| job search after 50

According to the Partnership for Public Service, only 7 percent of federal workers are millennials, compared to 23 percent of private sector workers. Nonetheless, many people looking for a second career in the federal government after age 50, are concerned about whether their age will be seen as a hindrance.

By 2022, more than a quarter of employees in the U.S. will be 55 or older. The baby boomer generation is already impacting mid-life and pre-retirement employment with terms like “second act” or “third act” and “encore careers” being used to describe career changes later in your employment, and as you approach — or enter — retirement.

The need or desire to continue working past “traditional” retirement ages is being driven by baby boomers. Boomers are the demographic group born during the post-World War II baby boom (approximately 1946 to 1964). Baby boomers generally are ages 50 to 70 right now. Increasing financial responsibilities — paying their child’s student loans, contributing to offspring weddings that average $26,000, and sparse retirement savings — have led boomers to stay in the workforce longer than their parents. One study by the Insured Retirement Institute finds that 45 percent of baby boomers say they have no retirement savings at all.

If you are a boomer, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • It typically takes longer for someone over 55 to land a job than someone younger, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It takes an average of 37 weeks (9 months) for people ages 55 to 64 versus 25 weeks (6 months) for those 25 to 34.
  • Age discrimination in the workforce — and the hiring process — is against the law. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects individuals 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. You can remove earlier work experience—these days, most resumes only go back ~10 or so years. You can also remove college graduation dates from your resume unless the individual job posting specifically requires the date.
  • Technology is one of the biggest potential obstacles for an older jobseeker. The perception from some hiring managers is that an older jobseeker may not have the technological skills to succeed. This can be addressed by identifying the specific technology skills required for the position and finding a way to improve those skills — whether by taking a class in person, online, or even learning by watching YouTube videos.
  • If you are considering going back to school to improve your skills, investigate your choices wisely to ensure a return on your investment. Make sure the training and/or education you are pursuing is in demand for the kind of job you’re seeking. And weigh the cost versus the return.
  • Skills can set you apart. The value you have to offer a prospective employer is critical to your employment chances. Figure out what sets you apart from other candidates.
  • It’s often about who you know. Compared to younger jobseekers, your personal network of contacts is 3-10 times larger than a 25-year-old! Instead of simply sitting down and applying for positions online, talk to people!
  • Dress for success. Personal grooming can be especially important for older jobseekers. The right haircut and attire can cut 10 years off your appearance. On the other hand, the wrong makeup and apparel can add prematurely age you.
  • Remember what makes you special. Why shouldn’t companies hire someone younger or cheaper? Because baby boomers have earned a reputation for having a stronger work ethic and more knowledge than younger workers. Remember, you’re worth it!

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.