How to land a job after fifty

Author: Milena Pervanje
May 2018

Your age is not a weakness but an advantage – don't let employers overlook that!  

Why would you keep letting others get great jobs instead of you only because they are younger? Follow these true and tested strategies I will present in this article and you will easily convince the next potential employer that despite the year of your birth – nay, because of it – you are their best choice.  

A while ago I heard an interview with the Slovenian Mountain Rescue Service's manager. For our foreign readers I should mention that this organization has been present in our small mountainous country for more than 100 years, is among the best of its kind in the world and has an efficiency record many a business company could envy. Their work (which is voluntary, by the way) might not appear as an ordinary, everyday job but team work principles are the same as everywhere else and their efficiency is not measured in money, as we are used to in business, but in human lives.  

The best value their older co-workers

In the interview the manager emphasized the meaning of all-round-balanced teams, balanced in terms of expertise, gender and age. The young ones contribute their youthful energy, zeal and physical strength to carry equipment; the middle-aged members make use of their rich experience combined with knowledge of the latest professional findings; and the older members bring decades of memories about a plethora of situations and circumstances, wisdom and maturity that no text book nor explosive teenage power can replace. Their teams could do without younger or middle-aged members but not one team can be without a silver head, able to see a wider context of any one decision, able to calm sometimes heated passions and able to understand and to put into perspective even the toughest situations thanks to the sheer depth of their professional experience. 

And we need all of this every day in business as well! Older people have a broad professional knowledge (and not only a sliver of it like a young, fresh-out-of-the-classroom person does), they know the practical ins and outs of their expert field (and not just the theory of ideal situations), they are cautious (and not youthfully reckless) and have a broad view of the business and the world (which only age can bring). Regardless of all this it is much harder for them to land a job than it is for younger people. And that is unfair, but even more importantly - it is unwise and inefficient from a business company's standpoint. I will write more about that in one of my future articles. 

Don't let the silver in your hair be an obstacle in your career development. If you want a change or a new challenge, go out and find yourself a new job! 

In this article I will present 5 effective strategies which will help older job-seekers to get a job they want and deserve after fifty. 

1. Be present on-line 

Being present in modern media is very important. If “uncle Google” doesn't know a person, that is already a cause for concern. Did this person stay behind and never entered the age of internet? Is this person reluctant when it comes to new technologies? Neither of these possibilities sound good at today's job market. 

So make sure you are present on on-line business networks such as LinkedIn. These networks are built to favour work experience, the number of positions you have had and you are currently holding, your achievements and projects you have worked on – all of that before your appearance and age. So use them. They are the perfect platform where you can easily show the strengths that you have and younger people don't. 

Pay special attention to your profile and make sure it is filled out completely and that it includes a good, business appropriate photograph. Update it regularly, add completed projects and educational courses and if you pick up a new skill and get good at it add your new knowledge as well. Don't focus only on the history of employment positions but, and the same goes for a CV, include your achievements and the marks you have left behind in your field. 

Be an active member of business networks. Share interesting articles with your network, express your (professional) opinion, answer questions. You can also write a blog about your field or about business in general.  

Be present on-line with your achievements, professional opinions and replies to other experts' positions.

Be active in growing your network. When you meet a new person, connect with them on-line as well and be diligent in reviewing connection requests you get from others. 

To create a personal brand be present on other social networks where professional opinions, blog posts, replies to other experts' opinions and experience sharing count. 

You could try putting up a personal website but I must warn you – you might be surprised how much effort and time this takes. But still, if you have a knack for writing and if you are ready to continuously produce content for your web site, this is a channel that can bring you a lot of benefits.  

2. Prepare an effective CV

Since you have been building your career for much longer than your younger colleagues, your CV is a great advantage compared to theirs. It would be a shame to loose that advantage due to a poorly written text. 

So avoid the temptation to include a worn out phrase in the introductory summary of your career such as: “An experienced manager with 30+ years of experience...”. This only emphasizes your age and could make you appear overqualified. It is better to divide up your experience into time periods, focusing on the last 15 years or so and less on periods which are already further away. 

Another common mistake in preparing a CV is to simply list your responsibilities for the positions you held without any additional information. After all, the employer wants to know what you are capable of so use the CV to clearly and accurately state your achievements, projects you can sign under as a creator or an executor, as a project manager or the project team member. Include numerical data about your work. If you write “Managing a team of 8 experts who executed the company's comprehensive graphic image renovation” provides a lot more useful information to your potential employer than writing “Company's graphic image renovation”.  If you were responsible for installing a solar power plant on the roof of the manufacturing hall, you should write that your job included everything from convincing the company's management to invest in this project to monitoring the contractors and, of course, you should point out the positive effects this project had for the company you worked for. If you have managed budgets, write about that, too. Use sums or percentages, write about sales or profit growth you have achieved. 

Divide your career into sections for your CV. List your achievements and corroborate them with numerical data. Add a good portrait photo.

Only use a template CV such as Europass if it is explicitly demanded by the potential employer. Do, however, keep the table based, structured form to list your experience in going backwards from the latest ones to the past ones. Add achieved results to those experiences as well. 

In general I recommend my clients to add a portrait photo to their CV. But – and it is a big but – only do that if the photo is of great quality and has been done professionally. A bad photo, snapped with your phone the night before you need to hand in your job application making you look like a deer in the headlights will do you more harm than good. So, I do recommend a photo as part of your CV, but a quality, professional photo that portraits you in the best light, as being confident and open to new things. 

3. Find good employers

Don't just passively wait for a good opportunity or a suitable job ad to come by but approach finding a new job in a targeted manner. Set your goal and the elements that define it. The more defined your goal is the more focused you will be and the more you will, directly and indirectly, influence all the circumstances which will help you achieve that goal.  

  • Think about what you do best, where are you better than most experts in your field. This will help you define your added value which only you bring. 
  • Write down your most important achievements, remember what marks you have left in your field, projects you have managed, changes you have implemented, innovations your have launched. This will help you prepare your CV as well. 
  • What would an ideal career move be for you? Make a wish list which will define this move and the areas you find most important. Of course you can adapt and modify this ideal in time but you will be able to do that consciously and with good reasons. These are the basic questions you need to answer:
    • What position do I wish to hold? This is about where you want to be in the managerial hierarchy, about the willingness to take responsibility for an area, about the kind and size of a team you are willing to lead. 
    • In which city, country, region do I want to work? 
    • What kind of a company, ownership wise, do I want to work for? 
    • What industry do I want to work in? 
    • What are my financial expectations?
  • The next big step is to think about employers you find interesting. Make a list of 10 or 20 companies or institutions you find interesting and for which you think you might contribute to in a positive way. 
  • Research and get to know these employers. Start following them on social media, research how they are doing (annual business reports, media reports about them), check out their websites, including the sections about employment. That is where the most popular employers often publish job openings, including the key positions that are available. 

How you can find out what kind of a job you want

4. Get through the job interview like a pro  

An interview with a potential employer is a key phase in finding a new job and as a experienced candidate you must prepare for it thoroughly. Study information about the company beforehand, find out what makes it special, how it is organized and what the ownership structure is like. Research the company's products or services, its financial data and key personnel. Form a constructive critical opinion about the company but don't be just critical. For every critical remark you make you must have a suggestion how to abolish a weakness or how to improve that particular area ready.  

Even more important than your answers to the questions of company representatives are the questions you ask them about the job you are hoping to get. Prepare those questions in advance and make them count. 

The way you prepare for and handle a job interview shows your attitude towards work and towards the employer.

The energy you portray and how dynamic and flexible you are all count a lot especially combined with your life experience. Despite the grey in your hair a desire to pursue new challenges and a focused determination should be your driving forces. The way you present yourself (perhaps you could also make an actual presentation for the interview to serve as a guide through your opinions) and the way you communicate should prove that you are skilled in using modern technologies. Show an interest in everything that is happening in the company and has to do with strategy, organizational culture and future challenges. Talk about you achievements in human resources development, especially when it comes to grooming a successor who will take over for you.  

5. Remind them of you after the interview 

A day or two after the interview send a short thank you note to the highest ranking company representative you have dealt with and reassert your interest to become a part of the company. You can use this note to list a few people who can give a reference about your past work. 

And here is an optimistic story from one of my clients. 

Recently I have consulted a client, an international company, which has been looking for new manager for its subsidiary. I presented them with three candidates: a young careerist who had studied abroad and had a short resume; a lady with in-depth knowledge about the field and professional expertise but limited managerial experience; and a gentleman close to his 60th birthday, a former manager of a similar company who found himself unemployed due to a takeover of the company he used to work for. 

After talking to the board member and the human resources manager the latter candidate was convincingly the most suitable one. He presented his programme brilliantly, he explained his vision of how he would run the company, presented a development strategy and how he would groom a successor who would take over once he would retire. But the employers were full of prejudice and believed him to be too old since they were looking for someone to stay for at least 5 to 10 years. I reminded them that there are absolutely no guarantees that a 30-year old will stay in the company for that long and that the older candidate is more likely to be focused, motivated and dedicated without having an eye on the market for the next career opportunity he could jump to to fulfil his  ambitions. I also reminded them of how good his presentation was, how motivated he seemed and how clear his expertise was. After a short deliberation we had a decision. The older gentleman got the job as the most suitable candidate. He started a few weeks later and it wasn't long before the results began to show. Six months later, when I usually check on the client's satisfaction, the gentleman's immediate superior who, despite having doubts, made the decision to give him the job, was thrilled and said this was probably the best choice he made in his entire managerial career. 

Your age is your advantage and certainly not a weakness! Your thoughts must be focused on the goal, you must firmly believe in a new career opportunity and dark thoughts about the year of your birth are absolutely not allowed – it all reflects on the outside even if you don't talk about it. So build your career on your advantages and believe in yourself. Good luck!