Finding a job in a down economy is no easy task, especially for older workers.
According to the Department of Labor, the jobless rate among workers age 55 and up in September 2011 was 6.7%.
Whether you've been laid off, or are looking for an encore career to supplement your funds in retirement, going up against younger, tech-savvy applicants can be intimidating. But experts say older workers can highlight their skill set and experience and work their contacts in ways that will make them outshine younger workers
Joel Reaser, senior vice president for business operations and strategies at the National Older Worker Career Center (NOWCC), says age discrimination in the workplace is alive and well, and that older workers and retirees need to describe their experience in a way that emphasizes their talent and skills—not the number of years they have been in the field.
"They have lots of experiences, but they often don't have the insight to tell the story in a way that is attractive to employers," Reaser says, adding that dates on a resume aren’t necessary.
When it comes to the interview, older works should come off as confident and remember that it is a screening process for the company as well.
"Present a set of skills, overcome the manner in which a younger recruiter may be looking at you," he says. "See if you both have a good fit."
Marc Hoag, CEO and co-founder of Venturocket.com, a job and talent matching website, says that job seekers of all ages face an uphill battle landing a job in this economic climate, and the longer you stay out of work, the harder it becomes to land a new position.
Hoag suggests using your age, wisdom and most importantly, larger social network, to hear about open positions.
"You have more professional contacts and a larger network of friends to tap into," he says.
Older workers and retirees are also in a better position to get themselves back into the educational arena with extra training through vocational schools or community colleges, Hoag adds.
Here are some sectors Hoag and Reaser said are open to older workers or retirees:
No. 1: Consultancy. If you have higher education or expertise in a certain field, Hoag advises using your age to your advantage and seek out a consultancy position. "This is an area where age should be a benefit, not a detriment. A consultant is just a fancy word for being an expert to help people, so look at your age and experience to see what fits."
No. 2: Health care. Reaser says those workers who fall into the “older or retired” categories are being recruited by the health-care field. "Healthy, older Americans taking care of older people who need day care- -it’s a job most people don’t want," he says. "But older people tend to be more dependable, empathetic and listen better."
No. 3: Web development. Don't be intimidated by the web, Hoag says. Learn all that you can and look to very young people breaking into the arena to see how they are doing it. "There's nothing stopping someone in their 40s, 50s or 60s from developing a really great web site or product. There's also nothing stopping them from joining a Web team."
No. 4: Retail sales and call centers. These two areas are not age dependent, Hoag says. "Think about what doesn't make them a bad fit. It doesn’t matter how old you are as long as there's not social or cultural friction of any matter."