Whether looking for a career change or hoping to pick up a new job post-retirement, baby boomers have plenty to offer any potential new employer.
But, like workers of all ages, getting a foot in the door can be challenging. The key is to showcase your skills to ensure you stand out.
These 15 job-hunting tips can help baby boomers get an edge in today’s competitive market so they can get ahead financially.
Use keywords strategically
Many companies now use applicant tracking systems (ATS) software to sort through the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of resumes they receive for one job listing.
The software scans your resume to find keywords related to the job, ensuring you have the experience the hiring company seeks.
When writing your resume, include crucial keywords related to the job you want. At the same time, avoid keyword stuffing — the practice of including too many keywords in an attempt to grab the software’s attention.
You want your resume’s language to appeal to the initial software that scans it and the human hiring manager, who will eventually see the resume if it moves past the software screening process.
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Avoid headers on your resume
Optimizing your resume to pass an ATS scan also means throwing out many longstanding guidelines about resume design.
For example, ATS software can’t scan design components such as headers, tables, or images. If your preferred word-processing software’s resume templates include these traditional design elements, consider building a resume from scratch instead.
Skip job experience that is more than 15 years old
You don’t need to include every job you’ve ever had on your resume. Instead, stick to your most recent job experiences.
You can always bring up earlier experiences in your interview as long as they’re relevant. But most hiring managers care more about whatever you’ve done most recently instead of what you did several decades ago.
Focus on your skills and achievements
Similarly, remember that your resume shouldn’t be a simple list of every job duty you’ve ever performed.
Instead, it should show off the many skills you’ve learned throughout your career. Highlight some of your most significant accomplishments, and include specifics about awards, certifications, and notable achievements.
Ask your professional network for help
You've likely formed strong professional connections if you’ve been in the workforce for a few decades.
Use those networking connections to land interviews or find potential job opportunities. A reference from a colleague might be the foot in the door you need to get ahead.
Emphasize your tech savviness
It’s an unfortunate — not to mention ageist — stereotype that no baby boomer is as technologically literate as someone from a younger generation.
To combat that stereotype, you might have to work extra to showcase technological skills to a potential employer. In particular, ensure you understand how to use the software you'll use in the new job and list your software proficiencies in your resume.
Highlight your flexibility
Another ageist stereotype is that older workers are firmly set in their ways and unable to adapt to changing environments.
It’s frustrating that you’ll have to go out of your way to demonstrate your flexibility, especially when younger generations aren’t expected to do the same thing.
However, emphasizing new skills you’ve learned for each job or ways you’ve quickly pivoted to meet your job’s changing needs can help set you apart in an interview.
Update your LinkedIn profile
Millions of people use networking sites like LinkedIn to find and apply for jobs. However, your LinkedIn profile might not be current if you haven’t been in the job-hunting game for a while.
Since many job applications ask for a link to your LinkedIn profile, it’s worth putting in the time and effort to ensure your resume and LinkedIn account display the same information.
Consider linking to your professional social media accounts
Along with asking for your LinkedIn profile, many job applications request links to social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
If you don’t have a business-based social media presence, consider curating one and linking to it. However, don’t link to your personal social media accounts.
Pro tip: If applying for a new full-time job doesn’t appeal, develop a side hustle, turn to consulting, or find another way to make extra cash without working full-time.
Look into a company’s culture
It's illegal for a potential employer to discriminate against you based on age. However, company cultures can skew older or younger, and not all companies go out of their way to appeal to workers of all ages.
Before accepting a new job, look into the company’s culture — not just its compensation and benefits — to ensure it’s a good fit for you.
Check out companies in AARP’s Employer Pledge Program
If you’ve been frustrated by ageism during your job search, consider checking out AARP’s job board.
The website showcases jobs from companies that have joined its Employer Pledge Program, meaning they promise to offer equal opportunity to all workers regardless of age.
Take advantage of free career resources
Along with its senior-friendly job posting site, AARP offers free resources to baby boomers and retirees looking for jobs.
For instance, AARP’s Back to Work 50+ program hosts workshops and partners with local organizations to help workers who are older than 50 find jobs.
Older workers bring an unmatched level of expertise and experience to any job, and participating in a mentorship program can help you call attention to that hard-earned wisdom.
Conversely, you can emphasize your adaptability by participating in a reverse mentorship. In this program, a younger worker helps teach an older worker skills relevant to the job.
Take a certification course
Getting a certificate that backs up your expertise is a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates while demonstrating your commitment to ongoing learning.
Look into courses at your local community college, check out quick online courses on LinkedIn, and sign up for AARP’s free certifications and training via its Skills Builder for Work program.
Don’t give up
Today’s job applicants might send multiple resumes and cover letters before getting even one interview.
Instead of letting rejection get you down, keep applying: Your wealth of experience will appeal to the right hiring team at the right time.
Looking for a new job as a mature worker comes with different challenges than applying for your first job as a recent graduate.
That's especially true if you decided to retire early and now are re-entering the workforce after time away.
By applying these 15 job-hunting tips and playing to your personal and professional strengths, you improve the odds that your job search will end in success.
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