Job Search Strategies for Workers Over 40

Age discrimination is illegal, but that doesn't mean it can't happen

Older woman interviewing for a job
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An aging global workforce, changes in the economy, and widespread downsizing can all force workers over 40 back into the job hunt. Don’t let your age pose an obstacle to your search. Some simple strategies can help you land that job.

Don't Let Your Resume Date You

Resume best practices have changed over the years. Ditch the references, a one-size-fits-all resume, and snail-mail submissions. Don’t simply list your skills and experience. Explain how you contributed to your organization’s success. Create a targeted resume that's tailored to the particular job you seek, then submit your resume electronically.

The norm for resumes as of 2018 is that they should be no more than two pages. Sort through everything included in your old, multi-multi-page resume and pluck out the jobs you've held and skills you've acquired that best suit the position you're hoping to fill.

Become Web Savvy

Technological know-how is crucial to your job search. Learn how to SEO your resume, use online application techniques, post online resumes, and master online submissions. Check out online job search sites, post a virtual resume, and tap into online social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to network and look for jobs.

Create an online brand for yourself and market your brand through social media. Join listservs and forums relating to your field so you can expand your network and gain up-to-date knowledge.

Battle Age Discrimination

It's illegal, but age discrimination does exist in most industries, including the legal field. Remove all references to your age from your resume, including the dates you graduated from college, graduate school, or law school. You can also remove your early employment history if you've been in the job force for over 15 years.

Mentioning excessive years of experience in your resume or cover letter will target you as an older employee. Focus on your skills and tangible contributions during interviews rather than your age.

Update Your Skills

It's important to keep your skills current if you're changing careers or returning to the workforce after some time away. Return to school to complete a degree if necessary, or take classes to brush up on certain skills. Technology skills are essential to most positions today, and a basic understanding of word-processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and calendaring applications are required for many jobs.

Network!

Get involved in professional associations, volunteer programs, and networking groups to expand your networking contacts and learn about new opportunities. Focus on building relationships and helping others rather than on your own personal job search.

Update Your Appearance

You don’t want your appearance to scream, “Over 40!” Interviewers are influenced by your appearance, so update your look to gain a competitive edge. Color that gray hair, update your wardrobe, and purchase a trendy handbag or shoes.

Present an image that's polished and professional, not worn and dated. It will help avoid the perception that your skills aren't up to date, or that you're too old-fashioned to fit in with the company.

Don't Act Your Age

Yes, it's something to be proud of, and maybe you won't mind coworkers calling you Mom or Dad, but save all that for a later time. Drop dated colloquialisms from your speech. Tag your real-life son, daughter, or younger friend for a coaching session or two or four.

Have them bring you up to speed on issues that are a concern these days for twenty- and thirty-somethings if you're not already well-versed in such things. Ask them what it is about you that's usually a trait or quality associated with a younger person...then play up those qualities at interview time.

Just don't go overboard. An older person trying desperately to seem like a millennial can be a turnoff, particularly for a millennial. Subtlety is key here.

Adapt to Today's Work Culture

Yesterday’s workforce was ruled by baby boomers who thrived in a hierarchal autocracy where top-down communication and regimented work culture were the norms. Today’s work environment is global, flexible, interconnected, and often round-the-clock. Telecommuting, flexible schedules, and 24/7 availability are becoming the norm.

Understand how your role fits into the bigger picture and remain flexible. Learn to adapt if it's not what you're used to.

Target the Right Employers

Older professionals might do well to focus on small- to medium-sized organizations that are more likely to value a boomer’s perspective, experience, and expertise. Research conducted by the National Association of Law Professionals (NALP) found that ​small law firms embrace older lawyers more readily than large firms do.