Over 40 Job Search Guide

1. The over 40 demographic is big, and contains people whose experience isn't being used in the workforce. That can be a personal issue for job seekers. How should they approach their situation objectively?

Over-40 job seekers should approach the market optimistically and realistically. They should be optimistic that the strengths of their experience can provide them with a definite advantage over job seekers in their 20's and 30's, but also be aware that negative stereotypes exist toward older workers. They should also be aware of careers and industries that are 'age-friendly', healthy and hiring such as healthcare, education, social services, and self-employment. They should be wary of approaching industries that are frequently in a downsizing mode due to current economic conditions such as financial services, technology based services and telecommunications.

2. What are the fundamental advantages of age?

The advantages of age include:

  1. Substantial transferable business experience in multiple positions in different industries.
  2. Strong business commitment which includes a strong work-ethic, focus on the task at hand, time flexibility, ethical behavior and professionalism.
  3. Immediate return on investment which means that older workers learn faster and are productive sooner building on past successes and experience. In many cases they learn software and internet skills faster than younger workers.
  4. Strong interpersonal skills, having worked and lived with many generations. Skills including conflict resolution, mentoring and training
  5. Proven experience leading and managing organizations and teams.
  6. Successful experience in many fields such as sales and management with numbers to back up their success.
  7. A Balanced Ego, they do not have to be Number #1 in the organization. Titles, perks, and salary expectations are more realistic. They are also interested in challenges and relationships..
  8. They have a broad network of contacts to assist their employer and help in their own job search.

3. One of your points is quoted as 'Tips on avoiding and overcoming age-discrimination and cultural-misfit stereotyping'. Could you expand on this theme for our members?

Age discrimination is both subtle and overt and more apparent in times of recession where there are more workers to fill fewer jobs. To avoid age discrimination workers should create an 'ageless resume'. This resume does not show all of their experience but in most cases shows 10 to 15 years of relevant experience for the position desired. Over-40 workers should make their appearance as professionally youthful as possible. This does not mean having plastic surgery, but it often means that dying and restyling grey hair and buying new glasses and a new business suit can take 10 years off their appearance. Also, older workers should project vocal energy and physical energy in telephone and in person interviews. They should attempt to look compatible in appearance to other business professionals in their industry of choice and should be aware of current language, music, etc. to be a cultural fit.

4. With a lot of good, solid, experience in their fields. Issues vary, but age is always a factor. What's the most common obstacle for over 40 workers?

The most common obstacle for older workers is inability to 'change' with the times. They may resist creating an 'ageless' resume being so proud of all of their experience that they show too much. They may be stubborn in refusing to update their appearance being happy to appear as a grandmother or grandfather image. Also, they may fail to realize that the career that they had before no longer exists for them because it has been outsourced or is not 'age-friendly'. They need to develop flexibility and adaptability to survive and thrive and to accept that spending money for professional career help and an updated appearance is a true investment in the future.

5. Many of the over 40s have strong claims on any job in their fields. They can prove it to an employer. How do they maximize their input to an interview to get a job?

The best way to make a strong first impression on the telephone is with vocal enthusiasm and well prepared interview answers. The best way to make an equally strong impressions in person is with a professional appearance and practiced answers to 'age related interview questions' such as ' Don't you feel that you are over-qualified for this position?' An appropriate response is 'I am excited about bringing the strengths of my experience to this position and feel challenged and excited about contributing to you company.'

6. Another very useful topic in your book is 'Strategies for dealing with the emotional and financial strains of looking for a job'. That will strike a chord with everyone. Could you outline your approach?

I suggest that those over 40's can experience greater emotional and financial strains than younger workers who are used to frequent career change (careers lasting less than 4 years on the average.) I recommend that older workers go to networking meetings and meet regularly with a support group of others going through the job search. I recommend that they work with an experienced career counselor who will keep them on track and keep their spirits up during the job search. And, I recommend that work part-time during the job search or do volunteer work to keep their mind off their own problems and give them a broader perspective.

7. Domestic realities affect over 40s in a different way from younger people. Time, in particular, is a frequent issue, as well as balancing home life and living in general. What are good basic principles for coping with these situations?

I think domestic realities and time are plus for those over 40, 50, 60 and 70. There are usually no small children at home to care for so they can devote more time to the job search. On the other hand, if one partner has been the domestic member of the household and now both are at home, they may often get on each others nerves. If workers want part-time employment or contract work, this is readily available.

8. Retirees are often out of the loop for too long to get straight back in to work. They lack current references, there's a big gap in employment, etc. What are the best ways of avoiding that scenario, and starting from a better position?

In the new economy where most people plan to work beyond 55 and even 65 there are really no true retirees. Anyone re-entering the workforce will need to update their credentials, their resume, and their appearance. This often means going back to school or taking a course to change careers. This is the same situation as a 'stay at home parent' who re-enters to workforce. They can gain current references by working part-time and reconnecting with former employers.

9. Over 40s sometimes come back into the workforce as consultants or project managers. How good, and how realistic, are these options?

Who would be able to use this approach? Older and experienced employers make excellent consultants, project managers and business owners and usually work in their areas of expertise. For example, a former Human Resources Manager with experience in diversity works as a HR Consultant and does diversity training. A former corporate webmaster starts his own website business catering to small business owners.

10. The workplace environment has changed a lot for mature age workers. What's the best way for them to get reoriented?

The best way for mature workers to get re-oriented to the work environment is by purchasing The Over-40 Job Search Guide, hiring a career counselor and joining 'free' career networking groups such as www.crossroadscareer.org which offer inexpensive 'back to work classes'.