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31 Great Ways to Boost Your Career

The job market has changed — has your approach? Let AARP guide you

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Illustration: Lan Truong

Like most aspects of our lives, the job market has seen lots of changes in the last few years. Today, many people have settled into hybrid work schedules, or perhaps have pivoted to 100 percent remote work. Whether you’re looking for a new job or ways to improve the one you already have, keep these tips in mind. When you’re done reading our helpful hacks, please share your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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1. Start with the right mindset

You’re never too old to learn new skills or acquire a degree. Today, there are many ways to bolster what you’ve learned over your career. “When it comes to technology in particular, consider yourself a lifelong learner,” notes Vicki Salemi, career expert for  Monster.

2. Update your résumé

Polish your résumé with help from AARP Resume Advisor which offers a free résumé review with personalized feedback. Additional résumé editing options include ResumeCompanion, which helps individuals build a résumé in minutes with templates and a step-by-step, easy-to-use interface. LinkedIn also has a résumé builder that helps create one using existing data on your profile.

3. Identify the skills you’d like to improve

“Maybe there’s a new program in your current field or a new career path you’re pursuing. Identify the key skills necessary to succeed and pursue it,” Salemi says. Not sure what your career skills are? Use the Department of Labor’s free skills matcher on CareerOneStop to get a quick assessment. And CareerBuilder can help you improve useful skill sets like negotiation, customer service and problem-solving.

4. Enroll in an online class or tutorial

Many employers provide webinars, tutorials or even tuition reimbursement for continuing education. “See if your company will pay for it,” Salemi adds. “Even if they won’t, or if you’re unemployed, it’s really important to keep on top of sharpening your tech skills.” Externally, use a search engine to find online platforms that provide paid and free online learning classes. LinkedIn offers a free trial month of their LinkedIn Learning courses to help you brush up on your work skills. and are also popular online learning platforms that offer either free or low-cost online classes. Additionally, contact the industry or trade associations in your field for more information about certification and training programs that can improve your job prospects. Many colleges, such as Cornell, Drexel and Notre Dame, offer online certificate programs. Community colleges, some of which offer programs geared to 50-plus learners, are also a terrific and relatively affordable option, says Nancy Collamer, a career and retirement coach who runs Google also has free course listings in digital marketing, career development, and data and tech. Remember though, to be patient with yourself — learning takes time and patience, and it can be challenging to learn from a video versus being in a class setting.

5. Take advantage of free training

The AARP Foundation’s Back to Work 50+ program provides short-term training and work-based learning in both in-person and virtual capacities, depending on location. There are currently a dozen community partner sites around the U.S. that participate in the program. Those who are interested can call 855-850-2525 or visit this link to register for a Smart Strategies Workshop near you. You can also request a copy of the AARP Foundation’s Back to Work 50+ Jobseeker Guide.

6. Turn to YouTube for extra help

If you’re stuck on a new software program or just want to go over some basics, check out YouTube, which is a terrific resource for webinars, how-to videos and conversations, says Dorie Clark, adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Entrepreneurial You. Seek out videos produced by reputable sources you already trust and videos with a high number of views. “Lots of views doesn’t mean it’s accurate,” she says, but if you’re looking up videos on, say, learning a computer programming language or how to become a more effective manager, “material that’s irrelevant or inaccurate usually doesn’t travel very far and will typically have fewer views than ones that are effective.”

7. Command a strong video presence

It’s not just focusing on the screen in front of you, but it’s also making sure you understand how to maneuver adeptly at using videoconferencing. If you need to do a virtual meeting and don’t have a dedicated spot already for working remotely, find a quiet part of your home with a tidy background, with any windows in the room in front of you or to the side. Use a laptop stand or a stack of thick, large books to rest your laptop on so that when you turn on the video, half of your body is shown, or at least your head and shoulders. Use a ring light or other lighting to illuminate your face from the front. And dress as though you would for an in-person meeting. Use proper etiquette, such as arriving on time, muting yourself when you’re not speaking, not eating and preparing materials on time. Do online practice interviews with a family member or a friend and ask for feedback.

8. Write more effective emails

Communicating well over email has always been an important skill, but the need has only grown since it has replaced many in-person discussions. Brush up on the basics: Write eye-catching subject lines, include a greeting and keep the body of the message concise. Include action steps — details on what you need and when you need it. Lastly, be sure to proofread for grammar and spelling mistakes. And help to make sure your tone is on point: Don’t capitalize all the words in a sentence, use boldface type or make text red — this can come across as angry over email.

9. Be a connector

Think of introductions as a way to show your networking prowess. “Think about two colleagues who would benefit from knowing each other, and be specific about why,” says Clark. Get both of their permissions for a so-called double opt-in, and then send an e-introduction, she says.

10. Be a better listener

“Overall, being a better listener helps you become a more engaged worker, more productive, and in the long run can help you develop stronger leadership skills,” notes Salemi. If you’re not listening, she warns, you may miss clear instructions for a project. Or “maybe a deadline was too extreme, and the deadline was extended by a week or two. But you weren’t paying attention and missed that key piece of information,” she says. To show you’re all ears, when you’re speaking with anyone at work, stash your phone out of sight and minimize distractions.

11. Write thoughtful LinkedIn recommendations

Adding a recommendation on LinkedIn for colleagues is a wonderful way to share endorsements, and they might return the favor. Describe how you know each other and how long you’ve worked together. And focus on one or two ways this person went above and beyond in your time working together. Include a line about why you think others should work with him or her.

12. Find ways to connect virtually

If you’re working remotely, it can sometimes feel as though you’re working alone on an island. Without the spontaneous conversations that happen organically at work, interacting with colleagues can fall to a minimum. So check in with colleagues you haven’t heard from in a while, host a virtual happy hour and ask about accomplishments outside of the workplace. You might not realize who could really use a “visit” from you.   

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Illustration: Lan Truong

13. Give your time

Volunteering with an organization has three career-related benefits, according to Dee C. Marshall, certified life coach and leadership trainer. First, it’s a fantastic way to sharpen the skills you already have. Secondly, it gives you an opportunity to work on new skills you want more experience with. And thirdly, you can highlight these newly polished skills on your résumé. She encourages people to speak with the organization’s leadership and work out which volunteer roles would be a good fit for your expertise. Perhaps you can even offer your support in an advisory capacity. “It may not be advertised,” she says, “but you should ask.” There are multiple sites that list volunteer opportunities, including AARP’s volunteering page, VolunteerMatch and

14. Attend corporate events

Elaine Lou Cartas, M.S., a business and career coach, recommends going to conferences and industry events. “The best way to get to know the newest trends and get updated on skills is to attend in-person conferences and industry events,” Cartas says. “You’ll also be in a room where you can get face time with industry experts, which may lead to possible job opportunities.” Additionally, some events offer virtual options, with the ability to network and speak remotely.

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Illustration: Lan Truong

15. Boost your online presence

Having a professional presence on social media can lead you to employment openings and connect you with recruiters, says jobs expert Kerry Hannon. X (formerly Twitter), for instance, has job feeds for specific companies, industries and locations. Type “#jobsearch” in the search field on the top right and then add applicable keywords, such as the industry you’re in or one you’re interested in learning more about.

16. Audit your social accounts

Many companies will check your social media posts, so put your best self forward. Remove comments or posts that may seem insulting to others, delete inappropriate photos and take down posts in which you complain about your job. You don’t need to scrub your personality from your posts, but look at them through the lens of a hiring manager.

17. Leverage LinkedIn

Dr. Kym A. Harris-Lee, founder and CEO of Dr. Kym Harris-Lee Executive Coaching, recommends leveraging LinkedIn. “Sort through your contacts, review their profiles for recent promotions, or board appointments, and send notes of congratulations or simply reach out to say hello,” Harris-Lee says. “It may feel awkward, but people will welcome the connection as well.” Position yourself as a subject matter expert, says Harris-Lee. “If you are interested in becoming known for your expertise, try publishing short articles on LinkedIn, sharing your point of view and providing tips on your subject of expertise.” Clark suggests posting at least once a week on LinkedIn. Not sure how to start? Visit LinkedIn’s Help page.

18. Use your network to research

From your profile on LinkedIn, for example, you can do a search to see who among your connections is working at a particular company. When you’re ready to apply for an opening, you can ask a contact for advice or an introduction to a hiring manager. Your contact may be able to deliver your résumé directly to that person via an employee referral program. Rachel Garrett, a career and leadership coach, adds that your contact may be able to submit your application as an internal referral, which could mean a referral bonus for them (a win-win!). If that’s not a possibility, being referred by even a loose contact can boost visibility for your application, so it’s worth doing the research.

19. Look at job descriptions

One way recruiters find potential candidates is by searching for keywords on LinkedIn. To find the keywords for a specific job or industry you are interested in, Cartas recommends you print out and highlight common words you see in job descriptions. Then make sure to use those specific keywords in your résumé.

20. Speak at industry gatherings

Whether it be in-person or virtual, you can boost your visibility and marketability by offering to speak at a conference or on a panel discussion, Salemi says. It also shows that your speaking skills and industry knowledge are in demand. “Internally, it positions you as a subject matter expert and representative of the company,” she adds. “Externally, it helps you, too, as you become more visible to professionals in other organizations who can potentially hire you.” You can network among the other panelists and add your appearance as a speaker to your talking points in job interviews, which will help you stand out from other job seekers.

21. Use part-time to pivot to full-time

Through the AARP Foundation Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), unemployed workers 55 and older can learn how to fill part-time community service jobs, which often lead to permanent employment. For more information, visit

22. Create a mastermind group

Select a small group of peers you admire to regularly get together and share frustrations and successes. Become resources for each other. Use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts to arrange regular meetups. “Not only will you be able to put your best foot forward in terms of working with colleagues in this manner, you may get insight into their company culture from various conversations,” Salemi says. “In turn, you may find out about openings in their department.”

23. Document your career triumphs

Write your professional wins down. It can be a challenge to recall how you’ve overcome obstacles in your past. If you find your confidence shaky at any point, look over your victories. Even better — include these specific wins in future job applications.

24. Include both mainstream and niche job boards in your search

Mainstream job boards such as, and are a great place to start, but Hannon recommends casting a wider net by including local job boards and industry niche boards in your job search too. There’s FlexJobs, which specializes in remote, hybrid and flexible jobs. And AARP also features a work-from-home job board. It’s also worth considering smaller, more targeted websites like Idealist.orgWorkforce50.comWork At Home Vintage Experts, and, to name a few. Set up daily or weekly email alerts, but don’t leave all the searching to an algorithm. Periodically return directly to the sites to make sure you haven’t missed a great opportunity.

25. Identify potential connections and initiate contact

Marshall will often coach her clients to create a list of the top 10 people both within their industry and possibly outside their industry that they want to or need to build a relationship with. Then, she instructs them to craft a plan detailing the value of the relationship, any expected outcomes, dates to check in during the calendar year and the type of contact they plan to make (for example, via card, email, gift, invitation to talk). When approaching one of your contacts, ask for specific advice you’d like help with, such as “How do you retain customers?” or “How do you manage a remote team of workers?” The more specific your question is, the more useful (and memorable) the conversation will be, and the more helpful this person can be to your career development. Always follow up with any contacts you’ve made professionally, Salemi says. “There’s no point in a pile of business cards or contact information if nothing comes of it. Reach out. Refer to something you discussed and make plans.” Schedule reminders roughly three, four or six months in advance in your calendar to get back in touch. “There’s a sweet spot, and there’s no science to it, but you just don’t want two years to go by and you realized you haven’t spoken to that person in that amount of time,” she says. What matters is that you put in effort to nurture those relationships.

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Illustration: Lan Truong

26. Advertise yourself

Consider having professional business cards printed outside of your employer, Salemi says. They should include your name, personal email address, phone number and job title or industry. This is important, she says, because if you hand someone your current business card and switch jobs in six months, your outdated contact information may bounce, leaving them unable to get in touch with you. Sharing a card with your personal email address will hopefully reduce that risk. It also helps market yourself as separate from your employer. “Your current job title may officially be human capital manager. But, on your business card, that doesn’t need approval from your employer. You may want to market yourself as a human capital management thought leader, which can help boost your profile if you want to speak at conferences and panels,” she says.

27. Polish your pitch

“Many of us have a hard time talking about ourselves, our gifts and the kind of work we want to do in the world,” Garrett says. “We’ve been taught to tamp down any bragging or boasting since childhood.” One of Garrett’s favorite career growth tools is an elevator pitch. Garrett describes elevator pitches as “a 60-second highlight reel where you can share your superpowers, the work that brings you pride and includes a clear ask of the other person so they know how to help you.” According to Garrett, the best pitches use simple languages, avoid jargon and sound authentically like you. “Once you have your pitch, you will never again be a deer in headlights when somebody says, ‘tell me about yourself,’” Garrett adds.

28. Research industry salaries

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a helpful resource for identifying which fields have opportunities for growth. “For instance, technology and health care are very much in demand and not going away any time soon,” Salemi says. Also check, or, as well as the Economic Research Institute, to find out if you’re getting paid fairly compared to those in similar jobs.

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Illustration: Lan Truong

29. Consider alternative careers

If your industry doesn’t offer the growth you’re looking for, look at whether your skills could transfer to a different field. For instance, if you have substantial retail experience, emphasize your communication skills and customer service background. If you’ve previously worked in real estate, promote your experience with client relations and marketing. Or, if you’re from the nonprofit sector, play up your familiarity with budgeting and project management. “Reach out to several close friends,” Clark says. “Ask if they can introduce you to any of their friends who work in that field so you can learn more.” Identify corporations where you might want to work and follow the company on social media accounts such as Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and X, formerly known as Twitter.

30. Schedule informational interviews

These brief meetings are an opportunity to gather information from a person currently working in that career. Get familiar with Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and other video conferencing programs and reach out to a few contacts you would like to learn from. Salemi recommends asking specific questions during the interview such as: If you could change one thing about your field for the better, what would it be? What does it take to succeed? If you knew now what you knew back then when you started working for this company or industry, would you still pursue it? Why or why not?

31. Improve soft skills

Consider embracing soft skills that influence the way you show up and lead effectively. “In other words, invest the time to get more educated on cultures, as organizations are making room for more diverse employees,” says career coach Simone Morris, who is also the author of 52 Tips for Owning Your Career. “Consider taking a course on inclusive leadership to help you stand out in your career.”


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