Older and out of work? Here are tips just for you. • We've all heard of the glass ceiling, but there's another insidious workplace phenomenon that can be particularly galling for older job seekers: the "gray ceiling." According to the AARP, it often takes considerably longer for people to find jobs if they're over age 55. To combat this trend, consider these tips.
1Turn your resume into a date-free zone. So you graduated from college in the '60s? Really got going in your field in the '70s? As impressive as your history is, those dates don't need to show up in your resume. Neither does a detailed listing of every single position you've ever held. Focus on your most impressive career successes and highlights from the past 10 to 20 years, and don't spell out the year you graduated.
2Network, network, network. It's always easier to find a job if you know someone on the inside. Think about all the friends, colleagues and contacts you've ever made in your industry and start reaching out to them. Let them know you're looking for work and ask whether they know of any openings.
3Tap every possible resource. Another way to network is to get career and job-search assistance through One-Stop Career Centers (www.careeronestop.org or toll-free 1-877-348-0502) and through programs offered at many public libraries. If you're a college graduate, contact your school's career services department; many colleges and universities provide their alumni with lifelong assistance. Local offices of any professional associations for your field also could be helpful.
4Use your experience to your advantage. True, potential employers may send you packing with lines like, "You're overqualified for this position," but you may be able to counter such quick dismissals with a few one-liners of your own. Tory Johnson, founder of Women for Hire, suggests these responses: "I thought about that very issue before I applied. I realized that because I'm committed to this line of work, my experience would be a tremendous asset." Or: "I have 20 years of experience in this industry. I'd love to apply that insight to solving problems and creating successes for this company and mentoring other people."
5Stress your adaptability — and truly be adaptable. A big stereotype against older workers is that they're not willing or able to adapt to new technologies and new ways of doing things. Depending on your industry, give employers examples of how you've stayed current and how you plan to keep doing so.
6Upgrade your job skills if necessary. You may be able to find free or low-cost computer classes offered at libraries, churches and continuing education centers. Also check with local colleges and universities about extension programs that offer courses for professional development, and look into classes offered through community colleges, accredited online degree programs and the New Horizons Computer Learning Center (www.newhorizons.com).
7Change careers if you must. Let's face it: Your entire industry may be imploding on you. So, for instance, if you've worked in finance for years, do you know of any former colleagues who made the leap to positions that allow them to work with numbers for different kinds of employers? Or if you're thinking about transitioning out of real estate, can you brainstorm other areas where you could apply your sales and negotiation skills?
8Check industry data yourself. Especially if you need to change career fields, study occupational data so you can find out which sectors are hiring right now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/OCO/) can help you learn about job sectors that may be crying out for your specific skills. CareerBuilder.com (www.careerbuilder.com) also publishes information about who's hiring in its "Advice & Resources" section.
9Stay upbeat. Negative thinking and speaking can hurt your job search. For instance, if you're an older worker, are you viewing yourself as experienced and knowledgeable, or just old? Most employers want to hire energetic, positive people. To stay positive, remember how much you have to offer. Stay focused and confident about the ways you can help employers succeed.
10Think about consulting opportunities. If you've been spinning your wheels for far too long trying to find a full-time job, remember that you can always make yourself available as a consultant or contractor. Companies may be reluctant to hire you permanently in this economy, but they may gladly tap your expertise for projects where they could really use your help.
Laura T. Coffey can be reached at laura@ tentips.org.
Sources: the AARP, About.com, Women for Hire