Being let go from a job can be devastating for anyone – but it can be especially frightening to be over 50 and searching for work. It’s natural to think, “Who is going to hire a 54-year-old?” Fortunately, plenty of smart companies will! You have valuable experience, knowledge, and skills that the world needs. Finding a job when you’re over 50 can take a little more finesse, but the key is to act quickly to get yourself in the best position possible. Follow these tips for your job search and get your career back on track.
Create a healthy new routine
Allow yourself 48 hours of wallowing. Sleep in, watch tv, eat carbs, take naps. Repeat. But on day three, give yourself a new routine and stick to it. Get up early, shower, and dress in reasonably presentable clothes. Exercise and eat some produce. Then get to work looking for work. Plan to spend several hours a day on the hunt.
List your accomplishments
Right now – make a list of the things you achieved at your last job. While it is fresh in your mind, tally up the new clients you signed, the number of new contracts you negotiated, the net revenue you brought in and the money you saved the company with your new productivity system. You’ll need this on your resume and your updated LinkedIn profile, and you also need to know these numbers for your interviews.
Get letters of recommendation
Right now – while your friends are in “let me know what I can do” mode – ask for recommendations. Letters are good, LinkedIn testimonials are a bonus.
Consider offering yourself out as a consultant while you search. If this is an option for you, create a mini media kit: a one-page description of your services, a few examples of your work, and a rate sheet should suffice. Send it out to friends and former colleagues with a request to keep an ear out for opportunities.
Clean up your social media feed
A picture here and there of you enjoying a glass of wine with the girls is probably not a problem, but if every other Facebook post features your friend Jack Daniels, this may raise a red flag for some employers. Delete political rants, posts with cuss words, and anything with the hashtag #playinghookey.
Make your severance last
Even if your dream job came knocking on your door tomorrow, it could be weeks before you get through the interviews and all of the background checks are performed and the lady that is supposed to train you gets back from vacation so that you can start. Be smart and start living at your “new normal.” What can you do to cut back? Color your own hair? Do your own nails? Eat at home, borrow books from the library, and don’t plan a big girls’ trip until you are back on your feet.
Do something creative
When the anxiety kicks in – and it will – give your brain something else to focus on. Use some of your newfound time to do something creative. Write, paint, draw, knit a scarf, start a journal. It’s a great way to relax and good for your mental health.
Do some good
Do some pro bono or volunteer work. One of the best tips I can give you is to use your time off to do something good for the world. Non-profits need your help, and you never know who you might meet while you’re stuffing envelopes. It also never hurts to have some volunteer work on your resume.
Freshen up your resume
If you are in a creative field, you may want to consider updating the style of your resume to include some colorful graphics. You can Google “resume templates” for ideas, or purchase one on Etsy. However, a friend of mine was given this advice from a professional recruiter: if you are at the Director level or above, it’s best to stick with a clean, traditional template. Do what feels right for you, but whatever you choose, keep it simple and let your experience speak for you, not your fancy design.
Ask a friend to check your work
Have a friend – or three- proofread your resume. You’ll get tired of looking at it, and your friends will find typos that your eyes just glazed over.
Make a Top 10 list
Make a list of the top 10 companies you’d like to work for… then make contact. Your new mantra needs to be “I have nothing to lose.” If you can find an email, send a polite inquiry. If you can’t, snail mail will suffice. The worst that will happen is they will ignore you.
Linkedin is great about suggesting people you should follow, and now more than ever you need to widen your network. Send a LinkedIn request with a personalized message: “Hi, LinkedIn suggested you as someone I might know. We must have some friends or colleagues in common! I would be honored to connect with you.” Nine times out of ten, they will accept this invitation. Now don’t be a crazy stalker and pester them for a lunch date on Day One, but DO follow them and occasionally write a meaningful comment on their posts. And of course, be sure to update your profile. It’s perfectly acceptable to list your current role as “Looking for a position in XYZ.” Who knows, your current connections may see the change and quickly link you up with an opportunity!
Start that business… if the time is right
Of course, you may be wondering if this is the time to start that new business you’ve been toying with. Only you know for sure, but generally, it’s easier to start something like that when your ducks are in a row and you’re not worried about paying the electric bill. If you have a substantial severance and some savings tucked aside, give it some thought. But don’t wait too long.
A little patience can pay off
Finally, remember that these things take time. While finding work is number one on your agenda, it’s only one of a hundred things on the hiring manager’s desk. It’s okay to follow up, but don’t be a pest – besides your thank you letter (you did send a thank you note, right?) – wait at least two weeks before pinging your contact for an update. And in the meantime, don’t stop the search.
Finding a job over 50 can be challenging, but it’s doable!
Finding a job when you’re over 50 can seem daunting. Take care of yourself during this stressful time, and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends when you need to talk. Do your best to stay positive, and have faith that your next chapter may just be the one you have been waiting for!