

  • Join professional meetup groups in your area.

  • Visit your college career center in person or online.

  • Find a mentor among your personal and professional contacts or online. Visit PivotPlanet to find out about hiring a mentor.

  • Consider reverse mentoring — connecting with someone younger who can learn from and mentor you.

  • Connect with a career coach. The Life Planning Network, AARP’s Life Reimagined, and 2 Young 2 Retire offer coach directories geared to midlife workers.

  • Reach out to recruiters in the industry you’re pursuing.

  • Attend job fairs in your area and online.

Negotiating the Terms of Your Job after 50

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

Once you get that job you are seeking after 50, you need to negotiate the terms. Negotiations are best when both parties work toward an arrangement that’s mutually beneficial. Don’t approach negotiations with a hiring manager as an adversarial relationship. Follow these suggestions instead:

  • Wait. Let the hiring manager offer you an amount, and then take a day or two to consider. You may be able to renegotiate for more if you don’t think the first offer was fair, but you will need to have your reasons down pat.

  • Know your value. The more you learn, the more you earn. Research salaries for the position you’re applying for in that area of the country. Three good places to start are

  • Be prepared to tell them what you want. If you get a lowball offer, simply say something along the lines of, “I was expecting an offer more in the $_____ to $_____ range. How did you arrive at the offer?”

  • Speak in “I” statements. “I” statements are difficult to argue against, because all you’re saying is what you think and feel.

  • Ask questions. It’s okay to ask the interviewers how they came up with a specific dollar amount. Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Don’t refuse an offer outright. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking you need to answer yes or no. Keep the conversation going until you hear an offer that sounds fair.

  • Speak in terms of value. You may say something like, “If I were an average employee, I would be happy with your first offer, but I don’t think you’re looking for someone who’s just average.” Then go on to explain why you’re better than average.

  • Don’t back down. Give the conversation more time to percolate instead of reluctantly accepting an offer or turning it down. Take your time. There’s really no hurry.

  • Don’t issue an ultimatum. An ultimatum traps you and the interviewer, providing neither of you with a graceful, face-saving exit. Keep the conversation going until you’ve succeeded in meeting the needs of both sides.

  • Be sensitive to the employer’s needs and current circumstances. If the company is hurting, be open to making concessions that meet the company’s current needs but that solidify your future position.

Negotiate all financial aspects of employment in person or over the phone. Be sure all details of your employee benefits package — including any special adjustments you’ve been granted — are clearly stated in writing in your contract or offer letter.