If you’re 50 or older and haven’t had the experience of searching for a job in recent years, you’re in for a real surprise—and it may not be all that pleasant.
You probably won’t need a pencil, pen, typewriter, fax machine, envelopes, or stamps. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you will need to know how to use a computer to prepare a résumé, search for job openings, research possible employers, submit applications, and keep track of your application.
You’ll also need your own e-mail address and cell phone if you want to appear tech savvy—and you do want to look tech savvy.
The new world of job searching can be impersonal, frustrating, even infuriating. Unless you find a plant, store, or office where you can walk in and fill out an application (and there are a few great companies where you still can), you’ll probably have to submit your application over the Internet or from a computer kiosk in the potential employer’s facility.
If you are searching for a job, you need to understand how job searching is done today. Over the next few months, I’m going to break down the process for you.
Do You Really Want Paid Work?
First, you have to decide if and why you need or want to work. You may be age 50 to 60+, recently laid off, and eager to resume your primary occupation. We refer to your situation as “involuntarily retired.” Or you may be 50 or older and seeking to try a new or encore career because you’ve been laid off, retired, or just decided you needed a change. We call this situation being “rewired,” or call you a “career-changer.” You also may have been out of the workforce for some time because of caregiving duties, illness, or you actually thought you should or could retire! Well, welcome back!
Many older workers who don’t need to continue working, choose to continue, and it seems like a smart decision. Maybe not 50 to 60 hours per week, but keep working. Working is (generally) good for your health. It keeps you socially active. Your savings continue to grow a little longer. Social Security retirement payments will increase if you delay the onset of payments beyond age 62. Many believe it’s a chance to give back by transferring their knowledge and life’s lessons. It may be volunteer work for the sheer joy of contributing. Many older workers just don’t want to stop working!
More and more people who are contemplating retirement are questioning if they can afford to stop working. They worry that they will run out of money. They worry about health care costs until Medicare kicks in at age 65.
We are living longer, are generally in better health, and many people still have major debts and mortgages as they approach ages 60 to 63, the traditional retirement age. If you’re not sure whether you can afford to retire, talk to a financial advisor and check out the retirement calculators available on the Internet.
If you need to work, there’s no sense in analyzing things any further. Prepare to continue your current occupation or start thinking about what kind of other work you would prefer and are qualified for.
So, What Do I Need to Know?
Between now and the end of the year, AARP.org will feature six additional articles loaded with what you need to know in order to perform a successful job search. Each article will give you an assignment to prepare for the next step.
Since we are talking about assignments, yes, there will be homework. Anyone performing a job search will be doing a lot of homework both researching companies and asking him or herself a lot of tough questions. It’s also important to be organized, to have a plan, and to get your plan on paper.
I suggest keeping a three-ring binder with these job-search articles and your worksheets to refer to throughout your search.
Here’s what’s on deck:
1. Your Job Search: What Do You Want to Do? We’ll look at how to decide what you want to do and what you’re qualified to do. It’s surprising how many people say, “I don’t know what I want to do or even how to start thinking about it.” Well, here’s your first homework assignment. Between now and the next two weeks, start making a list of the different jobs that interest you.
2. Your Job Search: Preparing Your Résumé and Cover Letter. We’ll look at different examples of résumés and letters suited for older workers.
3. Your Job Search: Doing Your Research. How do you know if you want to work for a company? We’ll identify employers that are eager to hire, train, and retain older workers and what you should look for in a company in general.
4. Your Job Search: Finding and Applying for Jobs. We’ll discuss how to apply for the job you want and how to find out where the jobs are. Having access to a computer and a high-speed Internet connection makes this a lot easier. If you’re not ready to make that purchase, you can use computers at your public library.
5. Your Job Search: The Interview Process. It’s all about the interview. We’ll look at what you should say, what you shouldn’t say, and how to leave a lasting (and good) impression.
6. Your Job Search: Negotiating a Job Offer. With good fortune and hard work, you’re likely to receive a job offer or two. Learning how to confidently negotiate salary and benefits is a big part of accepting an offer.
If you have pressing questions, please submit them to me. I’ll try to answer as many as possible in upcoming columns and journals.