Can’t get back to work after several years trying

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I am 58 and have found it impossible to find a job since leaving my last job several years ago.  I applied for many admin and customer care roles and had several interviews, but was unsuccessful every time.  When I asked, I was told that I had interviewed well and had good skills, but I did not have experience in their type of company.  I wanted to work in a different sector. Interestingly, the same jobs were re-advertised a couple of months after I had applied.  After being unsuccessful for about a year I stopped being invited for interviews, and my career gap got longer and longer.

I am trying again now. I have again been rejected, or rather ignored, by several employers.  I have recently updated my CV as suggested by a careers guidance lady on LinkedIn.  I have also just bought the How To find a Job You Love book by John Lees which I hope will be helpful. It has also been suggested that I look to upskill. I am willing to do this, but part of me wonders if it would be worthwhile after I have been out of work so long.

As you can tell my confidence is now very low.  I have also read that employers prefer to take on staff who are currently working as they feel they are more valuable because they are already working for someone.  It seems the longer you have been out of work, the less valuable employers consider you.

Line of people different ages waiting for their turn for interview.

Looking for a new job can be a challenge at any stage in your career, but there are plenty of opportunities for the older job candidate. Your age shouldn’t be a barrier to finding employment in your late 50s.

You mentioned you left your last role several years ago – what have you been doing since? Have you done any volunteering? Think about the skills you’ve developed over this time and how you’ve expanded your knowledge – these can be ‘soft’ skills or hard skills. Have you been reading articles, listening to podcasts or learned things from general conversation?

Career gaps are much more normal nowadays, and it’s how you explain these career gaps at interview that matters. People take time off for a number of reasons, so try to show what you’ve learned over this time and be authentic to yourself.

It’s important to be resilient after interview rejections. I always encourage people to ask for feedback, but in most cases it’s hard to get it, given the number of candidates who applied for a role. It’s good that some companies gave you feedback, and positive to hear that you ‘interviewed well’ and have ‘good skills’.

Personally, I believe it’s really short sighted of a company not to hire someone if they don’t have any sector experience. Sometimes the best hire can come out of sector to bring fresh perspectives. How do you present your experience to the company and come across as the best hire? Why would you be suitable for the role with no sector experience? What skills, knowledge and expertise can you bring to the role? Are you a quick learner and can you prove that at interview?

Being ignored after an interview is almost more annoying than being rejected. If your confidence is low – focus on your strengths at work and how to play on your strengths to be your best self at work. It’s important to have a positive mindset when interviewing or this can be picked up by the interviewer. Be confident in your abilities. During your interview, project confidence in your experience, knowledge, skills and other abilities.

The best way to land an interview is through your network – 75% of jobs come through one’s network rather than applying online/through a recruiter with hundreds of other applicants. Have you applied for any roles through your network? Have you spent time building up your network and investing in them? You may have an extensive network of people who you’ve worked with in previous positions, volunteered with through local charities or have connected with at networking events and industry-specific conferences. Assess your professional network and see if there are any connections who can help you land your next role.

It’s good to hear that you’ve updated your CV – that is a good idea if you’ve picked up new skills over the last few years. If you have a long career history to share, make sure your experience includes a wide variety of skills you can use in any new position. Let the job description help to inform you on what background and skills the company is looking for, and if you have relevant ones, list them. Tailor your CV to each position and explore how you can showcase your strengths and willingness to learn new things, as this is an attribute many hiring managers value in their employees.

Only focus on the last 10 – 15 years. In today’s fast-changing world, jobs or activities from further back in time often aren’t relevant. Listing older jobs calls attention to your age – you can make exceptions for very relevant past positions, but in general, you don’t need to include jobs from long ago. Leave education dates off your CV.

It’s really important to stay current. One of the top concerns HR managers have regarding older workers is that they may not keep up with technology. So, if your job will involve any computer work, highlight your tech strengths on your CV or at interview.

Know the language that HR managers look for. Ensure that the terminology on your CV is still relevant. You might need to give it to another person such as a career coach for feedback, but you should be aware of terms that can make your skills sound dated. For example, CV experts say that an “Objective” statement, long considered a CV staple, is not used much anymore; similarly, remove any references to obsolete technology.

There are pros and cons of taking on employees who are currently working – the downside is that they might not be able to move immediately; so that’s a plus side if you’re not currently in a role. People wait for the right people, it’s less about whether you find a new job from employment or not.

I think you’ll enjoy the John Lees book; it should help to put a positive spin on your job search and give you practical tips for what next and how to focus on resilience.

I don’t believe that the longer you’ve been out of work, the less valuable employers consider you – I believe it’s all about whether you have the skills the marketplace requires. As the ice hockey player Wayne Gretsky said it’s about ‘staking to where the puck is going’ to ensure everlasting employability.

Being positive can really help – attitude has a lot to do with how people can overcome ageism. At interview, you need to prove that you will be a good investment if hired. Focus on the ways you can add value to an organisation instead of focusing on your years of career history.

Good luck!

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