Are you job ready? In today’s market, job seekers must have the skills, knowledge and abilities employers need and be able present them effectively. Here are 6 job readiness tips that older, experienced workers need to know.
Keep Your Work Skills Current
Computer literacy is now required by most employers, and skill gaps in this important area cannot be covered by saying “I can learn it quickly.” Employers expect you to come to the job already knowing at least:
- The basics of operating a computer, such as using a mouse, keyboarding, and how to navigate menus and find files;
- How to use email and Microsoft Office software, mainly Word,
- Excel, and PowerPoint; and
How to do internet searches to find information.
The good news is that, if you are not savvy in this area, there are many free or low cost classes available through the library, continuing education programs at community colleges, senior centers, or One-Stop Career Centers. And don’t overlook resources closest to you, such as knowledgeable friends, children, or grandchildren who may be able to show you the basics using their own computers or computers available at the library.
If you are in a field with changing knowledge requirements or jargon, be sure to read current job descriptions and trade publications or attend association meetings to get up-to-date on new terminology and recent developments. It is important to reflect current knowledge in your resume and during interviews.
Be Sure Your Resume Doesn’t Date You
Two popular resume formats are “chronological,” which presents a complete work history in date order with the most recent experience first, and “functional,” which groups experience and accomplishments by skill categories such as sales and marketing or leadership.
Many career experts recommend a middle-ground approach for job seekers 50+. This middle ground is called a “combination” or “hybrid” resume. At the beginning of the resume, highlight recent experience and accomplishments relevant to the job you are applying for in a Qualification Summary section. Follow this section with a recent reverse-chronological employment history; limited to the last 10 to 15 years. Follow the employment history section with an Education section, but omit dates in this section if the education or specialized training was completed more than 10 to 15 years ago.
While you want to highlight relevant experience, be careful not to over-emphasize the length or breadth of your experience. If for instance, you mention more than the suggested 10 to 15 years, it may both date you and make you appear “over-qualified.”
You do want to include a list of your technology skills in your resume, including office software you use. Most employers consider computer literacy a must today.
Keep in mind that many employers now put resumes into a database when they are received and then later search the database using keywords. Keywords are the specific skills and abilities used in a particular job, such as customer service, outside sales, C#, HVAC, or accounts payable. If your resume doesn’t contain the right keywords, your resume won’t come up when the employer searches for candidates.
How do you find the keywords for a particular job? Review the job advertisement, visit the employer website to see what skills or needs are emphasized there, or read resume samples on-line at job search websites. You can also read standard job descriptions available in the government Occupational Outlook Handbook which is available on-line or in print at the library.
Finally, many companies today require that resumes be submitted to them on-line. Know how to create an electronic resume that can be sent via email or copied to the company’s website without having its format scrambled. Tips for creating an electronic version of your resume can be found at many on-line career websites or in free workshops at local One-Stop Career Centers (see the Resources section for more information).
Polish Your Interview Skills
It’s always important to prepare for the interview by gathering information about the company and job and being ready to tell how your knowledge and experience match the job’s requirements. As an older worker with significant related experience, however, be careful not to fall into an ego trap and overwhelm the interviewer with your experience, particularly if the interviewer is younger. Communicate confidently about your accomplishments, but pleasantly and positively, without bragging.
The interviewer may also be concerned about two other issues often connected with being “over-qualified” - will you be satisfied with the salary or will you be bored with the work? If your past salary has been higher, you can handle the salary question by letting the interviewer know you have reviewed your financial needs and are comfortable with the competitive wage for this position. To overcome a concern about boredom, talk about something new at the company or in the job that engages you. You might also talk about how you enjoy sharing knowledge and give an example of training others. Show enthusiasm.
Demonstrate current knowledge of the field and a commitment to continued learning. Current knowledge plus flexibility and the ability to learn are all desirable qualities if an interview has any concerns about older candidates being “set in their ways.” Share an example of learning a new skill or task.
When you are talking about your accomplishments, consider including an example of teamwork which demonstrates that you work well with people, particularly in different age groups. You want to be seen as “fitting in” a cross-generational culture.
Professional appearance, energy, and a positive attitude are important to show in an interview as well. These characteristics counter any impression that an older worker may not be easy to work with or productive.
Couple all of this with a firm handshake and a smile and you are interview ready!
Conduct a Flexible Job Search
A job search is challenging for anyone. Older, experienced workers may encounter age-related biases which seem to limit their opportunities to find an equivalent or better job. In order to open up additional possibilities, many employment counselors recommend that older workers conduct a traditional job search as well as adopt a flexible strategy.
The traditional job search consists of networking with professional and personal contacts, searching for job openings on the internet and in newspapers that match your job objective, and contacting employment agencies and search firms.
Flexible strategies to consider include:
- Examining your work and hobby skills to see how they can be applied to
a different job or in a different field;
- Looking for part-time as well as full-time openings;
- Signing up with a temporary agency for work in your field or at companies you are interested in;
- Looking for a volunteer role related to your field or in a target organization;
- Offering to work for a company on a trial basis;
- Doing consulting or contract work for a previous employer; or
- Starting your own business or opening a franchise.
Work Your Network
Most career advisors agree that it is through our network of personal and professional contacts that we most are most likely to find the next job opportunity. All of these people and activities provide networking possibilities:
- Friends and family within your personal circle
- Acquaintances in your wider circle, ranging from a tax advisor to your dry cleaner
- Interest and hobby groups
- Professional development or special interest classes
- Professional or trade associations
- Volunteer assignments
- Job clubs and job search workshops
Even if you are continuing in your present job or have just landed a new one, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with previous network contacts and make new ones. We never know what’s around the career corner, and these contacts may be helpful in the future.
Find Resources If You Need Help
If you are struggling with your job search, there are resources available on-line and also a variety of no-cost career services available through local organizations such as the One-Stop Career Centers (Washington’s One Stop Centers are called WorkSource). These centers offer workshops on topics ranging from resume writing to on-line job searching and have employment specialists and job clubs available. Go to the Resources section of this website for more information and additional resource ideas.