What is considered "old" by employment standards these days seems younger every year. In industries such as IT this is especially apparent, as the stereotypical tech guru is rarely envisioned as being in the 50-plus set, yet statistics suggest that this would be a more accurate depiction of an IT professional.
According to the AARP, by 2012 almost 20 percent of the U.S. work force will be 44 or over. Americans are predicted to work longer than ever before. There were 5.5 million people 65 and older in the labor force in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a number which is projected to reach 10.1 million by 2016.
Unfortunately, the older you are, the longer it can take to get a job. Compared to 18.9 weeks for younger workers, it took workers 55 and older 25.8 weeks on average to find a job in 2004. But for an unemployed or under-employed professional, or one that has needed to get back into the workforce after a premature retirement, this can feel like an eternity.
"Part of the struggle is that it is difficult to recast yourself. The markets are always changing and the customer needs, especially in technology, are always changing so you need to find a way to make yourself relevant in the marketplace. The trick is how," Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of products and marketing for Yoh Services, a tech employment firm, told eWEEK.
Lanzalotto and workplace experts suggest that older workers in need of new employment embark on a strategic and tailored job hunt, one that deemphasizes the downsides of age and plays up experience and stability.
"People might have prejudices against hiring an older candidate. But once you get in front of someone, show that you know your stuff and show enthusiasm for the job. Make it so they'd be crazy to say no," Jeremy Lappin, CEO of BountyJobs, a service which connects businesses with headhunters, told eWEEK.
Know What Sets You Apart
Most of what has been written about job hunting for older workers plays on the generational differences between Baby Boomers and Generations X and Y, who might be seen as more ambitious and willing to work harder than someone who has been working for decades. But this is a disservice to older job seekers, as everything that sets them apart can be seen as a bonus through a different lens.
For example, while a younger employee might be hung up with job titles or the need to build up a resume with the right experiences from the right places, an older job seeker is typically past that. Discussing a willingness to help an organization in any area that they need will win an older job seeker more opportunities.
Generation X and Generation Y workers are also known to change jobs every 24 to 26 months, at a great cost to organizations with a constant need to find new talent. This gives Baby Boomer the ability to sell themselves as a person in a more stable place in their life, explained recruiters.