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Job Search Advantage of Being Over 50

By Susan P. Joyce

Job Search Advantage of Being Over 50Because of your age and experience, you have many more options and a much better network of colleagues than younger workers.

Many jobs are never posted publicly.  So, your large network is a very big advantage! 

The network of people who know and respect you, a network built up over the years, will help you succeed in your job search.

Chances are people in your network are either also looking for work, or they are -- or know -- someone who is looking for good help.

So, you can help, not "use," each other to move ahead with your careers and renew old friendships, too.

That network is gold, right now, and it's something that younger workers usually don't have!

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Major Benefit of Being Over 50: You Have a GREAT Network!

Your excellent network is your not-so-secret weapon in getting your next job.

Yes, employer bias against "older" job candidates definitely exists, and networking is the best way to beat that bias!

Yes, you DO have a network. If you think you don't read this article -- What Network? Finding Your Network!

Now, put that invaluable network to work for your job search! And, do NOT forget to return the favor to members of your network when you have a great new job.

  Employee Referral Programs  

The members of your network know what a good worker you are, how smart you are, and what an asset to the organization you can/will be -- if an employer is smart enough to give you a chance.

Employee referrals are most employers' NUMBER ONE FAVORITE source of hires.

Employers love to hire people who are referred by current employees because they know that those new employees are usually more successful and stay longer than someone hired from another source.

Since your network is larger than the network the kids have, reach out to your network to get a referral leveraging a site like LinkedIn (more below) to find members of your network who work for a target employer.

Members of your network can open doors for you to land jobs with their employer via their employer's employee referral program. And you can open doors for them when you have a job with a good employer!

  "Boomerang" Employment  

Many people don't consider this option, but employers are increasingly interested in re-hiring former employees, who are often called "boomerang" employees.

Are you sorry you quit a job with a specific employer a few years ago? Would you like to go back? Returning to that previous employer may well be possible by leveraging your network.

A “boomerang employee” is one who has left an organization (usually quit rather than fired) to work somewhere else or to drop out of the workforce for a while and is then rehired by that organization.

In the distant past, some employers refused to rehire people who left voluntarily. The tighter labor market has taught many employers that re-hiring former employers is often a very smart move.

Those former employees know how the organization works and know how to work in the organization. They may also know many of the current employees, making them more effective in their jobs from day one.

So, if you really liked that former employer and would like to go back, give it a try. Reach out to members of your network who still work there (or who know people who still work there) to see if opportunities exist.

For more information, read How to Become a Boomerang Employee.

  Informational Interviews  

Leverage your great network to learn more about the job market. When you are exploring your options (choosing jobs, employers, industries, locations, etc.), informational interviews can be extremely useful.

Start with people you know, asking for a few minutes of their time in person or over the phone. Be focused and prepared, and ask for additional people to talk with.

Informational interviews, done well, provide very valuable "insider information" about something you are considering and a chance to catch up on what's happening with a member of your network They also help you to continue to grow your network as you ask for referrals to others who can help you learn more.

For more information, read Top 10 Tips for Successful Informational Interviews from Job-Hunt's Guide to Informational Interviews for more ideas and details.

Get Visible in Social Networks

Employers search for qualified job candidates online, particularly in LinkedIn. When they find a good job candidate, they also search to verify the "facts" on the resume, and check out the candidates' communications skills and attitude in their social media visibility.

If you aren't visible in social media today, especially in LinkedIn, you have "OUT-OF-DATE" stamped on your forehead!

So, catch up! It is not hard to do.

Done carefully and correctly, social media is a powerful way to do the personal marketing required for a successful job search today.

  1. Start with LinkedIn  

  • Complete LinkedIn Profile

    Professional networking site LinkedIn (free!) has become very useful in finding former colleagues and helping you reconnect. Build out your LinkedIn Profile as a resume,

    The more people you are connected with, the more visibility you have in LinkedIn. So, carefully expand your network.
  • Headshot photo

    Be sure to have a good headshot photo in your LinkedIn Profile. People who know you will recognize you, hopefully, and people who don't know you will feel a bit more positive towards you when they can "put a face with the name." Read Why You Need a LinkedIn Profile Photo (written by a recruiter) and LinkedIn Profile Photos for Job Seekers Over 50 for helpful information.

    Not having a photo in your LinkedIn Profile labels you as "hiding something" or just being out of date. Employers are MUCH less likely to consider you for a job if they don't see a face associated with your LinkedIn Profile!
  • LinkedIn Connections

    Connections make you more visible inside of LinkedIn. Connect with your friends and colleagues who are also using LinkedIn (over 600,000,000 people are!), exchange recommendations and endorsements, and join LinkedIn Groups to demonstrate your knowledge and connect with more people.

    If you've helped anyone get started in your industry or profession, helped them with their job search, or done them a favor, that's another group of contacts to explore. Again, LinkedIn may help you find those people.

    Do a search in LinkedIn on the names of former and target employer, and see who turns up in results. If you have a specific person you want to reach, do a search on that person's name. LinkedIn will help you find and stay in touch with these people. Job-Hunt Social Media and Job Search and LinkedIn for Job Search experts have written some great articles about leveraging the social networks which are very helpful.
  • LinkedIn Activity

    Check into your LinkedIn presence at least two or three times a week (daily is better). See what is happening in your notifications. Like and add positive comments on posts you do like (ignore the ones you don't). Demonstrate to recruiters that you are "present" on LinkedIn so they can expect you to reply if they send you an "InMail" inside of LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn Contact Information

    Be sure to complete the contact information section of your Profile so that recruiters can quickly contact you if they have an opportunity (they are always in a hurry and move on to the next candidate if you are not reachable). You can provide contact information without compromising your privacy.

    Read To Be Hired, Be Reachable - How to Safely Publish Your Contact Information on LinkedIn for more details.

  2. VERY Carefully Use Facebook  

Because so many people use Facebook as though no one was watching or reading their comments, be careful. Potential employers will judge you based on what you post on Facebook.

Read Optimize Your Personal Facebook Profile: Your NEW Resume, How to Use Facebook to Prepare for an Interview, and Find and Contact Insiders Using Facebook for more information.

Participating in Facebook is NOT required. If you have time for only one social network, LinkedIn is the one you want to invest your time and energy in.

Other Networking Options

Take advantage of that large network you have to track down that next job. Contact the people that you know and/or have worked with in your career.

When you meet someone, don't even bring a copy of your resume (you can offer to send it to them after the meeting -- if they have indicated that they are interested in seeing your resume).

You are not begging for a job! You really are just looking for advice on what companies are good places to work, what companies are growing (and hiring), and where there might be opportunities for you. 

You are simply asking colleagues and friends for advice and leads. Ask them where they would look for a job if they were in your shoes right now. Which employers offer a great next place to work? Which employers would be best avoided?

  • By age 50, you know many people in your industry, profession, and/or community. If you haven't already contacted some of these people, do it now!
  • Guide to Job Search Networking offers many articles about networking, including how to find your network, how to help others in your network, and how to be a good networker yourself.
  • Did/do you belong to any former school "alumni" groups? Colleges and universities have had them for years, particularly the schools supported by donations, and now groups are developing based on common background working for a specific employer. Contact your schools (high school through graduate schools) to see what alumni services they offer.

    To find employer alumni groups, Google "former employees" (with the quotes) and add the company name or check the company Website for "alumni" or "retiree" information. Read Secret Networking Weapon: Corporate Alumni Networking Groups.
  • LinkedIn also has over 2 million Groups, including all kinds of "alumni" (both college and corporate) as well as special interest groups for industries, professions, technologies, locations, and more.

    You can start or comment on "discussions" within those LinkedIn Groups, if you are a member, and they can be an excellent way to make yourself visible to recruiters and potential employers. They're also a great way to get back in touch with people you may have forgotten you knew.

    You can also start a group if one of your former employer or special interest doesn't exist.
  • Did/do you belong to any clubs, professional or industry organizations, Chambers of Commerce, or other collection of people who meet with each other on a regular basis? Keep going to those meetings; visit the web sites. Some organizations have jobs posted for their members (or by members for the public). Check out the listings on MeetUp.com to see if anything local to you might be a good networking opportunity.
  • Job search support groups have popped up everywhere, often associated with a church or Jewish Community Center (which usually provide non-denominational support). It's another way to extend your network as well as to get help staying "up" and learning new things about your local job market. 

These are NOT "informational interviews," and you don't need to feel humble. You are just staying in touch colleagues and members of your business network. You may have helped them in the past, and you may help them again in the future.

These are just colleague-to-colleague discussions. Business as usual!

Check Out Job Sites

If your network doesn't have any good leads at the moment, you can always check out sites on the Web for opportunities. In addition to the usual job boards (Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder), check these other options:

  • Job sites specifically for people over 50, like Workforce50 and SeniorJobBank, have employers who are actually seeking reliable people with experience and a good work ethic.
  • Someone with several years of management experience can look for a job at the executive level, if that's interesting to you. Sites like ExecuNet (fee) which provides face-to-face groups as well as online resources.
  • Every state in the U.S. has a state employment office that offers help for people out of work, including training and job counseling.  If you are a Vet, you may be entitled to additional support, too.
  • Check out Encore.org for advice and opportunities.
  • WATCH OUT FOR SCAMS! Read Avoid Job Scams: 9 Characteristics of Scam Jobs.

The Bottom Line

Don't be discouraged! A job search is never easy, but you will make it. Your network, knowledge and experience, and solid skills and work ethic will see you through to a successful conclusion.

Good luck!

More About Fifty Plus Job Search


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.