First the bad news. More than half of all workers 50 and older lost their long-term jobs between 1992 and 2016 because they were laid off or forced to leave involuntarily, according to a 2018 analysis of Health and Retirement Study data.
Now the good news. The unemployment rate for people 55-plus is only 3 percent.
The same-old news? We live in a fluctuating economy and hiring trends don't always last.
The best thing you can do is keep yourself as qualified as anybody else so you're too valuable to let go — anyone can learn to use Slack, but there's no substitute for experience.
"We encourage our children to enhance their skill set in preparation for college and the workforce. This is no different,” says Elena Cates who, as an executive search consultant for nearly 30 years, knows what today's employers value. “You must continually add more than years to your résumé; you need new professional experiences that allow you to remain competitive regardless of your age."
1. Be an old dog with new tricks
Monitor and master the trends affecting your industry — even if they're not immediately impacting your job. If there's a new software program or you need a crash course in something, try Coursera and Udemy, two of the many websites that offer at-home professional development. As your department and responsibilities evolve, you should, too.
"You need to continually enhance your professional status,” Cates says. “Become fluent in a computer program or language that is critical in your field. Bring something extra to the table — legal, compliance or regulatory knowledge that is forward-thinking in your industry sets you apart.”
If you're not sure what know-how you're missing or what could up your value, look for your position on job boards like Glassdoor or Indeed.com. Are you lacking by comparison? Visit career-specific sites. Are you in finance? Check out OneWire.com. Are you in marketing, journalism or PR? Try MediaBistro.com. Engineers and techies can visit Dice.com. This is what employers are looking for in ideal candidates who do your job.
2. Stay Current
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller's famous line could apply to our digital landscape. It's easy to fall behind then — BLAMMO! — you're the office fuddy-duddy. If coworkers are doing or talking about something, you'll find it on StayHipp.com, a cheat sheet that “digs into today's trends so you don't have to.” Think CliffsNotes for everything from memes making the rounds to the latest jargon and tech news.
If you're not already, become social-media savvy and make sure you have an online presence. At least understand how Facebook, Instagram and Twitter work — it's not just how we update friends and family anymore. It's becoming an integral part of how companies do business. Create a LinkedIn profile and keep your accomplishments up to date. Not sure how? YouTube is home to so much more than teens eating Tide Pods. Enter “how to create a ____ page” to find helpful tutorials.
And read blogs, newspapers and magazines that are trade specific. This will help you contribute meaningful insight at meetings and with the higher-ups.
3. Stay Connected
"It's extremely important to remain active and connected to your peers in the marketplace,” says Cates. “That means attending conferences and meetings relevant to your job or even helping organize them. Write for publications your peers read or just join LinkedIn groups in your industry. Get involved in local small businesses or associations in your field and region. You want to have a professional presence so people are aware of you.”
Sometimes it's just a matter of having lunch with coworkers so you know what's going on right around you. Networking isn't only for job searches. Making and maintaining professional relationships adds to your resource database.