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Advice for Older, Bolder Job Seekers


Approaching retirement age doesn’t mean an end to your career. In fact, as a professional with decades of experience under your belt, you may have more employment opportunities today than ever before.

The greying of the population will soon place strains on the labour pool, but it will also create unprecedented opportunities for older workers.
According to the Hudson Institute, a nonprofit research organization, by 2020 there will be a 60 percent increase in the number of people 65 years of age or older. By contrast, the 18-to-44-year-old population will likely increase by just four percent during this time frame.

As retirees outnumber new employees entering the workforce, a labour shortfall is predicted. But a shortage of bodies is not all businesses can expect. There is also the potential loss of the institutional knowledge from the largest generation of seasoned professionals ever to leave the workforce. This situation, along with continued business expansion, has caused many companies to put increased effort into recruiting and retaining highly skilled professionals who can guide critical initiatives. If you are an older job seeker looking for a second career, that means more employment opportunities from organizations that seek individuals with deep expertise like yours.

But you won’t have to wait until 2020 to reap these benefits. In fact, the burgeoning need for qualified talent is already at hand. And it is especially acute in the accounting and finance field. In this environment, highly skilled and experienced professionals are sought for compliance initiatives stemming from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and other new accounting regulations.

Strong demand also exists in the healthcare field, as hospitals and medical centers face a critical labour shortage due to changes in regulations and the need for greater levels of service and efficiency. Many organizations are offering flexible work schedules, part-time opportunities and job-sharing arrangements to attract skilled employees.

Examine your objectives and the market
If you are looking for new opportunities, it’s important to first examine your professional objectives. Do you want to remain in the field where you’ve made your career? Would you like a job similar to those you’ve held before? Are you considering switching fields?

Many individuals who search for jobs late in their careers focus their efforts on opportunities that align with their hobbies, interests and passions. For example, an individual who locates and restores classic cars in his spare time might decide to begin a new career in auto sales or parts distribution.

Find out who’s hiring
If it’s been many years since you last looked for a job, speak to those you know about changes that may have occurred in the search process. For example, the Web is increasingly used by job candidates to locate and apply for openings. Friends, family and members of your professional network may also be able to alert you to job vacancies, recent developments in your chosen field and skills today’s employers seek.

The Internet can be a great source of information about companies that are looking to recruit experienced workers. By visiting an organization’s website and reading articles and opinions about it on business sites, you can determine which employers to target. Organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) publish lists of the best employers for older workers and run career websites specific to this demographic. While an American site, it also offers excellent resources for Canadians.

Check with your local chamber of commerce and professional organizations for additional job leads. Also focus on networking, especially if you are looking for a senior-level position; these roles are the least likely to be advertised.

You might also consider “boomeranging,” or returning to work for a former employer. Many firms, including IBM, GE, PepsiCo and Lockheed Martin, invite retirees to return to work, often on a part-time basis. If you left a previous job on good terms, this might be an attractive option for you. Remember, however, that the management structure, company objectives and corporate culture may have all changed since you were last employed by the firm.

Prepare your application materials

No matter how long it has been since your last job search, updating your resume is a must. Your experience, well-developed technical and soft skills, and ability to hit the ground running are the qualities that attract employers’ interest, so be sure to emphasize them in your application materials.

Keep in mind that being viewed as overqualified is a risk many older workers face. While it’s important to ensure the job opportunities you pursue are challenging and rewarding, there are ways to combat this obstacle. The simplest, perhaps, is to “soften” your job titles. For example, instead of referring to a previous role as “vice president,” consider changing it to “senior manager.” Just be careful not to misrepresent yourself.

You also may want to reduce the focus on your work history by eliminating from your resume positions you held more than 15 or 20 years ago, which often hold little relevance to the job you seek today. In addition, you could submit a functional, rather than chronological, resume. A functional resume lists your relevant professional skills and career accomplishments in great detail, but includes only a bare-bones section about companies for which you’ve worked, employment dates and roles.

Consider consulting

Older job seekers should also consider temporary and project work. These arrangements provide exposure to a variety of corporate environments, positions and technologies. Individuals are able to work on the assignments that interest them most and, in many cases, can take risks that they were unable to take earlier in their careers. Seasoned professionals often can use temporary or project work as a way to explore new fields and industries.

Perhaps the most attractive benefit of project work is greater control of your work schedule. As a consultant, you can frequently arrange for time off between engagements and take advantage of flexible hours and telecommuting options.

By working through a temporary staffing firm, you can receive resume and interview advice, insight into the latest technologies and trends, and leads about employers who may be targeting professionals with your skill set. Many staffing companies offer professional development and training opportunities as well.

Approaching retirement age doesn’t mean an end to your career. In fact, as a professional with decades of experience under your belt, you may have more employment opportunities today than ever before. Research potential openings, target employers who can benefit from your extensive skill set and consider temporary or project work so that your next job search is a successful one.

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