Job Hunting for People Over 50
Job hunting or starting a new career in your 50s, 60s or later can be especially daunting if it’s been a decade or more since you last did so. Not only are your job-hunting skills rusty, but technology has changed the way we search for and apply for jobs. This chapter will go over the resources you can turn to for help in your job search (the next chapter will include today’s standards for resumes and interviews).
Outplacement services, also called career transition services, aim to help laid-off employees get back to work faster by providing services such as career counseling, assistance in resume and cover-letter writing, interview practice, salary-negotiation advice and help getting resumes out to job agencies and recruiters. According to a 2017 report by outplacement services provider RiseSmart, 58% of employers offer outplacement services to their laid-off workers, which means former employees don’t have to pay anything to take advantage of this service.
As with other severance benefits, company officers, management and senior executives are the most likely to receive outplacement services, but more than a third of administrative, clerical and other professional workers who get a severance package receive them, too. Outplacement services are most commonly available for three or six months after being laid off. Workers can often access these services online, without having to leave home.
If your former employer isn’t providing you with outplacement services, you can get them on your own if you have the money to hire a career coach. The quality and breadth of a coach’s services, as well as the fees, can vary widely, so it’s a good idea to interview several possible coaches before hiring one. (For related reading, see 7 Tips for Getting a New Job in Your 50s.)
Employment agencies, also called staffing agencies or temp agencies (when they provide temporary job assignments), are companies that other firms contract with when they need help filling job vacancies. A firm might be shorthanded because business is busier than usual or because a key employee is on maternity or sick leave. In these cases, they might need temporary workers to fill in for anywhere from a couple of days to a few months. A temporary employee who stands out might be offered a permanent position, if one is available. In other cases, firms hire employment agencies to find full-time talent because they don’t have the resources in house to manage the entire recruitment process. Employment agencies can help weed through resumes, screen candidates from their own talent pools and present a few highly qualified candidates for the position.
Some of the biggest names in staffing are Allegis Group, Adecco, Randstad Holding, ManpowerGroup and Kelly Services, but there are hundreds of employment agencies. Some are generalists, offering access to a wide range of jobs, while others specialize in a particular profession, such as accounting or healthcare. One place to find an agency that might be a good fit for you is this list of top talent-ranked staffing agencies for 2017, which was assembled by Best of Staffing and is based on more than 900,000 verified reviews. The list is typically updated each year.
Looking for work through a staffing agency offers several benefits. You’ll have someone at the agency looking to match you up with a job that you’re well qualified for because that person is paid by the company whenever he or she fills a vacancy. The agency might know about job listings that aren’t publicly available and might have additional details about what the company is looking for in a new hire that you wouldn’t be able to glean on your own.
A staffing agency can also help you earn income in the meantime through temporary or contract assignments or part-time work while leaving time available for you to devote to a permanent job search. Through these assignments, you’ll gain more skills and experience that you can offer to a new employer, and you can explore working in different fields, learn about the culture at different companies and consider what direction to take in your permanent job search. Also, you may be able to avoid having a large unemployment gap on your resume. In a best-case scenario, you might be able to turn a temporary assignment that you enjoy into a permanent one. (For names of agencies that specialize in older job candidates, see On a Retirement Job Search? Try These Agencies.)
One problem you might encounter with a job you land through an employment agency is that you could be promised full-time work but be continually strung along as a temporary worker. Temporary workers may not receive the same benefits as full-time workers, but employment agencies sometimes offer benefits to their active temp workers.
Research different recruiting firms to see which ones have jobs in fields you’re qualified to work in or would like to work in. Then follow the firm’s process for submitting your resume and follow up in a few days to make sure someone received it. If a recruiter thinks he or she might be able to match you with a job, the next steps will likely include going to the recruiting firm for an interview (which you should treat as seriously as any job interview), taking a skills assessment to show the firm you can do what you say you can do and editing your resume to present your background in the most strategic way to prospective employers.
Some recruiters actively look for candidates for positions they need to fill. If you want a recruiter to find you, a strong online presence is a must. Posting your resume at online job boards, having a detailed LinkedIn profile and creating a professional website highlighting your skills and experience can help recruiters find you. If you’re an expert in a particular subject and you write reasonably well, starting a blog can help establish your online presence and build up your authority. So can getting quoted in the media – try registering with a service called Help a Reporter Out, which sends out emails three times a day full of subjects on which reporters want to interview subject-matter experts.
You don’t have to wait for a recruiter to find you, either – you can make the first move. To find recruiters in your field, try searching LinkedIn and Google for your line of work and your location. Some recruiters work on their own and aren’t part of the large agencies. Just make sure you’re working with someone who has a proven track record and real connections to jobs, and don’t pay anyone to connect you with a job: Individual recruiters and recruiting firms are paid by the company that hires you.
LinkedIn is a free, online, professional networking service that lets you create a profile that includes your work history, education and a photo. Once you have a profile, you can connect with everyone you know, similar to Facebook. While friends and family might have useful connections, connecting with former colleagues and others who work in the field you want to get re-employed in is especially important. You can also use the site to search for jobs and to search for new contacts who might be able to help you get the job you want. In addition, you can request testimonials from those you’ve worked with and for in the past and showcase them in your profile to highlight your value as an employee.
By optimizing your LinkedIn page, you can put yourself in a position to have companies find you, and when a company reaches out to you instead of vice versa, you have an advantage in landing the job since you know they’re already interested. Experts recommend using a descriptive profile instead of a generic job title, posting a professional photo where you are dressed for the job you want, writing a two-to-three-line summary that highlights your top qualifications and listing just three top accomplishments for each of the positions you’ve held. (For more on this topic, see How to Use LinkedIn to Get a Job, How LinkedIn Premium Can Help You Find Your Next Job and Indeed vs. LinkedIn.)
When you lose your job, the last thing you probably feel like doing is announcing it to the world. But if no one knows you’re looking for a job, they won’t tell you when an opportunity opens up at their company or a friend’s company. Don’t just get the word out when you’re first laid off, either; keep mentioning it every few weeks as long as you’re still looking.
In her book “Getting the Job You Want after 50 for Dummies,” Kerry Hannon writes that networking is so effective because “employers want to hire people they know or those recommended by someone they know and trust. This reassures them that you are who you say you are and will show up and do the job.” She suggests networking with people in your faith community, social circles, groups you have volunteered with, neighbors, trade and professional organizations, and local businesspeople, as well as relatives, former coworkers and former classmates. She adds that connecting by phone or in person is more effective than an email or text message. She also suggests joining Meetup groups to meet new people in a relaxed social setting. At a minimum, you might make new connections and have enjoyable experiences. At best, you might meet someone who can connect you with your next job.
Keep your job-search message simple, direct and upbeat. Try something like, “Still looking for my next opportunity as a software engineer. I’m especially excited about the possibility of doing back-end development for a nonprofit. Let me know if you hear about any jobs that might be a good fit for me!” Needless to say, avoid messages like, “Can’t believe I’m still unemployed after three months. Not a single company that I’ve sent my resume to has responded. I’m desperate for work – please help!”Resumes and Interviews