As the recession continues to lengthen and unemployment remains at more than 9%1, many jobless are experiencing increased frustration regarding their search for a new position. This anxiety seems especially acute for mature job seekers! According to a recent article at MSNBC, there are a range of challenges facing baby boomers that have been exacerbated by the economic downturn.2
According to the AARP, the average length of unemployment is 8.5 weeks longer for job seekers 55 and older. While age discrimination is never explicitly stated, this trend indicates that there is likely a bias. This may seem grim, but there are proven ways to overcome age bias and strategies job seekers can use to stack the deck in their favor.
An important fact for job seekers to remember is that looking for the right position is hard work and it takes a lot of time. A common mistake among job seekers is to conduct a passive job search that relies upon employers seeking them out through job boards. An effective job search campaign is a full-time job in and of itself, as one job seeker within the financial services industry discovered.3 She secured a new position within six months of leaving her company by spending all day, every day, conducting her search, including writing emails and letters in the morning, meeting with employers and networking around midday and in the early afternoon, and researching companies and positions in the afternoon and evening.
Admittedly, employers are behind the game when it comes to the graying of the workforce. According to the article "As work force ages, employers lag" on MSNBC, few companies are able to take advantage of the skills that older workers bring to the table because they are unprepared to accommodate the needs of an aging labor force.4 While there are a few employers out there that offer "snowbird" programs, flex schedules, and workforce training aimed at older workers, these are few and far between. Because of this trend, the burden falls upon job seekers to market themselves effectively and remain competitive with younger candidates.
"Older workers often are hurt by the perception that they are less tech-savvy than their younger counterparts, cost employers more in health care benefits and donít adapt to change."5 Because many older job seekers stopped advancing their skills when they got their last job, they are now are coming into the market with limited proficiency in the tools that employers are going to expect that they know. Older job seekers can offset this impression by enrolling in technology courses, effectively developing their online network (like LinkedIn and Facebook), and using e-resumes to conduct a tech-savvy job search.
Many older job seekers express that jobs have "always fallen into [their] lap"6 because of an established network or professional reputation. This is less often the case as age factors begin to play a role in the job search; moreover, current economic conditions create additional challenges. Whether in the form of a career counselor, recruiter, or professional resume writing service, there are many resources out there for a job seeker attempting to gain a competitive edge. While these services often involve a fee, their cost is marginal compared to the cost of long-term unemployment.