Your Post-50 Job Search: An Argument for Optimism

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11:  Job applicants line up to meet potential employers at a job fair on June 11, 2012 in New York City.
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: Job applicants line up to meet potential employers at a job fair on June 11, 2012 in New York City. Some 400 arrived early for the event held by National Career Fairs, and up to 1,000 people were expected by the end of the day. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The statistics can be frightening for older job applicants: lengthy search times, limited opportunities, and the unspoken but ever-present reality of age discrimination. So give these unfortunate conditions, how could optimism possibly play a role in one's job search? Actually, it does, and this role is a major one. In fact, an optimistic, positive attitude is perhaps the greatest factor that will determine your chances for success.

Anger, resentment and depression -- understandable as these feelings may be -- are a giant turn off to networking contacts and, more importantly, to potential employers. In fact, I can pretty much predict which job seekers will find work and which ones won't, solely based on the attitudes they express. For those who believe they can't and won't find a job simply because of their age -- they're right. This negativity will show and eliminate them from the candidate pool.

Therefore, how can you be realistic about the ups and downs of a job search today, yet maintain a positive outlook as you move forward? Here are four tips that will help you do just that:

#1 Take care of your physical health. A job search takes vigor and stamina, plus you'll need to make a positive impression at every opportunity -- and that takes energy. Older applicants have to work even harder at this. So make certain to exercise regularly, get sufficient sleep, eat nourishing foods and keep to your general routine as much as possible.

#2 Refresh your skill sets. In my latest post, I listed several low-fee and free sites where you can update your technical skills. Many libraries also offer sites such as Universal Class where you can take a number of classes for free by just entering your library card number. Also check out local community colleges, adult education and community centers for low-fee classes in areas that are of interest to you and which will support your career direction.

Then create a list of the skills you bring in each of the three skill areas:
  • Your knowledge-based skills -- those that relate specifically to your line of work, including any training or formal education you've had.
  • Your personal traits and strengths -- the qualities that represent your added value as a unique individual.
  • Your transferable skills -- your broad-based skills (such as organizing and coordinating) that will transfer from one arena to another.

Also write out several examples of how you've used these skills to make a difference: saved time or money, increased profits, turned around a disgruntled client, etc. And remember that mature applicants generally bring greater proficiency in such skill areas as people management, problem solving, leadership and decision-making skills.

Such examples require thought and effort because you'll be drawing on these statements throughout your resume, while networking, and during your job interviews. Therefore you'll want to constantly refine and add to your list of accomplishments. And better yet, you'll find that focusing on the skills you've mastered and the contributions you've made will prove an ego-boosting activity that will help you maintain a positive outlook.

#3 Realize there's help out there. Baby boomers, by virtue of our numbers alone, have always enjoyed certain perks. Now there are a number of resources springing up that cater to us and our job search. Here are several to get you started:

#4 Make good use of your network. Bar none, the fastest route to your next job is through people you know. This is especially true when the market is tight and, to an even greater extent, for older job-seekers.

Because openings are scarce, today's employers have the luxury of vetting perspective candidates and finding out as much as they can. Resumes can only take you so far, but a nod in your favor from a valued employee or a trusted peer will go a long way to securing you an interview. And, as an added bonus of networking, there's no better boost to your spirits than a connecting with an old friend or a former coworker who thinks highly of you.

So do whatever you can to keep your attitude positive. Remember: what you focus on expands! Although it's helpful to anticipate pitfalls so that you can address and overcome expected challenges, if you're focusing on barriers and roadblocks, you're guaranteed to find them ... over and over again. On the other hand, if you concentrate on your end goal, believe in your skills and the contributions you can make to an organization, and have the confidence to surmount the obstacles you'll likely encounter, you'll be well on your way to success.

As Arianna Huffington says about fearlessness: It's like a muscle--the more you exercise it the stronger it will get. The same is true with your attitude. Skills can be taught. But a strong work ethic, accountability, industry knowledge, significant experience, well-honed decision-making skills, and a winning attitude come with being a mature candidate with an optimistic outlook. And, for many employers, that's exactly the type of person they're looking to hire!

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. Recently updated, it's packed with even more information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools 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!