Career Advice for Mature Job Seekers

Background review

Almost a decade ago, in 2008, the stock market took a rather significant dive.  It can all be traced back to the banks creating new money via loans to people buying housing.  The new buying stimulated growth in the housing market and more and more people climbed on board in hopes of profiting on the rising prices.

Office building close up

The banks invested 83 percent of this new money in both the financial and the housing/commercial real estate sectors; those same portions of the market inevitably crashed shortly thereafter.  Only 16 percent of all that money was invested outside the financial sector, including credit cards and personal loans.  It was an incredible amount of weight to place on a narrow portion of the economy.

Housing prices skyrocketed and eventually the housing price bubble burst as loan repayments exceeded income.  Many people began to default on loans.  The banks were in danger of going broke—facing the eponymous bankruptcy—and so gathered in their financial skirts to try to ride it out, primarily by refusing to lend money.

Yet, not everyone defaulted on their loans; a great deal of hardworking people remained house-poor and survived by grit, determination (and a lot of macaroni and cheese dinners), eventually paying off their debts.  However, just as money (credit) can be created, as the loans are repaid that same money is destroyed.

Since the banks were making very few loans, more money was being destroyed by repayments than was being generated by new lending.  The value of the entire economy plummeted.

After the crash

Naturally, the highest paid workers, mostly middle managers around age 50, were the first to be let go as companies tried to weather the financial storm.  Employment for those over age 50 traditionally stood at around 31 percent either working or seeking work, but suffered significant pullback in the number of those working, and an increase in the number of those seeking, during this period.

Nowadays, because of increased need and activity, employment can be found pretty consistently hovering around a very encouraging 40 percent. Since the recovery has been fairly well underway over the last three years, that employment rate has risen significantly above traditional levels, and may be headed even higher.

Why the sudden interest?

In brief, as we’ve discussed previously in this space, the Baby Boomers are retiring.  They are quite literally taking millions of years’ worth of experience out of the talent pool.  While there are new graduates coming out of the colleges and universities, they only comprise about 33 percent of the actual number of people who are going to retire.

Aiming to fill that gap, employers are now seeking out the experienced and skilled workers over 50 years of age.  They know that older workers are reliable, flexible, and they “know the ropes.”  Almost everything about hiring an older worker is of benefit to an employer.

They often don’t need as much training, and, in fact, can even provide mentorship for younger workers.  One smart elder can help out half a dozen younger workers, providing them with tips and helping them develop insights far beyond their years.  That makes them much more effective employees, something you can’t buy at any price, except through this transfer of practical experience.

Portrait of senior boss and his employee talking at meeting

Getting back in the running

Lots of companies are offering programs to reintroduce retired workers to the work force.  Goldman Sachs offers a 10 week program which they call a “returnship” (wordplay on internship) which offers decent pay for that time and can get you back into the swing of things.  Don’t expect a permanent job with them however, as 98 percent of participants go on to other things.

A search engine inquiry will provide the names of several companies offering similar programs, but don’t stop there.  You’ll find a number of “job clubs” where other people your age network to provide counseling, advice, support, and make their peers aware of employment opportunities.

Your age makes you invaluable

Those over the age of 50 control approximately 77 percent of the Financial Resources for the whole country, and there are even major organizations that are actually courting people from this age group, specifically.

Completely aside from their experience, adaptability, and cleverness, it tells all the 50+ people that those companies appreciate their demographic and are willing to serve them.  Add the fact that maturity is typically followed by the highly desirable ability to relate to others, well-developed customer service skills, an understanding of respectful courtesy, plus a very low churn-rate which reduces training costs.

Tips for getting hired

  • Irrespective of age, the number one way to get hired is to know someone within a company of interest.  You probably have contacts in your field who can tell you when a role is available at their organization, and a personal recommendation will help mitigate any age-bias they may have.
  • In your cover letter explain why this is the perfect job for you.  It’s not a steppingstone to something better; it’s precisely what you want to do for several years to come.  One of the most attractive qualities about older workers is that they do not job-hop, and it won’t be necessary to fill this position again in a few months.
  • You’ll need to present a résumé, but be clever and only cite relevant experience from the past 10 years or so.  Make sure to highlight your skills working with technology, because the single biggest fear youngsters have about their older counterparts is that someone will have to explain to them what an e-mail is (anecdotally speaking, of course).
  • Steer clear of any mention of age because it can make younger hiring managers or supervisors feel insecure or nervous about managing someone with decades more experience than they have. Instead, let them know that you’re extremely comfortable with the position you are applying for and that you fully expect to benefit from their expertise and direction.

Careers Advice Switch On Shows Employment Guidance And Decisions

The Takeaway

As a mature job seeker, do not sell yourself short.  Enter with quiet confidence because you don’t need to prove you’re better than someone else.  Rehearse the interview before you go if that will raise your confidence level.  Always take a three-count before you answer a question.  It’s a very small time commitment, but it will help you collect your composure (while making you appear thoughtful and wise), and that’s precisely what employers are hoping to find.

Your experience and knowledge may be intimidating to a younger interviewer, but don’t underplay your expertise either.  They’re looking at you because you’re knowledgeable.  You represent a training shortcut for them; your generation is known for being reliable, so you’re going to show up for work every day. Your experience will hold their existing workers to a higher standard, and ultimately, no matter what they pay you, you’re going to save them money.

You can do this!

Related:  Relaunching Your Career Over 50

Further reading: What to Avoid When Job Hunting Over 50


Fred Coon, CEO

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.