I am 62 and am finding it really hard to get a job interview in the role I was in before I had to take a couple of years out for health reasons. Also I had always envisaged retiring at 60, but now, due to the cost of living, I need to get back to work. I have 30 years’ experience in project management, but I don’t even get an interview often. Also I don’t have a degree and most jobs specify that you have one these days. How do I get around this and around negative attitudes about my age? Should I reinvent myself and if so, where would I begin and which sectors are most promising these days? I just feel very at sea about what to do and I’m really worried about costs over the winter.
Firstly, thank you for raising a question that I believe a number of people can relate to.
Your age shouldn’t be a barrier to finding employment in your 60s. Like any job seeker – prioritise finding work that you enjoy doing. Be clear about what you want from a job opportunity and dedicate time to writing a strong CV and preparing for interviews. 60 isn’t too late for a career search and landing a new job. It’s possible to adopt new skills and apply them to digital jobs that offer a lot more flexibility and are rewarding too.
Please don’t worry about not having a degree – what you do have is a solid 30-year career history which includes project management experience that you’ve built up over the years – this carries a lot of weight. Degrees give employers reassurance that the candidates they’re considering have effective time management, teamwork and communication skills, as well as an ability to learn new things quickly, problem solve and adapt to change. If you can prove you have these skills through your career history, then do highlight examples.
Certain industries, such as engineering, science and finance will still look favourably on graduates from the top institutions. However, in a lot of other sectors, especially roles which are less specific and technical, employers are turning towards different factors, like work experience and evidence of leadership.
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.
Refresh your CV
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 resume 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.
Learn new skills
Consider how you can benefit from learning new skills. Not only can you use that skill in the workplace and list it on your CV, but you’ll also show a hiring manager that you recognise how important expanding your knowledge in the industry is, even later on in your career. Think about signing up for a course that teaches you a popular programme or tool.
Expand your knowledge
Along with learning new skills, continue to expand your knowledge of your field. Read articles and industry reports and listen to podcasts from industry experts who can introduce you to trends and new ways of processing the same information. In some industries, having experience with different perspectives can help you secure a position, as you’ll be able to demonstrate an ability to think creatively for solutions.
Tips for finding a job after 60
Here are some tips to explore if you’re looking for a new job as a candidate:
Highlight your career. Your cover letter, CV and interview with the employer are all opportunities for you to share important attributes you’ve built and exhibited throughout your career, like loyalty, honesty and a propensity to work hard. Be concise and selective. While your professional history may be impressive in its breadth, be selective when it comes to listing your job duties for each role, and refrain from listing every job duty. Instead, highlight and quantify (if possible) two or three of your most important and relevant accomplishments. Consider freelancing. Freelance opportunities can expose you to professionals in the field you may otherwise not have met. It’ll also help you build your portfolio, which you can later show to a hiring manager, so they understand more about your work. Be confident in your abilities. During your interview, project confidence in your experience, knowledge, skills and other abilities. A hiring manager will likely be more confident in you as a candidate if you show confidence in yourself.
The best way to land an interview is through your network – 75% jobs come through one’s network rather than applying online/through a recruiter with hundreds of other applicants. Spend 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. When you’re ready to find a new job, assess your professional network and see if there are any connections who can help you.
Even though you know you need to get back to work due to the cost of living, you can still have a plan for retirement remembering that your plan is a living document given things can change. If you like structure and having a plan, this might help.
With regard to avoiding negative attitudes about your age – I don’t believe you have to reinvent yourself. You want to be authentic to yourself. Being positive can help – attitude has a lot to do with how people can overcome ageism; and be as independent as you can. The over 60s can get many kinds of jobs. Aside perhaps from some extremely physically demanding occupations, almost any job that can be done by a younger person can be done by someone older. It really just depends on the individual, since everyone ages differently.
Many seniors want to continue working in their professional fields without having to commit to full-time jobs. By selling your skills and sharing your knowledge on a contract basis, you can keep working while enjoying more freedom and flexibility, for example, becoming a consultant. Companies typically hire consultants for help with specific issues or for guidance during transitions. The pay can be great – especially if you have the kind of expertise that businesses are looking for. Additionally, you generally get some flexibility when it comes to determining your hours and working conditions.
To succeed, 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. Try to avoid saying things like “decades of experience” and don’t underestimate yourself or make jokes about your age in an interview.
Finding jobs to apply for
Do your due diligence. When searching for potential jobs, be sceptical of companies that claim to offer work-at-home-jobs for retirees, especially if they sound too good to be true. Sometimes, these job postings are fraudulent, so approach vague ads with caution. You don’t want to be a target for elder fraud.
Network. Using your personal connections is a great way to find the best jobs for seniors. Make sure the people in your life are aware that you’re looking for a job. They may not realise you’re in the market for work.
Creating a CV
Focus on the last 10 to 15 years only. In today’s fast-changing world, jobs or activities from further back in time often aren’t relevant. Plus, 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.
Don’t date your education. Potential employers don’t need to know that you wrote your college term papers on a typewriter instead of a computer. In other words, unless your education was completed in the recent past, you should leave graduation dates off your CV.
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. And make sure your email address is professional. (A Gmail address is often seen as the most current email provider.)
Be aware that the recruiting process has changed. HR managers might search your name on social media, so make sure any accounts you have are professional. Also, remember that it’s possible that an HR manager won’t read your CV at all. (Many companies now use programmes that scan submitted applications for certain keywords). Make sure you include as many of the words that were used in a job posting as possible.
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 resume staple, is not used much anymore; similarly, remove any references to obsolete technology.
Going to Interviews
Rehearse. Before you go to a job interview, mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that the person conducting it could be younger than you, and don’t judge an interviewer by his or her young age. Age discrimination can work both ways. Although potential employers can’t ask about age in an interview, it’s not uncommon to ask an older job candidate how he or she would feel about working for a younger manager. Before you go to an interview, think about how you would answer this question.
Be yourself. For older women and men alike, ageing gracefully and confidently putting your best foot forward make the strongest first impression.
Embrace the possibilities
No matter why you want to work, you can find plenty of options that fit your goals and lifestyle. Good jobs for older people are definitely out there, so don’t be afraid to take the necessary steps to get one. Always remember that seniors like you make valuable contributions every day.
*Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a career coach and Director of 10Eighty, a strengths-based HR consultancy. For more information, please visit www.10Eighty.co.uk.