Four Ways to Think About Your Job Search Strategy in Your Later Years

As we get older, the way we view work can change.

We may be re-entering the workplace after a long absence, laid off after many years with the same company and/or thinking about totally different kinds of work and wanting big changes. All of this has to be balanced with the reality of our financial needs, health, family responsibilities and today’s changing nature of work.

In this video, Elizabeth White, author of 55, Unemployed & Faking Normal, recommends that job seekers be realistic and willing to compromise and make some hard choices:

Here are four ways to help you think about the changing nature of work, your choices and what’s realistic – while keeping your financial needs in mind:

1. Re-Invention. You might be thinking about pursuing a totally different career with a role that is totally different than what you previously did. Successful reinvention involves looking carefully at your previous work history, the pros and cons of making a career shift and specifically what you want to do.

2. Re-Careering. This can be voluntary or involuntary. Involuntary re-careering means changing occupations, employers or industries because of lay-offs (perhaps a field has changed so much there are few opportunities remaining) or needing to return to work for financial reasons. Voluntary re-careering is when you choose to leave a job, retire, launch a business or explore a field or subject that has always been an interest or passion. Re-careering may appeal to you because it can be less demanding, more flexible and part-time. This can also be the step you take before transitioning into retirement.

3. Re-Prioritizing. Look at work and the role it plays in your life. What is most important in your life? You may decide your hobbies, family, health and other interests are more of a priority than high-level responsibilities at work. Reflecting on this can influence the kind of job you want.

4. Re-Vitalization. This involves trying to get your current work or career back on track. It includes analyzing job opportunities in your field, taking a long hard look at yourself and identifying what skills need to be renewed and upgraded.

Five Ways to Use Your Age as an Asset in Your Job Search

Laura came to JVS with negative attitudes about her age and the belief she would never be hired. Like many older job seekers, she was concerned about the impact of age discrimination on her job search – and whether she could overcome it. How far should she go back on her resume? When she got an interview, would the employer immediately have stereotypes about whether she could connect with younger coworkers, multi-task and work at a fast pace?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 prohibits treating job applicants or employees who are over age 40 less favorably because of age. While there is an increase in the number of age discrimination complaints filed by older workers, a recent study by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) found that “Workers age 50+ add value to organizations due to their high levels of engagement, stability, productivity, motivation and experience.”

Here are five ways to make your wisdom and years of experience an asset for an employer:

1. Value your Age and Experience.

One way to make your age an asset is to feel like you’ve earned the right to own it. This is a culture that often emphasizes youth and beauty, but there are many role models to learn from. Don’t apologize for being older or minimize your abilities because of your age. Instead, emphasize your years of experience, talents, abilities and commitment to life-long learning.

2. Upgrade your Skills Strategically.

In today’s changing world of technology, you need to make sure your computer skills are excellent and you are updated about trends and new developments in your particular field. Research the software programs potential employers use and use webinars and online classes to keep current.

3. Network Across all Platforms.

Draw on the power of your personal, community and business networks. Make lists of former coworkers, employers, relatives, friends, business contacts, volunteer connections and other people who could be helpful to your job search — including JVS staff. Attend networking events and learn how to build a LinkedIn profile (JVS offers classes on this) and how to make contacts via this platform.

4. Address Gaps in your Employment History.

In today’s workplace most employers understand that various factors can impact a job seeker’s employment history. Develop one to two sentences explaining your gap. For example: “I was a caregiver for my elderly parents for 18 months” or “I took time off to take courses in accounting to keep my skills current.” Get guidance on how to show this on your resume and practice discussing it in an interview setting.

5. Find Employers who will Value your Skills and Experience.

Identify employers who are open to hiring experienced workers. Use the San Francisco Bay Area Book of Lists to identify local employers with the best hiring records and check sites like Glassdoor to read employee reviews about different work sites.

Laura found a job and shared the following:  JVS played a big part in helping me move out of my old attitude about age and into a new attitude about life. Her tips:  Make sure you are still growing. Recognize that what you learned in the past can help your employer now. Finally, being open and interested in learning is huge and very appealing to employers and everyone else.­

Read more about Laura’s tips for older job seekers.

How old is your attitude?

Our JVS job seekers are insightful, curious, powerful individuals. They help and inspire each other every day at JVS. We facilitate an environment that is both innovative and aspirational; this is where transformation happens.

In line with our coverage of age discrimination against female job seekers, we present advice from one of our courageous, successful 50+ former clients.


Sound advice from our former client:

Think about how your “age attitude” is reflected in how you talk, look and what you focus on in life. Here are some of the things I learned at JVS:

  • Age does show on the outside, but it is the inside attitude that connects or repels people. Are you experienced and helpful or are you experienced and trying to prove yourself?
  • Are you still growing? Are you learning new things and up to date on the latest trends in your industry? Being open and interested in learning is huge and very appealing to employers and everyone else.
  • How do you look? Are you still wearing the same styles from 10 years ago? Even Goodwill has stylish clothes if you look for them. Look for sales and ask a younger person to go shopping with you. You don’t want to look like you are trying to be 16, but you don’t want to look like someone’s Granny/Grandpa either.
  • How is your hair? A good haircut will take years off your age. And, a department store make-over helps, too, if you are into it.
  • Are you happy? If you are down, this shows. If you think you are old and have nothing to offer, this shows. If you are interested in life and open to new things, this shows.
  • Are you afraid of younger people? If you find yourself saying negative things about some trends in the world, this may be because you don’t understand and have become defensive. Try seeking someone out who can explain things to you and who you feel comfortable asking questions. Get curious instead of defensive.
  • It is not so much what you did in the past, but what you learned in the past that can help your employer now.

JVS played a big part in helping me move out of my old attitude about my age and into a new attitude about life. THANK YOU!

With deep gratitude,
Laura (proud former JVS job seeker)


Are you a courageous job seeker with advice to share? Tell us in the comments or email communications@jvs.org.

Thwart Off Those “Old” Stereotypes

Here you are. Your dream job. This one will bounce you back. Twenty years of executive admin experience. A rockin’ LinkedIn profile. Fabulous dress. And your friend in accounting forwarded your resume. You strike the power pose because, you know, you got this.

But, then, the hiring manager greets you, texting as he approaches with stylishly ripped jeans on. Walking to the interview, you note people on couches. Is that a date or a meeting? Your throat tightens. Shoulders slump. The hiring manager looks at you remarking, “Yeah, people work pretty hard around here. It’s kinda fast-paced.”  

The voice in your head rouses.

I recently wrote a blog about deeply disturbing reports detailing hiring discrimination against older women. I don’t question whether it exists. And while I’m somewhat interested in long-term policy and legal solutions to combat it, I’m very interested in how to effect change now. We must empower older women with strategies to effectively battle discrimination – interview-by-interview, job-by-job – and, ultimately, drive societal change. In the words of an insightful JVS colleague, Jesse Golden, “While we can’t avoid discrimination, we can do what salespeople do: anticipate objections.”

What are common, ill-founded objections? Which unsubstantiated labels do hiring managers hold onto, despite countless examples to the contrary? What can you do?

Stereotype: Her tech skills are probably out-of-date.

Strategy: Demonstrate your tech know-how. Acquire new tech skills (for example, learn WordPress or Salesforce). List them on your resume, and talk about how you’ve used them to solve a business need.

Stereotype: She may not get along with the younger staff.

Strategy: Prepare accomplishment stories that demonstrate your successful collaboration with diverse (including those “just starting out in their careers”) colleagues. Choose relevant, current small-talk. Engage with everyone. Avoid categorizing yourself as “other,” or isolating yourself with words like the classic, “Back in my day…” or “You’re probably too young to remember this…”

Stereotype: She may not want to work hard. Or worse, she might not keep up with the pace.

Strategy: Talk about your activities – hiking, yoga, friendly debates, meetups or whatever it is you use to keep active and engaged in your work. Use your body posture, words and interview follow-up tactics to demonstrate energy and action-orientation.

Jesse Golden also suggests using stereotypes to our advantage. According to the Adecco Mature Workers survey many managers believe older workers are more reliable, professional and have good writing skills. If candidates have to suffer from discrimination, it seems fair game to exploit those attributes that work in their favor.

More than anything, though, check your “I’m too old” baggage at the door. How you see yourself, and what you believe about your worth, will be the biggest predictor of success.

Which stereotypes do you see?  What can job seekers do to turn it on its head?

Check our calendar for the next 50+ Job Search Strategy Group that will help you move forward with confidence. The informal group is facilitated by JVS staff and will include topics such as age discrimination and transitioning to new careers.

Digging Deeper: Age Discrimination for Women

If you can remember gas rationing, or seeing the original Star Wars six times in the summer of ‘77, chances are good you’re “of a certain age.”

If you’re also a woman currently looking for a job, economists say there’s a pretty good chance you’re experiencing hiring discrimination.

According to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), there is robust evidence (based on over 40,000 job applications!) of age discrimination in hiring against older women. And another study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that since the Great Recession ended, older women are comprising a growing share of the long-term unemployed.

Reputable publications all picked up the story: Washington Post. Bloomberg. Forbes. And yet, despite the coverage, no one seems overly concerned with the why. The NBER study offered two reasons: discrimination laws may not do enough to protect older women facing age and sex discrimination, and the natural changes in physical appearance associated with aging may matter more for women than men. Okay. Maybe. But, if we’re going to effect change, it helps to understand the root cause.

What is it about older females?

Kudos to the team at PBS Newshour, who recently came to JVS to ask for our help in better understanding the plight of the older female job seeker. For their piece, “Women Over 50: Help Not Wanted,” we gathered a panel of women between the ages of 50 and 65 to hear their thoughts on why companies discriminate against 50+ women. Their theories about what hiring managers think and assume were astounding:

  • She can’t pick up new technology. (I believe there are assessments for that.)
  • She won’t “fit in” with foosball and beer pong. (Actually, my mom was always the ping pong champion at my house.)
  • She might be too opinionated. (So, what you want is someone without a voice?)
  • She won’t work hard. (Actually, she’ll work really hard, but without a show.)

At JVS, we coach older female job seekers with proven strategies to combat stereotypes, be it age- or gender-related, in the hiring process. Next week, we’ll share some of the best advice from our team, and we’d love to hear what you think works.

What do you believe about why hiring managers discriminate against older women? What should companies do to stop themselves? What are we missing?