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Friday, November 13, 2009

5 Strategies for Older Job Seekers

Age can be an advantage, not an obstacle. We've got some tips to make your job search a success.

It's a tough job market, especially for Zoomers on the hunt. Many people have faced layoffs, or decided to re-enter the workforce to find more financial security. Others, pursuing career and personal growth goals, are looking to transition into new industries or companies.
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Whatever the reason for seeking new opportunities, research warns that many Zoomers are missing the skills and know-how to make their search a success -- especially when faced with a highly-competitive marketplace and misconceptions based on age. A new report from Metlife's Mature Market Institute (MMI) entitled Buddy, Can You Spare a Job? warns that many Zoomers make significant mistakes when looking for work.

Here are some expert strategies to help make the most of your search:

Hone your hunting skills

It's not the same job market out there. Experts warn that yesterday's successful strategies like mailing out hundreds of applications won't cut it in today's competitive marketplace. Candidates can increase their chances of success by looking for areas where there are still growth and opportunities, and targeting companies whose culture respects and values older workers.

Also take the time to learn how "things are done" in your industry. For example, many companies use online application processes through their websites or hire through a recruiting agency. When it comes to advertising, many employers target niche job recruitment websites and online communities instead of the classifieds. Learning to navigate these systems may require some new skills, like learning how to create HTML or text-only resumes.

Where can you find help? A visit to the local library or some time perusing career resource websites is a good (and free) way to start. Also, check with local colleges, universities, employment offices and community groups for courses and workshops on job hunting. Many places are now offering sessions specifically geared to older workers.

A word of warning: crooks are taking advantage of the same technologies that employers and job seekers use (like Twitter, email and professional networking sites), so make sure you know how to protect yourself.

Learn to market your qualifications

A long resume isn't enough, warn job experts. According to the MetLife report, it's critical for older job hunters to be able to articulate how their past experience will be of future value to the company. In other words, don't let your age and experience "speak for itself". Instead, show how your qualifications will be an asset.

Does that mean you should ignore your age? Of course not -- older workers have the qualities that employers are looking for, like problem-solving skills, business savvy, loyalty and leadership skills. It's simply a matter of marketing. Take time to use these positive traits to your advantage by listing accomplishments and concrete examples of skills from your experience. Then use this list to help you demonstrate how you'll help make the company a success moving forward. (Remember: you're selling the future, not the past.)

Worried about your resume dating you? Some experts recommend using a functional resume (which focuses on experience relevant to the job at hand) instead of a chronological resume. That way you can highlight the best parts of your resume without having to list everything. Some rough rules of thumb include listing only the last 10-15 years of experience (or as little as five years for some industries, like high-tech). Your education and other roles can be listed in an "other experience" category without dates or details.

Keep current

One of the misconceptions about older workers is that their skills and experience are out of date. In reality, all workers face the challenge of "staying on top of things". People who have dropped out of the workforce for a few years are at an additional disadvantage when it comes to computer skills.

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