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Advice & More September 2013

Dollar Sense

Lookin’ for a Job: What to Do and Not Do

By Teresa Ambord

Koff advises seniors to contact companies they admire and offer to work on a trial basis. “It gives you a little bit of a leg up because the employer can then say, ‘We can hire this guy, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll let him go.’”

It’s true, seniors have lost more earning power than any other age group. But this is probably because we had more earning power to begin with, built over decades of hard work and solid work ethics. Today, a lot of our peers are hoping to return to the workforce for one reason or another: because things cost more, because they lost their savings in the struggling economy, or maybe because they are just looking for new challenges. If you’re hoping to find a job, don’t believe the naysayers who claim nobody will hire an older person. You might just need a gentle push in the right direction.

 

Here are some points to help give your job search a face lift.

  1. Be ageless. Spruce up your resume by removing clues as to your age. Obviously when a potential employer meets you face to face he or she will know you’re not a kid. But you may never get as far as the interview if you wave your age in the employer’s face. Yes, it is an asset if you have 25 years of experience in your field but it also shouts that you are a generation or more older than the guy doing the hiring. To a 30 year old, he doesn’t see a potential employee, he sees his parents or his grandparents. For some, that’s too wide a gulf to cross and you may not even get as far as the interview. You don’t need to state which year you graduated high school or college. If you have a college degree simply list it and anything of significance which is related but skip the year.

  2. Break out the WD-40. Could your interview skills use a spritz of WD-40? WD-40 is my dad’s answer to anything which doesn’t work right. Some suggest you should practice your skills by role playing with a friend. But the truth is, there’s no threat there. Better to have the tension associated with a real employer. Just don’t practice with an interview for a job you really want. If possible, go on a few interviews for jobs you are less focused on. Sure it will be uncomfortable, but it will get you back in the game. And if you mess up… so what? This is your safety zone for when it really matters.

  3. Take a look in the mirror. Does your look scream your age? Don’t go overboard, like shopping in the junior department or borrowing from your grandkid’s closet. Maybe just a little update. Some suggest whitening your teeth (who doesn’t need that?), trying a new hairstyle, perhaps covering some of the gray.

    You also need to strike the right balance between formal and casual. It is true that workplaces have become more casual, but you still want to be taken seriously.

    You also don’t want to be vastly overdressed, like wearing a three-piece suit and bow tie to interview for a job where the men typically wear jeans and polo shirts. The best bet, if possible is to check out the worksite to see what existing employees wear to work. Then go one step above that. If female employees wear dress pants and a top, a female applicant might wear a skirt and sweater. If male employees typically wear Dockers and polo shirts, wear slacks and a nice button-down shirt.

  4. Remain flexible. Don’t get stuck on the idea of full-time work. Consider part-time and/or temporary work. With the uncertain economy and worry about health care reform, it’s a lot easier to land a less than full-time job these days. Art Koff, the founder of RetiredBrains.com said, “Employers are particularly receptive to hiring the over-50 set on a part-time, temporary, or project basis. The employers get experienced, reliable employees, and in most cases, they don’t have to pay benefits for these positions, and this makes these workers cost-effective.”

    Koff advises seniors to contact companies they admire and offer to work on a trial basis. “It gives you a little bit of a leg up because the employer can then say, ‘We can hire this guy, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll let him go.’”

  5. Blog. Get into the swing of technology with a blog. Not only does a blog show you are comfortable with computers, but it shows off your ability to put thoughts together. An employer can get a window into your thinking process. If you blog about your chosen field, you can demonstrate you are up on the latest advancements.

  6. Think outside the job box. Jobs are not the only way to make money. What about freelancing in your field? You may be able to serve as a consultant or work on a project basis. For example if your field is full-charge bookkeeping, you can save small businesses a lot of money and headaches by handling their payroll as an independent contractor. You may find you like the freedom of not being tied to a time clock, whether you do their work at your home or by visiting their office. And if you still hope to land a regular job, your contacts developed through project work could put you on the path you need. Or, you could stumble onto a new field or idea for a job you never considered. FiscalTimes.com tells of a man who was laid off in his 50s. His first project after being forced to retire was to organize his garage. Little did he know he’d like garage organizing so much he’d end up running his own five-employee company that organizes and cleans garages for others.

  7. Don’t try too hard. This may sound counterintuitive, but trying too hard makes you look desperate. One job hunting advisor says it is better to relax a little. If you’re not having any luck, try a different approach. Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If you don’t, develop one. It’s free and showcases your abilities and gives other people the chance to endorse your skills. If you do have a LinkedIn profile, beef it up.

    You might even contact a career coach. Just don’t let pressure from other people cause you to push too hard. Job hunting takes time, especially now. There is a saying, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So be ready and keep your eyes wide open so when the job presents itself, you will be looking in the right direction.

  8. See the value in your age. Don’t listen to the popular culture which suggests age is a bad thing. Instead, learn to promote the advantages of being a senior in the workplace. Seniors have life experience, the perspective of having been there and done that. Research proves seniors are more likely to show up for work (and be on time) and less likely to take sick days to go to the beach. There’s an attitude today among many younger workers that a job is an entitlement and not something to be treasured. This is a fatal flaw which is seldom found in our older generations. Savvy employers know this.

 

Why Older People Make Great Employees

There will be some who will not hire seniors, but the smart employers recognize the value you bring. Just to remind you what a hot commodity you are, here are a few of the benefits employers can expect from hiring an older worker.

  • You’ve heard all the jokes young people like to make about how slow we elders are. This is certainly true for some tasks. But… sorry kids. When you add up all the factors, research shows the productivity of an older worker compares equally with the productivity of a younger worker.
  • Creativity and intellectual capacity grow over time.
  • Loyalty is often stronger because older workers are not looking to enhance a career and are less likely to view a job with a short-timers focus.
  • Work ethics are likely to be stronger. Younger workers may refuse to do certain jobs, saying they “don’t feel comfortable” with some tasks. Older workers were taught that all work is noble and are likely to just roll up their sleeves and do it rather than waste time trying to get out of it.
  • Seasoned workers also tend to be more content with their lives and therefore easier to work with and supervise.
  • Absenteeism is usually less of a problem because older employees tend to take fewer days off.
  • Older workers present often present good role models because of a strong sense of responsibility and diligent work habits.

 

You May Have Advantages in a Face-to-Face Interview

Older people are more likely to be professional, to dress the part, and to exhibit ordinary courtesy, which includes respecting other people’s time by being punctual and sticking to the business at hand. In other words, a senior is probably not going to be distracted by a pocketful of electronic gadgets which are not turned off at appropriate times. Score one for the older generation.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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