Looking for a job is hard work, especially in this economy where unemployment is over 10% and is expected to stay that way for some time.
Its rough on even the most confident of souls and its really hard on Boomers who on top of the usual steady stream of nos also get to hear such rejections as Sorry, youre just over-qualified, or Youre just not what were looking for. Translation: Youre too old, only were not allowed to say that. Plus, We really dont want to pay you the salary youre looking for when we can get someone half your age for a third of the money.
So whats an out-of-work Boomer to do?
Face reality: Its tough out there
The reality is that if someone 45 or over loses his or her job, its probably going to take them a lot longer to find a new job than someone younger. Therapist Nancy B. Irwin, Ph.D recommends that instead of dwelling on the gloom and doom of high unemployment, focus on how you can create or get a new job.
Thats the kind of pro-active attitude that helped Susan, 61, who was out of work for a year from 2007 to 2008, to finally land her current job as information officer for a healthcare state agency in upstate New York, which is at about the same salary and level as her last job as public relations director of a small hospital.
Chuck Wright, manager of the New York office of Stanton Chase International, an executive search firm, says one way to look at finding a job is to realize you already have one. Your new job is to find a new job, says Wright, and you have to work at it pretty hard and consistently, but there are definitely opportunities out there.
Seven key tools
The seven most important tools you can call upon to help yourself to find a new job are:
2. Goal setting
3. Doing a Boomer skills and technology assessment and overhaul
4. Revamping your resumé
5. Building and reinforcing your network past, current, and future
6. Finding (or creating) the opportunities
7. Being flexible about salary, job title, field, and even location
If you lost your job, especially if you did not see it coming, its easy to start second guessing. Why didnt I get myself another job before they gave me the axe? Although it can be productive to try to understand the dynamics behind why you lost your job as a self-learning experience, at a certain point, it turns to unproductive self-loathing.
Instead, adopt the approach of Richard S. Deems, Ph.D., founder of WorkLife Design, and author of 14 books including Make Job Loss Work for You (JIST Works, 2010). Dr. Deems suggests that you write a note to yourself dating it a year ahead. In that note you will say: I resolve that a year from now, I will call the person who let me go and thank that person because Im in a better place.
See yourself as the key initial tool in your job search. Work on your mental attitude. Get out from under the statistics about how many people are unemployed or how long its going to take to find a new job.
California-based Lisa Johnson Mandel, 51, author of Career Comeback: Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want (Hachette/Springboard Press, 2010), highlights how pivotal it is to have a positive mental attitude Almost anyone looking for a job has a defeatist attitude, says Mandel. But if you have a negative attitude, thats going to come back to you. Instead, stay focused and be optimistic. Youre going to exude what you feel inside. If you expect people to like you, theyre going to like you. Keep a positive attitude and keep your confidence up. Dont be a complainer. Be a fixer.
However, what if you cant shake a negative attitude? What if your depression over your job situation is more than just a passing thing? Psychotherapist Nancy B. Irwin, Ph.D. says there are warning signs that show you might need professional help so you can work on whatever emotional issues are holding you back in your job search:
• You have difficulty getting out of bed
• Your appetite is changing (decreasing or increasing)
• Youre letting your hygiene go
• You are vegging out in front of the TV
• Youre drinking or smoking too much
The second tool is to figure out what you want to do. Make a list of your key accomplishments and your strengths. Ask yourself, What sets me apart and what can I do better or more effectively than anyone else?
One of Dr. Irwins clients, a single 60-year-old Los Angeles-based Boomer who got laid off from her executive job working for a major TV entertainment company, made such a list noting that she liked making guacamole and she also loved dogs. Dr. Irwin says She created a new business for herself, a house and pet sitting business. She adores her job and its also quite lucrative.
Susan, who landed a job in the healthcare field after a year of unemployment, says that "Everyday I got up and made it my job to get a job. At 9 a.m., I sat at my computer. I didnt get up and watch TV and sit around and do nothing. I worked for 2 hours every morning looking for work. Then I did some exercising so I didnt become a lump. Its very easy to get discouraged. But by the sixth or seventh month, I was ready to say, Im never going to work again.
After a year of unemployment, Susan was about to go on an interview and felt so discouraged that she had to reach down inside myself and think about those acting classes I took in college thirty five years ago. How do I put my best foot forward? You have to be who you are and you have to answer their questions honestly but she also needed to exude confidence and a positive attitude that she was, indeed, the right person for the job. It worked. After a year of searching, she found a job.
As Julie Jansen, author of I Dont Know What I Want, But I Know Its Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work (Penguin, 2nd edition, 2010), notes, You need a plan. It may be a matter of changing careers. Do the research. Do informational meetings.
Boomer skills and technology assessment and overhaul
Remind yourself that you also bring to the table decades of accomplishments, a large body of knowledge, maturity, and a network of contacts and resources developed from the various jobs you have had.
But you cannot afford to be a dinosaur if you want to compete in todays marketplace. Career coach Lisa Johnson Mandel says if you havent looked for a job within the last three years: The most important thing to remember is that everything has changed. Everything needs to be revamped: your clothes, your resum&eacut, even your searching skills.
Technology can give Boomers an advantage in the job search and also in appearing contemporary. Organizational expert Peter Walsh, author of Enough Already: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You (Free Press, 2009), suggests you get an online calendar and sync it with your cell phone. Make sure all of your contacts are listed in a database on your computer so you can easily and quickly find any contact you need. Establish on your computer folios for each of the jobs that you are looking for, Walsh says. In each folio, keep easily accessible resum&eacuts, cover letters, and information about the potential employers that you are contacting rather than starting from scratch each time.
Community colleges offer courses that can help you to upgrade your tech skills and find out whats new in your field, especially if you have been out of it for a while.
Rewrite your resumé
Catherine Jewell, career coach and author of New Resumé, New Career (Alpha Books, 2010), says the trend today is toward a functional resumé rather than the traditional chronological or job duties approaches. A functional resumé presents your basic skills with achievements listed under each one, says Jewell. But I recommend that no one do only a function resumé. I always do combination resumés. Begin with the core competencies and accomplishments under each one. You end with an abbreviated job history; hiring managers want to see your year by year job history.
New Jersey-based Jason A. Docheff is a career and resumé coach whose clients include out of work Boomers. Docheff helps his clients to develop resumés that are geared to particular positions. He also helps them with business cover letters to make them highly targeted, highly impactful. You want to highlight your achievements, the challenges you faced. You want to illustrate this in a cover letter. Make the cover letter a demonstration and illustration of your value.
Build and reinforce your network past, current, and future
Experts agree: networking is one of the best ways to find out about job openings. Often called the hidden job market, it is estimated that 80% of all jobs are found through networking because most openings never even get to the headhunters or the job sites. Although networking in person is still preferred, using the online social networking tools such as Linkedin.com, Facebook.com, and Twitter.com have grown in popularity as James Limbach points out in Social Networking Explodes as Job-Search Tool.
Deb Dib, co-author of The Twitter Job Search Guide (JIST Works, 2010), says On Twitter, you can find people in your industry or recruiters and follow them and create a connection. It doesnt happen overnight. You need a strategic plan about what you want to project about yourself. Networking is a reciprocal relationship with you giving more than youre asking for. The best thing you can do is to be useful. If you find something thats interesting, post it or send it to them.
In addition to online social networking, go to local, regional, or even national association meetings or conferences as well as local breakfasts, lunches, after work events, or dinners. Pick out the events that will be attended to by the people you want to connect to. Be careful about appearing too desperate or being too direct about wanting or needing a job. Instead, work on connecting, or reconnecting, with each person you talk to as you strengthen your relationship.
Find (or create) the opportunities
Where are the jobs? Everywhere. Network so you can find out about jobs before an announcement even appears in the local newspaper or on a job site. As for jobs that get posted, apply to them as well. There are numerous online job sites, like hotjobs.com, monster.com, or indeed.com, as well as through social networking sites, especially linkedin.com.
There are other ways that you can find out about jobs, from local job fairs that are held periodically with representatives of major companies and nonprofits available to discuss job openings at their companies; watch for advertisements for job fairs in your local newspaper or online. Although not as popular as before, there are still jobs to be found in local newspaper want ads.
Visit Boomer online job search sites such as www.seniorjobbank.org or , a division of CareerBuilder.com, or associations that have job listings, as well as alumni offices of the colleges, graduate, or professional schools that you attended that offer online or in-person job search help.
Besides the general job search online sites, become familiar with the specialized sites for your industry, such as www.mediabistro.com for media (writing, pr, television) professionals, www.chronicle.com (for jobs in academia and related consulting jobs), www.healthcarejobs.org, among many others.
Be flexible about salary, job title, field, and even location
Even though it may be hard to sell your house and relocate to another area for a job, you can expand the number of miles youre willing to drive for a job and the number of hours you are willing to commute. (If you are offered a job in another location, you could rent your home until you can sell it so you can relocate for career reasons.)
Try not to get hung up on the job title you are offered although of course you have to be careful if in your particular field getting a job title that is too far below the level you used to be at, even if your salary is the same or even higher, might hurt your chances of job advancement or your job prospects if you have to search in the future.
Be open to new or different fields. Stay up on what jobs are new in your field or even what fresh fields are available and even growing. Consider how the demand for jobs is increasing in certain fields, like solar energy, elder care, and going green initiatives.
Seek out companies that actually welcome workers over 50 such as Cornell University, First Horizon National Corporation, National Institutes of Health, and S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., just a few of the 50 companies that were chosen by AARP in 2009 to be part of their Best Employers for Workers Over 50 biennial list. (See the complete list of the winners online)
The most critical message of all is not to give up. Whether you have to take a job in another field, go back to school so you can switch careers, or take temporary, freelance, or other work till the job you really want is offered to you, giving up is not something that we Boomers as a group like to do. Were doers and fighters and innovators. There are jobs to be had even if you have to hire yourself.
Resources and sources
Associations and government agencies related to Aging or the Job Search
- Boomer Careers Site developed by the state of Tennessee to help residents ages 40+ to find paid or unpaid (volunteer) jobs
- Forty Plus (Northern California chapter) Membership and dues organization founded in 1939 by Remington Rand to help former employees over 40 in their job search. Chapters are available in New York City, Northern California, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
Books and articles
- Deems, Richard S. and Terri A. Deems. Make Job Loss Work for You. Indianapolis, IN: JIST Works, 2010.
- Enelow, Wendy S. and Louise M. Kursmark. Expert resumés for Baby Boomers. Indianapolis, IN: JIST Works, 2007.
- Farr, Michael and Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D. 225 Best Jobs for Baby Boomers. Indianapolis, IN: JIST works, 2007.
- Limbach, James. New Survey Rates Job Search Methods. ConsumerAffairs.com, August 18, 2009.
- Luo, Michael. Longer Unemployment for Those 45 and Older. New York Times, April 13, 2009.
- OBrien, Sharon. Jobless News not so Bad for Boomers. About.com guide to Senior Living, November 17, 2009.
- Sims, Damon. Help Wanted: When Layoffs Hit Home. May 3, 2009, www.cleveland.com
- Whitcomb, Susan Britton; Chandlee Bryan; and Deb Dib. The Twitter Job Search Guide. Indianapolis, IN: JIST Works, 2010.
- Winerip, Michael. Time, It Turns Out, Isnt on their side. New York Times, March 11, 2010.
Job search sites
How to turn age (experience) and skills (proven accomplishments) to your advantage in your job search...