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Why 50 somethings aren’t getting hired and what YOU can do about it

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Seasoned workers got hit hard by the
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I've noticed that most of the people who attend my Get a Job! workshops are over age 50. This tells me three things about 50+ year olds …

1) They were laid off in droves during the recession
2) They are trying hard to get back to work
3) They are having a tough time getting hired

My theory as to why a disproportionately large number of 50+-year olds were laid off during the recession (and why they can’t find similar jobs now) is because they …

• Were (relatively) highly paid at a time when companies were cutting way back
• Often looked and acted older than they could
• Were very good at what they had always done, but didn't respond quickly enough to new ways of doing business or new technologies … and just like that, were out of a job before they even knew what hit them.

I’m not denigrating 50+ year olds … truly, I’m not … I am one! I know what we are capable of accomplishing and how hard we are willing to work. But I must admit our generation was massively caught off guard by how quickly the work force trended toward rejecting us despite all we have to offer.

While this turn of events is disheartening, it can be a defining … if you realize what you are up against and take active steps to make yourself the best job candidate of this or any age. Here’s how:

1) Realize and reveal your unique strengths. Just because you lost your job doesn't mean you aren't highly qualified. Review your past work history and consider what makes you uniquely qualified for open positions. Remember that many companies recognize mature job seekers have strengths younger generations may not. For example, baby boomers are known for their work ethic, perseverance and attention to detail.

Ask yourself …

• Am I revealing what makes me outstanding in my resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and interview answers? (If not, revamp it all to “sell yourself” in the most powerful way.)

• Am I asking influential people (who believe in me and my abilities) to speak on my behalf to decision makers? (If you are aged 50+, you’ve likely worked with many people who can speak highly of you. Ask them to refer you and prepare them to do so. Their enthusiastic support could be the single biggest factor in you getting hired.)

2) Acknowledge and fix your weaknesses. You may need to fix three kinds of weaknesses … physical, attitudinal and work related.

Physical and attitudinal weaknesses – You can’t roll back time, but if you are looking or acting older than necessary, update your dress, hair style, glasses, shoes, etc. Improve your posture and become physically fit. But not only that, choose to have a more youthful attitude. Exude confidence, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn and grow … doing so can make your age irrelevant.

Work-related weaknesses – Study the job descriptions for the positions you want and determine the skills you lack. Put together an action plan to gain those skills right now. Many free tools are available, such as YouTube videos and the help features and tutorials on the software programs you already own.

Include your new skills on your resume and other application materials and be ready to talk about them in interviews. Older workers have to work harder to fix their technological weaknesses than people of other ages … hiring companies expect you to not be proficient due to your age. Prove them wrong!

3) Accept new realities. You may never be able to go back to the pay scale or prestige of your previous positions … the world may have changed too much … but you can find satisfying work if you doggedly pursue opportunities. And you know what? That just might be good enough. I know many people who have accepted lower paying positions who are happier now than when they were in higher paying, more stressful jobs.

4) Develop swagger. Has unemployment beaten you so far down you’re starting to believe no one will ever want you? Then learn from my 50+-year-old friend, John, who just started a new job he loves. John epitomizes swagger … a confident, charismatic, “hard-to-get” attitude that attracted hiring companies to him like moths to a bug zapper. He let companies know that he was good … and picky … and that if they wanted him, they’d have to work hard to get him.

John may have been born with swagger, but you can develop it. Make a list of what you really want out of a job and then focus on attaining positions that are worthy of your abilities. Practice asking for what you want and for what you will say if a company's offer isn’t good enough. The company may not go for all your demands, but they will be impressed that you aren't idly waiting for their call … or their first offer.

5) Consider alternatives. Many 50 somethings I know have decided they don’t want full-time employment after all, and have instead opted to start their own company, pursue consulting work, or do part time or odd jobs. Those that have been able to pull off such choices emotionally and financially are some of the happiest people I know. They are busy and productive and doing work they love.

So how about you? What do you really want to do? Take steps now to become the most qualified job candidate no matter what your age!

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