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10 Essential Tech-Savvy Skills and Tools You Need to Get a Job After 50

Some steps you can take to replace fear with familiarity

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While technology can be overwhelming — or frustrating — at times, embracing it has advantages.

This is especially true if you’re on the hunt for a new job, perhaps a little later in life. Tech also can help you once you secure new part- or full-time employment or contract and freelance work.

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“I’m coaching people who are immediately intimidated because the people interviewing them are younger than their kids,” says Loretta Barr, executive coach and career coach at Korn Ferry. The Los Angeles-based consulting firm has offices worldwide and also does recruitment work.

“Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do,” she says. “But yes, tech can in fact help better your chances of landing a job.”

Follow these steps to let technology help you find a new job and get hired.

1. Clean up your social media

A potential recruiter won’t hire you solely on the strength of your résumé and an interview. Around two-thirds of companies today will check your social media posts, too, to seek a sense of the kind of person you are. If they employ firms to do background checks, your online life is guaranteed to be perused. 

“Social media never dies,” Barr says. “Potential employers will most certainly search you up as part of a basic background check. … Don’t give them anything that causes them to pause.”

Even if your posts are old, go through all the platforms you’re on to remove inappropriate comments that might be conceived as harassing or insulting, photos that include parties with a lot of drinking and smoking, and images that might be too sexual. Take down posts that complain about your job or boss.

You can remove posts or photos one by one or delete them in bulk. And don’t forget to update your online biographies if you haven’t looked at them for years.

2. Get a professional email address

Email will likely be the primary means of communication with a potential employer.

While your internet service provider will give you an email address, a free account on the web allows you to log in from virtually any device anywhere in the world and access all your messages. You can keep the same address if you move or decide to switch carriers.

Popular email services include Gmail, iCloud, Outlook, Proton Mail and Yahoo! Mail. With so many options available, knowing which one to use can be confusing. You may want one specifically for your job search that is a version of your name without additional numbers, nicknames or slang.

Once you have an account, you can create an email signature with your contact information that will automatically append to the end of your message. If you’re communicating with someone at a company, you can send your email during the workday even if you’ve completed an application late at night.

3. Master word processors, spreadsheets, other office software

The minimum skill for any white-collar job and almost every other job is a basic knowledge of office productivity programs, such as a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation software.

These days, typing in a word processing program is probably easier than grabbing your vintage Royal typewriter, a fresh ribbon, a ream of paper and a bottle of Liquid Paper. Formatting takes more skill, but icons atop your open window display bold, italic and underline. And if you don’t like what you’ve done, most programs let you restore your previous work with an Edit | Undo or by pressing the Cmd and Z keys simultaneously.

Want to learn more?

AARP has several programs that offer on-demand or live classes, many for free.

AARP Local. Find live events on many topics in your area, including some that might help with job skills.

AARP Programs’ online webinars. Live or on-demand on a variety of topics.

AARP Skills Builder for Work. Gain new expertise to give you an edge in today’s job market.

AARP Virtual Community Center. Free interactive events and classes for fun, learning and self-improvement. ​

Senior Planet From AARP. Live online classes on finance, technology, wellness and other topics. 

Free or inexpensive courses, either in person or online, can help if you’re uncomfortable.

“There are so many ‘upskilling’ sources out there, either in person or online, including basic tech lessons from local community colleges, churches, AARP, LinkedIn and even public libraries,” Barr says.

Spreadsheets and word processors mimic their paper predecessors. But you should also learn about sharing your screen during a videoconference and creating a short slideshow using presentation software.

Video: 5 Tips to Age-Proof Your Resume

4. Build a modern, age-proof résumé

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And for a potential employer or recruiter, this can start with your résumé, which lists your qualifications and previous work, often accompanying a customized cover letter.

If you haven’t applied for a job in a few years, don’t be afraid to update your old résumé or curriculum vitae, a version of a résumé for academics and scientists. Showcase the skills you’ve learned during your career but highlight your recent experience.

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Do the same with your LinkedIn profile, focusing on what you’ve done in the past 15 years, including volunteer work, and eliminating older dates. Scrub the dates on your education without removing the degrees if they fall outside the 15-year window.

“Do not be concerned about your age,” says Barr, who says she’s a baby boomer. “Most companies are looking for experience and passion and someone their employees can learn from.”

5. Use search engines, websites for networking, job hunting

The internet can be a job seeker’s best friend.

Between smart search engines — now bolstered with artificial intelligence like the ChatGPT-infused Bing from Microsoft — and work-centric social media platforms such as LinkedIn, finding open positions has never been easier. Plus, these sites and social networks are free to use, with no need to upgrade to a paid plan to get you in front of the right people.

Don’t forget in-person and online networking events, because recruiters will often show up, Barr says. Find out about them through professional organizations you may already belong to or look on platforms such as Meetup, built to promote events in your area for people with similar interests; Facebook; and LinkedIn.

Several websites, including the AARP Job Board, are targeted to helping older workers find jobs.

6. See a job you like? Scan for details

QR codes, those black-and-white squares you see everywhere these days, aren’t just for reading a restaurant menu on your phone. Many businesses find that their customers become their best employees, so you’ll see more QR codes on leaflets or community boards at many retailers.

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Smartphones now allow you to use your camera to read a QR code. Touching your phone’s screen will take you to a specific webpage with more information.

7. Apply for your job online

After you’ve created your résumé and found a job you’re interested in, you can fill out your application online with many employers. As part of the process, you’ll often be asked to upload your résumé or other documents as a secure PDF.

If your material is in a word processing program, you’re often offered the option of saving it as a PDF when you try to print, a change from years ago when you had to have separate software. A PDF can be opened and read on various devices and operating systems, and your document can’t be easily altered.

8. Prep for your video interview or online meeting

If you’re applying for remote work and sometimes other positions, you may discover that a video interview is an early step in the process or the key to a hiring decision.

Practice, both with the designated technology and your interview, before the big day. Stage yourself and your background so everything is brightly lit and neat, and make sure to remove potential distractions. And don’t be shy; keep eye contact with the camera.

9. Got an offer? E-sign your job contract

If you’ve secured an offer that looks good, you may be asked to electronically sign a contract.

This is much easier than the four-step shuffle of just a few years ago — having to print, sign, scan and email the documents. The bonus: You get a copy emailed to your inbox for your records, so you don’t have to find a photocopier or a stamp.

10. Use digital calendars, reminders to stay organized

Whether you’re looking for work and need to stay on top of inquiries, or you’ve secured employment and want to manage your time better, take advantage of digital calendars and reminders.

Many today are free to use, and they’re synchronized across all your devices, so if you add to your calendar while out for a walk, the item will also appear on your laptop’s calendar. Electronic to-do lists, rather than a paper Post-It Note, can keep you from misplacing important information and allow you to manage home and work simultaneously.

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