Making the Most of What You Have to Get the Job You Want After 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

Nobody makes it to the age of 50 without developing some marketable skills. If you held a job, raised kids, bought a house, played computer games, surfed the web, balanced your bank accounts, read a few books, or did anything else that required getting off the couch and away from the television screen, you’ve acquired marketable skills. Now, you just need to identify them and put them to use in finding a job.

Taking note of transferrable skills

Although you may need additional training and skills to pick up a new job or navigate a career change, many skills are transferrable — the knowledge and skill required are the same, but you’re applying it in a new way or to a different situation.

The ability to manage projects, for example, is a transferrable skill. In the publishing business, you may use this skill to coordinate efforts with writers, editors, graphic artists, and page layout personnel. In a shipping business, you may use the same skill to coordinate pick-up and delivery schedules. Same skill, different application.

Look at your skill set and past experience as transferrable to diverse fields. If you’re switching industries, you’re “redeploying” skills you already have in place.

Most soft skills are transferrable. Every job requires good written and oral communication skills, confidence, creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, self-management, and so on. Whether a hard skill is transferrable depends on the skill and the position you’re pursuing.

For example, if you worked as a restaurant manager and were in charge of scheduling and budgeting, you can transfer those skills to project management in industrial settings, managing a healthcare facility, or even subcontracting. Knowing how to operate and troubleshoot an injection molding press, on the other hand, wouldn’t transfer over to those other fields.

Whether you realize it or not, over the course of your life, every class you’ve ever taken, every book you’ve ever read, every job you’ve ever had has prepared you for this moment. You’ll know you’ve succeeded in finding the right job for you when your preparation meets the right opportunity.

Reframing your experience and skills

Reframing consists of presenting your experience and skills in a way that makes them relevant to the position. For example, suppose you just finished raising your kids and your job experience over the past 15 years consists of volunteer positions you held over the years. You’re applying for a job as a director of a temp agency.

Instead of merely listing the volunteer positions you held, the years you served, and your responsibilities, you may reframe your experiences and skills to make them relevant to the director position, like so:

President, Norfolk PTA: 2015–2017

  • Organized and presided over monthly meetings.

  • Introduced and implemented new-member outreach program that grew membership 7% each year.

  • Increased fundraising revenue 20% in my first year.

  • Led parent-teacher task force to improve student performance by 10% over the course of two school years.

Keep in mind that many experts advise against listing dates on résumés.