A good portion of the e-mail I receive is from readers over age 50 who are looking for work after a layoff. Many tell me they found their last job more than a decade ago, in the classifieds of their local newspaper. Many more say they're daunted -- understandably so -- by the foul job market, the prospect of ageism and the likelihood of being interviewed by someone half their age.
All of them worry about the generalizations some short-sighted employers make about older workers. Either they see you as overqualified and overpriced, or they believe you're inflexible and technologically challenged. Perhaps they suspect you're just biding your time and taking up space until retirement rolls around.
We've all heard countless career experts (yours truly included) offer the same old job hunting solutions for workers over 50:
Freshen up your wardrobe! Brush up your tech skills! Leave the education dates off your resume! Get on LinkedIn! Network till you're blue in the face! Smiles, everyone, smiles!
But platitudes will only get you so far. So let's talk about the top mistakes that hopeful hires over age 50 make and how to avoid them.
I hear a lot of 50- and 60-somethings make this complaint. Yes, older candidates have to work harder to overcome discrimination, and no, it's not fair. But that doesn't mean every employer is hell-bent on shutting out all candidates over 35.
Example: The site RetirementJobs.com lists more than 30,000 full-time and part-time jobs nationwide with "age-friendly employers." Other job sites that cater to older workers: Jobs 4.0, Retired Brains, Seniors4Hire and Workforce50.com. In addition, AARP offers this list of the best employers for workers over 50.
So, please, don't tell me no one's hiring older workers.
You've been on this crazy hamster wheel we call "work" for at least three decades now, so you might as well milk the vast contact list you've amassed for all its worth. It's perfectly acceptable to reach out to former employers, co-workers, vendors, classmates and other colleagues you haven't corresponded with in a decade or two. (Searching sites like LinkedIn and Facebook make finding them a snap.) Not only will your peers understand, more of them are likely reaching out to their long-lost contacts, too.
"The No. 1 mistake I see with older candidates is they include too much information in their resume," said Cathy Severson, a career coach who runs the site Retirement Life Matters. "Clear the clutter, old-dated, irrelevant information from your resume."
Instead, tailor your resume to the job you're applying for -- each time. Two to three pages and 15 years of relevant experience is more than enough.
Likewise, be careful that you don't turn an interview into a snooze-inducing laundry list of your top 100 achievements over the past 30 years, said Tom Mann of TR Mann Consulting, a marketing and advertising firm specializing in boomers and older workers.
"Experienced workers are so eager to show their skills off that they do a 'history dump,'" he said. "While it's important to share your relevant skills, how you present is equally important. Show that you are also fun. Remember, Gen Y doesn't want to feel like they're working with their mom or dad."