Age discrimination in the jobs market has been on the rise and many mid-lifers are struggling to gain traction in their search for work, often noting that they are competing against much younger applicants for the same spot. We spoke to experts about how job applicants can turn this around and actually use their age and experience to benefit them in their job quest.
1) You have a Rolodex; don't be afraid to use it.
You know people. You've worked for decades in the same field and you know the players; heck, you've probably sat next to them at endless meetings, broken bread with them at rubber chicken dinner events, gone to the same conferences, conventions and industry parties. Start calling them, advises Robert Dilenschneider of The Dilenschneider Group and author of book "The Critical 2nd Phase of Your Professional Life."
"Over the years, you have met many people. It’s a fair bet that some of them are in a position to help you," Dilenschneider said. "Do not be afraid or embarrassed to approach them. In this economy, many talented people in their 50s and 60s are looking for work. Those fortunate enough to have solid jobs will be likely to be willing to help." Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice; tap them for a reference or even ask them outright for a job, he said.
Younger people don't know as many people in their field as experienced workers do, so why not work this to your advantage?
2) Consider consultancy.
Many mid-lifers in the marketplace are experiencing a quiet desperation. They are competing for jobs against younger people with less experience and who will accept lower salaries. Some mid-lifers are tempted to dumb down their own resumes and dance the Limbo on the salary front: You know, how low can you go?
Try a different tactic: Offer your services as a consultant. A recent college grad may have an internship under his belt, but you were the guy who boosted your company's market share by 37 percent. Bring that little tidbit to the table and offer yourself to the company you want to work for as a paid contractor/consultant -- a cheaper way for the firm to get someone who knows what they are doing. Once you have a foot in the door, you can prove what an asset you are -- and hopefully leverage that consultancy gig into a full-time staff job. Besides, you might actually find out that you like being a self-employed contractor.
You won't be the first mid-lifer to do this: We are now living in a gig economy where people are piecing together various part-time and freelance jobs out of necessity. The membership in New York City alone for the Freelancers Union -- writers, website developers, lawyers, consultants and accountants -- jumped to 146,477 last year from 76,760 in 2008, reports the New York Times.
Be forewarned though: Going the consultancy route won't provide health insurance or vacation benefits.
3) Use the telephone.
Contrary to popular dorm wisdom, the world does not communicate by text alone. "Actually pick the phone up and talk to people instead of just relying on emails, text and social media," said Deborah Gallant, a business coach who specializes in helping mid-life clients establish themselves in encore careers. "We know how to hold a conversation," she says. Phones are how mid-lifers talk to other mid-lifers, she said. Not dissing emoticons here, but your ability to show personality -- who you are and how you handle yourself -- is greater on the phone than communicating by text or email.
4) Don't devalue yourself.
If you don't think you're valuable, no one else will either. You have skills and talents. Volunteers do things for free. You are seeking employment, not volunteer opportunities. Younger people grab unpaid internships for one reason: They want their resumes to show experience -- something you already have in spades. If you are going to work for free, at very least, barter for services in exchange. Once you give it away, you lose the credibility to charge for it.
5) Use your institutional knowledge of your generation.
No, we don't mean that you are a walking Encyclopedia Britannica. But you do know what things your industry has tried and what failed. As a representative of your generation, you do bring a perspective that someone younger lacks. You also know what concerns, interests and habits that people of your generation share. Every successful business needs to have diversity -- and these days that means age diversity as well as racial and ethnic diversity. Underscore how you are current on what's new in your work field and unlike those younger, you also know what came before it.