Seven Job Search Tips for the Mature Worker

This blog, in a slightly different format, was originally posted on

Of all the groups affected by the weak job market, perhaps none has experienced more difficulty than the Mature Worker, those age 50 or older. In many cases, Mature Workers have had long work histories with a single company, and find themselves conducting a job search for the first time in years. Many, after months of unsuccessfully submitting hundreds of applications, have given up, forced into early retirement because they cannot find employment.

This has lead to the belief of rampant age discrimination, that employers illegally overlook older job seekers.

I contend, however, the problem is not that Mature Workers are older, but that they ACT older, by conducting a job search in a way that, true or false, suggests they are out of touch with the needs of employers and their customers.

In short, many Mature Workers are conducting a 2015 job search with 2010 or earlier job search strategies, and it is not working.

Here are tips for job seekers of any age to update your job search:

CC image courtesy Matthew Kenwrick from Flickr

CC image courtesy Matthew Kenwrick from Flickr

1. Seek help

Job search strategies that worked before do not work today. Seek out advice with your County or City Workforce Connection. Use the career services at your university or local community college. Visit a non-profit career center, or consider consulting with a career coach. We are all here to help.

2. Create a new resume

Age-proof your resume by deleting the Objective Statement and the phrase, “References available upon request.” Include a highly focused Summary of Qualifications. Go back only about 10 years in your work history, and emphasize achievements.

3. Consider additional training

Perhaps you spent years in the same position with the same company. Or, your occupation is dying (good-bye, typewriter repair industry). Or, your computer skills are weak. Consider short-term vocational training. In some cases, with as little as a few hours, you can earn a certification that will make you more competitive in a new occupation. Check with your local Workforce Center.

4. Be found online

Google your name. What do you find? The only thing worse than a negative online presence is having no presence at all, which suggests to employers that you are out of touch with today’s market. Get on LinkedIn, and make sure your account is current. Start a blog. Leave comments (preferably relevant to your industry, positive, and constructive!).

5. Get offline

For every position posted on a job board, employers receive, on average, 250 applications. The chance of getting hired based on an application is less than 0.5%. Basically, you are playing the lottery. To be sure, you need to apply for positions online, and job boards can help identify opportunities, but to have the best chance of job search success, you should do most of your searching offline.

6. Meet more people

Hiring decision makers prefer to make decisions based on the recommendations and referrals of people they already know. Your strategy, then, is to know someone who can make a recommendation or referral for you. Make sure everyone you know, knows what you are looking for. And then, go meet more people. Go to job fairs and hiring events. Attend trade associations and conferences. Chat up the person ahead or behind you in line for coffee. The cliché is true: you never know where your next opportunity will turn up.

7. Don’t give up

Job search is discouraging, demoralizing, demeaning. You will have bad days, and you will face a lot of rejection. But you only need one Yes. If what you are doing isn’t working, then try something new. Keep at it, and one day, maybe not when or where or how you expected, you will find success.


Does ageism exist among employers?

There is a belief among many mature workers that there is a conspiracy, or at least a preference, to hire and retain a younger workforce; of letting mature workers go to lower insurance and payroll costs; that job seekers are passed over for being “over-qualified.”

Of course, since age discrimination is illegal, no employer will say they are discriminating based on age. But is it truly the case that two-thirds of workers age 45+ have experienced age discrimination?

Or do these workers perceive discrimination when the true cause might be something else?

Many mature job seekers are feeling very real pain, and many can give specific examples about how they have been mistreated, overlooked, or ignored.

However – and I know this is controversial – I believe that ageism might exist, just not to the extent that many job seekers believe.

Many mature job seekers that I work with are slow to recognize that the world of work is vastly different now than it was even five years ago. Today, companies:

  • Are leaning on staff to do more work with a smaller workforce;
  • Are requiring employees to adopt new work styles and new technology;
  • Have an increasingly greater emphasis on current profitability over long-term growth.

All of these factors work against job seekers, mature or younger, who are slower to adapt.

At least weekly, I hear, “All I had to do was show up and shake an employer’s hand and I would be working that day.” I experienced this, too, once upon a time. It is okay to complain to me and to wish things were different, but at some point, you have to recognize that this is not how companies hire today.

Job searching is much more difficult now than ever before, the workforce is much more competitive, and job seekers often are forced to change careers or accept a lower-paying position than they used to.

But, it is not impossible.

I point to myself as a case study. I surprisingly find myself in the age group of “mature workers” (though, I hasten to add, on the younger end). I am blessed with good health, I feel younger than my age, and I make an effort to keep up with current trends. And, I have been offered three positions since 2009, because I used my experience to reinvent myself to what is marketable today. I did not rely on the outdated notion of “a handshake gets you hired,” or on the false belief that sending hundreds of copies of my resume will be successful. Today I am exactly where I want to be, despite not being able to name a single Justin Bieber song.

I know who he is, I just don't know any of his songs.

I know who he is, I just don’t know any of his songs.

I feel for the job seeker, mature or younger, who is having difficulty finding employment. Based on my experiences, though, I know there is a better way.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Agree? Disagree? I am interested in your thoughts and opinions! Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter and let me know, or leave a comment below.