Searching for a job has changed over the past several decades and many older workers seeking employment don’t know where to start. Most job applications are completed on-line rather than in-person. As it has always been, networking is an excellent way to learn about job opportunities. Social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn can connect you with potential employers. Creating a personal marketing plan that sells what you have to offer includes a polished resume, cover letter and thank-you notes.
Your local OhioMeansJobs center can help you develop the tools and skills you need to be successful in your job search.
Older workers may need or choose to upgrade their skills to reenter the workforce, switch jobs or even remain in their existing positions.
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act services available through OhioMeansJobs centers provide employment, education, training and support services to help job seekers of all ages succeed in the labor market, as well as help employers find skilled workers.
- The Senior Community Service Employment Program provides income-eligible individuals age 55 and older with work-based training opportunities in non-profit organizations that can lead to full-time employment.
- Lifelong learning programs at Ohio's four-year universities and two-year technical colleges allow residents age 60 and older to attend classes at little or no cost.
When it comes to finding a job, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters." As a matter of fact, up to 80% of available jobs are never posted, but rather filled by word of mouth. Discovering and hiring candidates this way gives companies more control over the pool of applicants along with confidence that candidates they are considering have been vouched for by trusted colleagues and employees.
In this type of job market, it’s extra important to build and maintain a network of colleagues, peers and mentors that can help you spot opportunities and can speak about your skills and experiences with others. According to AARP, here are the basics of a good networking strategy.
- The “elevator speech” – Always be prepared to explain to someone in about 30 seconds what you’d like to do professionally, along with the skills and experiences that give you the ability. Create business cards for your job search and be prepared to send a résumé in follow-up.
- A list – Keep a list of anyone who can help you find the job you want. Naturally, this includes current and former colleagues and business associates, but it should also include neighbors, relatives, friends and acquaintances.
- Regular contact – Many job seekers find they are more successful when they make building their network their number one priority. Contact people in your network when you don’t need anything. Be social and ask for advice, not a job.
Even when you get a job interview, make networking your top goal. You may not walk out with the job, but you can walk out of almost any interview with new relationships that can help with your job search.
A well-written, targeted and current résumé is a must to effectively market yourself to potential employers. If you’ve been out of the job market for a while, you might find that résumés have changed a great deal. Gone are the days when you would develop one résumé, making sure it was only a page long, print multiple copies on high-quality paper and mail it to every employer you’re interested in. Today, employers rely almost exclusively on technology to collect and screen résumés, meaning that how your résumé looks is far less important than what it says. Here are some elements of a modern résumé:
- Keywords - The modern résumé is all about keywords. Most employers now use computer software to screen applicants by comparing the words in your résumé to the language in their job description. The more words the two have in common, the better your chances of being selected for an interview. So, it is important to know the job you’re applying for well.
- Targeting - Your résumé should be specially-tailored to the job for which you’re applying. Mention the job title by name in your objective and highlight your accomplishments, experience and skills that demonstrate that you know how to do that job well. This means you will need a unique résumé for each job to which you apply.
- Functional - You no longer want your résumé to be a chronological list of your education and work experience. The tasks you performed and the duties you had say much more about what you can do than the titles you’ve held, and will lead to more keyword matches.
- Proofreading - It’s always been important to make sure your résumé is free of typos and grammatical errors, but perhaps there’s a different reason behind it now. Misspellings and other errors can cause you to have fewer keyword matches that will get you selected for an interview.
- Be selective - You don’t have to include every bit of your work history in your résumé, and in many cases, it’s better if you don’t. Include only the jobs, training, certifications, degrees and volunteer experience that demonstrate you have the skills needed for this job.
- Appearance - Of course, not every employer relies exclusively on computers to screen résumés, so yours should still be neat and attractive. Avoid fancy fonts and formatting and focus instead on providing the most relevant information in the most straightforward and understandable way.
While many parts of the job search process, such as how jobs are posted and how you apply, have changed considerably in recent years, most employers still rely on interviews to determine if a candidate is the right fit for their organization. For a job-seeker, the job interview is naturally an opportunity to convince an employer that you’re the best candidate for the job. But, even if you don’t land the position, an interview offers you the opportunity to learn more about your field of interest and add more people to your professional network.
- Preparation is key - Before the interview, learn as much as you can about the potential employer and the person or people you’ll be meeting with. Know their company website well, particularly their “About us” page and employee directory, if available. The company’s social media accounts are also great sources to learn about the company’s staff, mission and work.
- Ace the interview - Some things never change, and key among them is the importance of making a good first impression. Be on time and dress appropriately (a good rule of thumb is to dress “one notch” better than you’d expect to dress on the job). Be friendly, make eye contact and smile. By focusing on adding new contact to your network, instead of landing the job, you should be more relaxed and come off as more natural and generally interested in helping the company.
- Avoid pitfalls - Focus on your skills and achievements, rather than years of experience. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. If overqualification is a concern for the interviewer, focus on what you bring to the job beyond qualifications. Don’t bring up salary in an interview; if the interviewer asks what you’re looking for, ask if they have a range in mind and if it’s negotiable.
- Ask questions - Know the job and company as well as you can, and ask questions that will help you demonstrate your ability to help them solve problems, introduce new ways of doing things and succeed at their goals and mission. Also ask questions throughout the interview that will help you get a feel for the company’s culture and goals, such as how they get the most from their employees, how they measure success, and their priorities for you in your first few months, if you get the job.
- Follow-up - Timely and personal thank-you notes are a must after an interview. Even if you don’t get the job, follow up occasionally with the person or people who interviewed you as part of your networking strategy. Ask for advice and offer your insights on developments in the field. They may not have picked you, but they may know someone else who could benefit from your skills and experience.