The prolonged weakness in the labor market since the 2008 financial crisis has affected people of all ages—but baby boomers face unique challenges in the job-hunting process.
Last month’s jobs report that showed employers added 204,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.3% is hopeful news for job seekers, but older candidates still need to learn how to best sell their experience to companies.
While it’s rare for people to describe looking for employment as fun, Jean Baur, author of The Essential Job Interview Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Every Job Seeker, says when age becomes a factor, the process tends to become “discouraging.”
She explains that while older candidates often come with resumes full of experience, they also face major challenges in today's job market overcoming stereotypes.
I talked with Baur to find out the best tips and advice for job-seeking baby boomers to overcome any pre-conceived notions and to not only find t a job in the current labor market, but the right job that best fits their qualifications. Here’s what she had to say:
Boomer: What assets do boomers have that younger job seekers don’t yet offer?
Baur: The most obvious part of the answer is experience. Boomers bring years of work as well as their other life experience to the job. This means making better decisions than workers who are just starting out. It also may mean being calm in a crisis as well as having the ability to manage and mentor others. Experience is gold, and boomers should remember that as they look for new opportunities.
Boomer: How can boomers be more flexible when re entering the job market?
Baur: I always think of that saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." So boomers must be careful to show they're flexible in terms of learning new skills, being up-to-date with the technology that's relevant to their work and sometimes being open to taking a step backward in order to move ahead. It's easier to find work if you're not fixated on a particular title or salary, but instead demonstrate you're flexible and can be a strong contributor.
Boomer: How would you advise boomers to search for jobs in today’s labor market?
Baur: Boomers need to take advantage of their experience as they look for work, specifically by using their extensive networks to get inside information on potential opportunities before they're advertised. They also need to be proactive and to create a list of companies or organizations where they would like to work, and share that with their contacts. Another part of a smart search is to target employers directly. Find out the name and contact information of the hiring manager and in a brief email, show how you can help. And then, of course, follow up. I urge boomers to take advantage of the internet, but to be very careful not to let that become the focus of their search efforts.
Boomer: What are some tips for baby boomers to counter age discrimination when seeking employment?
Baur: Any job seeker, but especially a baby boomer, must prepare what I think of as both the inside and the outside. The inside covers what you can do: your skills, experience, education, work history, and training. To sell these effectively, you must have strong accomplishment examples or stories that offer a potential employer proof. For the outside, you have to take care of grooming, clothing and overall appearance as well as posture, gesture, facial expression, eye contact and voice. The outside is what conveys enthusiasm--a winning quality and particularly important for boomers in countering age discrimination. Get excited about your work and make sure you're coordinating these critical inside and outside issues. A smart employer will be very happy to hire you.