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Kick-Start Your Job Hunt

5 steps to take right now if you’re 50+ and unemployed.

Between headlines bemoaning high unemployment rates and the multiple steps required these days to conduct a successful job hunt, landing that next gig can seem like a daunting task.

See also: 5 great part-time jobs.

The good news: There are ways to give yourself an edge over the competition as you search for a new career after 50. Better your odds of getting hired by following these five easy and effective tips.

1. Get Current
From technology to industry trends, it's critical to go out into the marketplace with a good understanding of the latest happenings in your sector, says Duncan Mathison, co-author of Unlock the Hidden Job Market: Six Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough. Check the latest issues of industry journals to ensure that you're up to speed on industry challenges. If you're on the north side of 50, the last thing you want is for a prospective employer to view you as out of touch with developments in your field.

Find someone to help you brush up on communication methods like texting, instant messaging and social media. "A good way to understand what you need to know is to look at job ads for the type of position you're targeting and see what technical expertise they're seeking," says Mathison. He also recommends adding "PPT" in the search field when you look for specific industry topics on the Internet. This will pull up PowerPoint presentations that might offer useful information.

2. Look Beyond Your Field
At the onset of the recession in 2008, Beverly Butler found herself unemployed and discouraged by the prospects for someone her age — she's now 56 — in a marketplace where "20- and 30-year-olds rule." As she conducted her job search, she learned about an opening at Wells Fargo, the financial services company, but it was far afield from her experience in the insurance industry.

"I really wanted that job, so I went through my résumé and highlighted all the times I had [financial] responsibility or worked on a project that had a technology component, both of which were requirements of the job," she says. Butler landed the position after eight months of unemployment. Earlier this year, she earned her division's “Top Performer” award.

3. Fine-tune Your Résumé
Résumés shouldn't be pages and pages long, says Mathison, the career-guide author. Instead, write your résumé to highlight the positive results and outcomes you've achieved — just as Butler did when she was attempting to shift over to financial services from insurance. Leave off anything that isn't relevant.

Also, don't be afraid to tweak your résumé for each position you're pursuing by adding and subtracting jobs, education, honors and training you've received over the years. "Any time you're asked for a résumé for a particular position, make sure it reflects all of the things they're looking for," Mathison says. "If it doesn't, rewrite it so it does."

4. Work Your Contacts
Personal contacts can make all the difference in a job hunt. Indeed, Butler first learned about her current position at Wells Fargo through a friend. Don't be afraid to let people know, in a positive manner, that you're looking for a new career opportunity. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word to friends, family and the rest of your online connections.

Mathison also recommends establishing a profile on LinkedIn, a professional networking website that's popular among recruiters and human resources professionals. It's free to sign up, and it's easy to connect to other professionals you've met over the years. As an added bonus: You can look up prospective interviewers and learn more about their expertise and interests from their profiles — as well as whether you might share a connection or two who can put in a good word for you.

5. Project Confidence
While it can be difficult to avoid at times, Mathison says the worst turn you can take is falling into the job-loss doldrums. "The last thing you want to do is to come across as desperate, or to go online and say, 'I'm looking for a job. Can anyone help me?' " says Mathison.

Butler agrees, adding that it's especially critical for job seekers 50 and up to remain positive and enthusiastic during a job search. Don't give prospective employers any excuse to entertain the stereotype that older workers lack energy.

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