Post 50 Job-Seeker: The Ultimate Skills Merchant

Panel of executives reading the resume of an applicant during her interview
Panel of executives reading the resume of an applicant during her interview

It goes without saying that the post 50 job-seeker has plenty of experience. Nevertheless, although you're an applicant of maturity, you won't want to market your experience level as the cornerstone of your job search. Employers have issues that need to be dealt with, projects to complete, and problems that have to be resolved now. Rather than experience, they are seeking a premier problem-solver -- someone with the skills to do the job.

And there's no question that you've got the skills! So think of yourself a "skills merchant." In fact, consider yourself the ultimate skills-merchant and market the unique abilities you've accumulated over the years. Give your search a boost; instead of feeling vulnerable because of your age, take pride in your well-honed skill sets and sell them!

Here are three surefire ways to highlight all that you have to offer a potential employer:

Make yourself saleable. In order to market yourself effectively, you'll want to first determine the skill areas critical to your particular career path and field. You can do this by studying the postings for your line of work and identifying the skills that appear on a consistent basis. Also note the order in which these skills appear in the ads. This will give you an idea of the emphasis employers are placing on the attributes they're looking to find.

You can also turn to websites that list skills by various job-related categories and select to highlight those that align with your particular career goals. (Here's one to get you started.) Another extremely helpful tool is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This is a free service that ranks keywords by the number of global monthly searches they elicit. All you'll need to do is enter your career category and you'll find plenty of hot-button skills that relate directly to your line of work.

Be certain to represent your skills in each of the three skill categories. There are three basic types of skills. In today's competitive job market, you'll want to make certain you include each of them so that you're presenting a 360 degree representation of your abilities.

  • Your education and/or specialized knowledge: Consider the types of training and formal education you've had for your work. How do your specific technical skills match the position description and how will they benefit the organization?
  • Your personal traits and strengths: What makes you unique as an individual? What is your work style? How do you interact with fellow employees? What added value will you bring to the position/company through your individual talents and strengths?
  • Your transferable skills: How can the broad-based skills you've acquired in previous jobs transfer to achieving in a new position? Are you good at organizing and coordinating? Do you prioritize well? Can you negotiate effectively? Can you communicate well on paper?

Remember to highlight the skills where age has a decided advantage. It's obvious that certain skills grow stronger as we grow older, so make certain you pay special attention to those areas where you will shine due to your age and experience.

  • Critical thinking/problem solving skills: By virtue of the fact that you have extensive market knowledge combined with years of experience in your field, you've resolved a number of problems (often critically important ones) in the past. This provides you with a demonstrated ability to utilize your critical thinking skills, prioritize effectively and employ the necessary resources to produce a positive result. As a way to underscore these strengths in both your written and verbal messages, you'll want to gather several examples of the challenges you've faced, the steps you took, and how you used your critical thinking skills to successfully resolve the situation.
  • Well-honed people skills: Although you won't necessarily want to load your resume up with examples of your people skills (soft skills), you'll want to emphasize these during your personal interactions--both networking and during a job interview. Your soft skills represent your added value as a unique individual and are an important way to distinguish yourself from the competition. Moreover, almost as important as having the hard skills to do the job, employers want to hire applicants who will be pleasant to work with combined with a strong desire to be there. If they like you enough, they can teach you the hard skills for the job. But they can't imbue you with an ability to come up with innovative ideas that will work on a practical level, an ease in building rapport with a range of personality types, or a mature work ethic. Age and attitude alone build these types of skills.
  • The desire and ability to mentor: Many people experience a values-shift in midlife. They no longer choose to climb the corporate ladder as aggressively as before and wish instead to share their expertise and mentor younger workers. If this is true for you, make this aware to potential employers. Not only do you possess a mature work ethic, you also have the knowledge and ability to mentor the up-and-comers and teach them valuable techniques and tools that translate to ongoing success for the organization.

Therefore, as the ultimate skills-merchant, come from a position of strength. Remember that age has gifted you with a range of abilities younger applicants lack. So gather several examples of how you've used your skills to make a difference to previous employers and make your added value known to as many people as possible.

With confidence, connections and a little luck, you just might find yourself reemployed before you know it!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in February 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of and celebrate your sassy side!

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