Landing the right job in an Ageist Market - Job Searching over 50
I am sure you don't need to be reminded that the job market is competitive and age discrimination is rife. But the good news is that things are changing. Companies are slowly waking up to the realities of having ageing workforces and there is much more support available nowadays for job seekers and career changers in their latter years of work. That said, I’d argue that the most powerful tool you have in your job search is YOU.
So - how do you give yourself an advantage in today's job market?
Get clear on what you are looking for and what you can offer first. I'm sure you don't want just any job but the right job, so start off by considering how you would define that. Get clear on your priorities as well as the 'must-haves' and 'must nots'. What size and culture of organisation is going to suit you best? Seek insight into an organisation's leadership and consider if their values align with yours. Next, get really clear on what you bring to an employer. What are your strengths? When are you at your best? What makes you better than the other potential applicants? Being able to articulate this confidently throughout a recruitment process is key to standing out from your competition. In short, think first, act second!
Maximise your chance of success with job boards. Employers and recruiters get inundated with applications so it's really hard to stand out from the crowd. Some of the larger organisations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen CVs as a first step, meaning that if your CV isn't a strong match or in the right format it will be sifted out. With this in mind, focus your efforts on jobs where your background is a good fit and ensure your applications are compelling and tailored to the jobs you’re applying for. Your CV should be achievement oriented, include key skills and clearly demonstrate your suitability for the role. Keep it to two pages maximum, detailing only your roles over the past 10-12 years (with roles before this in list format) and ensure it's modern in feel and attractive to the eye. Although we would strongly advise using your age as a strength (decades worth of skills and expertise) due to various job boards using age identifying algorithms, consider removing the dates from your education and qualifications which may help overcome overt ageism.
Go beyond the job board and use your network. Don’t overlook the power of your network (and your network's network) as a way of accessing the hidden job market. These are the roles that are filled through referrals or recommendations and don't make it to the job boards. This is all about being proactive. Let your key contacts know you are looking for your next job and reconnect with people you haven't been in touch with for a while. Step up your activity on LinkedIn and use the platform to research organisations, engage with their content and make new connections. Don't be afraid to ask for help or to be put in touch with someone, but consider what you can give, not just what you can get.
· If your skills are easily transferable between sectors, consider targeting companies in sectors experiencing talent shortages as this may increase your chances.
· Consider working with a career coach or job search specialist who will support you on any of the above. Career change in particular is a big undertaking and it pays to have someone help you find clarity in your next step and keep you on track.
· Accept that job searching takes time. And resilience. Try to manage your expectations (and finances if you are out of work) and ensure you have supportive people around you.
Katie Pope is a volunteer Career Coach with Brave Starts and Director of Elevate Careers, her own career coaching business. She has the ICF Certificate in Career Coaching and 17 years of experience in Talent Acquisition and Recruitment gained in the UK and Australia with organisations such as KPMG and Korn Ferry. Katie is passionate about coaching and mentoring professionals 40 years + for confidence in career transition and job search.