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Getting a Job After 50 For Dummies

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Welcome to Getting the Job You Want After 50 For Dummies, your guide to finding rewarding employment when you’re over 50. This book supplies you with what you need to know to find a job today. From building an online presence to revitalizing your résumé to negotiating a salary, this book has you covered, from cover to cover!

Many reasons may have brought you to this book. Perhaps you are just coming back into the workforce or have been laid off and need to find work. You could be looking to make a career change or want to pursue your passion and find more meaning in your work. You may be relocating, or want a job that gives you more flexibility.

The fact that people are living longer, healthier lives opens the doors to possibilities of a variety of work you may want to pursue. Think of it as a bonus chapter of your life. It’s a time when, perhaps, the big-ticket items are behind you — paying for children’s educations maybe, or a mortgage — and you’re free to seek work that’s more meaningful and, if you’re lucky, not so focused on the size of the paycheck.

Whatever your reason, you want a job, and you want it now.

About This Book

The job market has changed considerably since your first job-hunt, as has the process for finding and landing a job. In the past, you filled out paper applications, printed and sent résumés and cover letters, and networked over the phone and in person to find the right job. Those things are all still necessary — no matter what type of job you’re seeking. But mostly they’re now done online, thus requiring some technology know-how. In addition, your ego could feel the sting of having to prove yourself to employers who may be half your age and not nearly as qualified as you.

This book provides information on things you may not have a lot of practice in (such as online applications) or things you may need help updating (like interviewing skills). I’m over 50. I get it. It’s tough out there. But, with some guidance, you can attain your goals.

Think of this book as your road map to get to where you want to be. You hold in your hands all the direction and resources to help you find and land the job you want, along with instructions on how to use the latest technologies to your advantage. I explain everything from how to bring your résumé into the 21st century to how to network and market yourself online so you’re an attractive target for recruiters and employers nationwide.

Within this book, you may note that I followed certain conventions. I often use boldface text to label bullet items and other content, so you can easily skim for the information you need. Italicized words and phrases represent unfamiliar terminology I define in context. Some website addresses break across two lines of text. If you’re reading this book in print and want to visit one of these web pages, simply key in the address exactly as it’s noted in the text, pretending as though the line break doesn’t exist. If you’re reading this as an e-book, you’ve got it easy — just click the web address to be taken directly to the web page.

Foolish Assumptions

The fact that you’re reading this book tells me that you either don’t have a job or don’t have the job you want. Perhaps you’re struggling to figure out where and how to look for jobs and how to make yourself an attractive candidate. Other assumptions I’ve made about you include the following:

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book, icons in the margins highlight different types of information that call out for your attention. Here are the icons you’ll see and a brief description of each.

remember I want you to remember everything you read in this book, but if you can’t quite do that, then remember the important points flagged with this icon.

tip Tips provide insider insight. When you’re looking for a better, faster way to do something, check out these tips.

warning “Whoa!” This icon appears when you need to hit the brakes and think twice before moving forward.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the abundance of information and guidance on finding a job, acing your job interviews, and negotiating a salary and benefits that have you whistling on your way to work, which happens to be in your home, because you negotiated a telecommuting arrangement, you also get access to even more help and information at ( Go to for a free cheat sheet that accompanies this book. It brings you up-to-speed on job-search fundamentals, job interview guidelines, negotiating tips, and much more. Think of it as this book in a nutshell.

You can also head to for a few free additional articles that I think you’ll find helpful as you begin your journey to the job you want. Here, you find out how to garner contract work through social media, write a knock-out cover letter, identify interview tricks and traps, and discover ten personal branding best practices.

When you’re ready to begin your search, start with, with the information and tools you need to help you stay current, competitive, and connected in today’s workplace. Features include these and much more:

To explore all kinds of new possibilities that make the most of your interests and expertise, check out AARP’s Life Reimagined (, a personalized, interactive website.

Also look for my books What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties, and Beyond (Berkley Trade/AARP) and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (Wiley/AARP) to further help put you on the path to finding your next job.

Where to Go from Here

I structured this book so you could use it in a couple of ways. To get the most out of it, read it from cover to cover, so you don’t miss out on any valuable information and insight. You may also use it as a job seeker’s desk reference; when you need to know something about a specific job-search topic, simply look it up in the Table of Contents or the Index and flip to the designated page to find the answer.

I do recommend, however, that you read Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 5 from start to finish or at least skim them, so you know what’s covered in those chapters for future reference. Chapter 1 opens your mind to the possibilities. Chapter 2 helps you inventory your skills and experience and plug gaps that may be holding you back. And Chapter 3 emphasizes the importance of networking. Chapter 5 introduces you to a gaggle of job-search websites where you can start your search. Of course, the other chapters are useful, too, but these serve as a good springboard for starting your search.

As you embark on your journey to find the right job for you, keep in mind that you’re a unique individual with skills, experience, and insight that nobody else on the planet has. There’s a place for you in all of this — a job that you’re uniquely qualified to perform. You simply need to discover it within yourself and in the workplace.

Part I

Getting Started with Finding a Job After 50


webextra Visit for free content that helps you learn more and do more.

In this part …

check.pngFigure out what you really want out of a job, in addition to a paycheck and bennies, set a course to get from point A to point B, and discover proven strategies for finding and landing the job you want.

check.pngRecognize the skills that employers value most, take inventory of the skills you have, and discover free and affordable ways to build the skills you’re missing.

check.pngNetwork your way to your next job by leveraging the power of your personal and professional networks to find jobs, get the scoop about prospective employers, and perhaps even find an inside track to the job you want.

check.pngDeal with the financial issues that commonly accompany unemployment and job searches, write off job-hunt expenses on your taxes, maximize your social security benefits, bankroll your own benefits package, and more.

Chapter 1

Scoping Out Your Prospects

In This Chapter

arrow Understanding current workplace realities

arrow Figuring out what you want … and want to do

arrow Finding your place in the workplace

arrow Retooling your job search strategies for the 21st century

Welcome jobseekers! Finding a job, at any age, takes work and dedication. Some older jobseekers assume that employers would rather outsource jobs to cheaper workers overseas or hire younger, less experienced workers for lower wages. Although these suspicions are confirmed by the hiring practices of some organizations, current studies show that employers are increasingly willing to consider older candidates and that age alone isn’t necessarily the reason some employers are unwilling to consider older candidates.

In this chapter, I help you shift your attitude about job hunting from one of apprehension to one of hope and possibility and show you a few simple ways to rev up your job-search mojo to today’s new workplace reality for 50-plus jobseekers.

Recognizing the Need for and Value of Experienced Workers

The times really are a-changin’ and that’s good news for your job-hunting prospects. Whether you want to work in an office job, teach yoga, or head up a company, more employers are starting to realize that hiring workers age 50 and older is good for business. More and more employers are discovering the value of experienced workers. Unfortunately for 50-plus job seekers, the fact that demand for experienced workers is on the rise is a well-kept secret. Realizing that employers need you is an important first step in the process of finding and landing the job you want. It gives you the enthusiasm and confidence to set out on what may be a long and arduous journey. In this section, I reveal the reasons the demand for 50-plus workers is rising to invigorate you for the journey ahead and remind you of just how valuable you are to employers who need your skills, talents, and experience.

remember The job search can be disheartening for anyone, regardless of age. And if that’s what you’re feeling, never show it to a prospective employer. Always highlight the value you have to offer in every job search communiqué you send out. If you need a confidence lift, take some time and review all your previous achievements.

Noting a change in the current workforce

Many CEOs are increasingly aware that they need to have 50-plus workers on board. As the population ages, the workforce is aging right along with it. U.S. employees 65 and older now outnumber teenagers in the workforce for the first time since 1948. In 2002, workers 50 and older comprised 24.6 percent of the workforce. By 2012, they represented 32.3 percent. And by 2022, they’re projected to be 35.4 percent of the total workforce.

This emerging trend isn’t likely to change anytime soon. More than one in three workers age 45 and older expects to retire at age 66 or older, compared to just over one in five ten years ago. Moreover, 72 percent of workers ages 45 to 74 envision working in retirement.

Employers are getting worried about their future workforce. In a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one-third of HR professionals predicted that the loss of talent resulting from retirements or departures of workers age 55 and older would be either a problem or a crisis for their organization in the next six to ten years. The Manpower Group 2014 Talent Shortage Survey found that 40 percent of U.S. employers reported difficulty in filling jobs.

Seeing experienced workers as an affordable option

The old concerns that hiring someone our age would probably be too pricey are being debunked. Contrary to common perception, workers age 50-plus don’t cost significantly more than younger workers, according to the report “A Business Case for Workers Age 50+: A Look at the Value of Experience 2015,” commissioned by AARP and conducted by Aon Hewitt.

Shifting trends in reward and benefit programs mean that adding more age 50-plus talent to a workforce results in only minimal increases in hard dollar total labor costs. These trends include a broad move by large employers to performance-based versus tenure-based compensation, the decline in traditional benefit pension plans, and the fact that healthcare costs are increasing at a slower rate for older workers compared to younger workers.

Meanwhile, in today’s global and fast-paced workplace, firms often don’t have the time to squander while a younger worker ramps up skills and knowledge. Companies are slowly realizing that to stay competitive, it’s smarter to seek out and hire experienced workers. Trust me, you’re on the cutting edge of a sweeping change in the demographics of the workplace. And it’s being led by the boomer generation.

You may think I’m just looking through rose-colored glasses. But recent surveys show that companies are realizing that it’s strategically smart to pay more attention to recruiting and retaining workers age 50 and older. When organizations need someone to step in and do the job right now and solve an existing problem, it’s the experienced worker they’re eager to hire.

That’s what the AARP report unveiled. Findings from a 2014 SHRM survey of HR professionals also back up that trend. SHRM’s The Aging Workforce survey also found that two-thirds of HR executives canvassed reported that their organization employed older workers who retired from other organizations or careers before joining their organization. Gold stars all around.

The Aging Workforce survey, part of a three-year national Aging Workforce Initiative by SHRM and the SHRM Foundation and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, also found that 61 percent of the 1,900 randomly selected SHRM HR professionals indicated their organization had attempted to capitalize on and incorporate the experience of older workers in recruitment and retention strategies. (Kudos to them.) The top advantages of older workers were having more work experience (cited by 77 percent of respondents), being more mature/professional (71 percent), and having a stronger work ethic (70 percent). (But, of course.)

Capitalizing on lower turnover

Employers find that workers age 50 and older are more loyal and aren’t as likely as younger workers to job jump. And that lower staff turnover benefits the bottom line. The costs of high turnover are tangible. Finding, hiring, and training a new employee is a costly venture, and it becomes even more costly when that well-trained employee decides to jump ship and work for a competitor.

Plus, it’s hard to put a price on the institutional knowledge that goes out the door with a departing employee. Now tack on the stress that managers and coworkers must shoulder to make up for the work that falls between the cracks when an employee leaves. And, finally, toss in the toll of lost morale that accompanies the departure of a valued team member. Now the employer has a serious problem. And that’s clearly a big incentive for hiring a worker over 50. Older workers often anchor a team.

Harnessing the power of highly engaged workers

Aon Hewitt data show that older workers, in general, love their jobs more than younger workers do. Yes, we’re more engaged than our younger counterparts. Perhaps we’re grateful for the jobs in a way that someone new to the workforce has yet to learn to value and appreciate.

For example, 65 percent of employees ages 55 and up in large companies are “engaged,” compared to fewer than 60 percent of employees under age 45. Although this gap may seem small, it represents a statistically significant difference in engagement that can have a noticeable impact on business outcomes, according to the AARP report.

In addition to being the most highly engaged age group in the labor force, workers age 55 and older are also the most motivated. A whopping 81 percent of workers age 55 and up are “motivated” — meaning they say that they exert extra effort and contribute more than is normally required in their job — compared to 76 percent of their age 25 to 34 peers. Talk about selling points for older workers on the job hunt!

Reaping additional benefits

In addition to all those wonderful attributes I’ve already mentioned, older workers typically have the following:

  • An ability to make quick decisions and solve problems
  • Greater maturity and professionalism
  • Superior communication skills, both written and oral
  • The ability to serve as mentors
  • The critical qualities of reliability and dependability
  • More knowledge, wisdom, and overall life experience

Shoulders back. You’re valued. Put all this positive juju in your back pocket and never forget how much you have to offer on the job.

Tallying the Benefits of Staying in the Workforce

To get you even more fired up about your job search, let me remind you of five money-wise reasons to stay in the workforce as long as you can:

Bottom line: We’re living longer, healthier lives. As a result, we’re staying longer in the workforce because we can and often because we need to, in order to have a financially secure retirement.

Reorienting Yourself to Today’s Job-Search Realities

What’s new since your last job hunt? If it’s been a while, you’ll quickly find that technology has made job searching easier in some ways but more complex than ever in others. Although the Internet has improved access to openings, it has also increased competition for those same openings. Typically, an average of more than 250 résumés are submitted for every job posting, and the first résumé appears within 200 seconds (just over 3 minutes) of the posting “going live,” according to online job-search expert Susan P. Joyce, publisher of

While job-search sites make finding jobs easier, online applications and automated screening technologies pose additional obstacles to getting past the gatekeepers. According to a study by job-match site TheLadders (, many companies use talent-management software to screen résumés, weeding out up to 50 percent of applications before anyone ever looks at a résumé or cover letter.

remember Little wonder then that a recent CareerXroads survey shows that only 15 percent of positions were filled through online job boards. So visiting job boards and applying for jobs is probably not the best use of your time, even though you feel like you have to. Most jobs are either filled internally or through referrals. Yes, the old-fashioned way. In fact, only about half of the roughly 5 million jobs now open in the United States are ever advertised publicly. Employers still prefer to hire people they know either directly or indirectly through a referral. In studies of many different employers going back to 2001, employee referrals are the top source of people hired into a company — not a job posting. In fact, employee referrals provided more than 55 percent of the hires in one of the studies.

In other words, employers want to hire someone who has already been vetted in some way, which can save a lot of hassle and cost of the hiring process and of replacing people who don’t work out, even if they looked great on paper and interviewed like pros. Employers love it when someone who already works for the organization can vouch for the person. And the employee making the referral often has some skin in the game, so to speak. Many employers pop a bonus reward of up to $1,000 or more for referring someone who’s hired and does a good job in the first few months on the job.

Does this mean that applying for a job on job boards isn’t worthwhile? Not at all! Scanning the boards gives you a sense of who’s hiring, what types of openings are out there, and salary ranges. But it does mean that other approaches, such as networking and marketing yourself, may ultimately forge a better route to landing a job. For more about networking, see Chapter 3. In Part III, you find out how to market yourself and create your own personal brand.

Deciding What (Else) You Want Out of Work

For my book AARP’s Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness, I interviewed hundreds of workers about what made them love their jobs. Interestingly, their paychecks aren’t generally what get them juiced about going to work. Most people say they’re motivated by the people they work with, the opportunity to keep learning and growing, or the mission or cause of their employer’s services or the products it makes. Sometimes they say they love the travel opportunities. So don’t get locked into a must-have salary. When searching for jobs and comparing offers, be sure to account for other benefits, including the following:

Employers are increasingly tuning into these incentives. So while they worry that they may not be able to meet your salary expectations, they’re discovering that 50-plus workers are attracted to more than pay. So employers are increasingly offering such non-financial perks as flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, and training and education opportunities.