National Employ Older Workers Week, September 21 – 25, 2020, recognizes the vital role of older workers in the workforce. It’s also an opportunity to focus on the challenges facing people over 50 who are looking for work during an unprecedented pandemic.

Ageism in hiring, unfortunately, is alive and well. According to AARP more than 60% of workers over age 45 have seen or experienced age discrimination at the workplace. For those over 50 who are looking for employment during the pandemic it’s more important than ever to conduct a strategic job search.

With the urgency and competition for work increasing as the pandemic endures, job seekers of all ages are adjusting their expectations. ZipRecruiter’s August survey of job seekers reveals the following:

  • 96% are open to taking a position they have the skills for but doesn’t exactly match their most recent job title
  • 49% are more open to contract or part-time work than they were before COVID-19
  • 60% are more likely to take a position outside of their industry/area of expertise than before COVID-19

Success for job seekers over 50 depends on their flexibility, transferrable skills, persistence, and patience. In fact, Kerry Hannon, a leading authority and strategist on career transitions and author of “Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working from Home, suggests when the economy starts recovering, older workers might have an advantage because they will require little or no training and can hit the ground running.

To improve your job search outcomes build a strategic job search that includes these 5 tips for success:

1. Don’t Obsess Over COVID

Dispel the employer’s concerns that older workers will be more difficult to manage during the pandemic. Don’t focus on the virus unless it is in response to a question presented by the recruiter. Wait for an offer before you discuss special accommodations for yourself or as a caregiver for others.

2. Power Up Your Network

‘Networking’ is just one letter away from ‘not working’. According to an AARP survey of job seekers during the “Great Recession”, 68% said reaching out to their network of contacts (colleagues, former employers, vendors, friends, family) was very or somewhat effective in finding a job.

3. Be Video Proficient

Become comfortable with all the video tools being used by hiring managers today such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or WebEx. Many companies are also using Virtual Job Fairs to connect with candidates. Remember virtual interviews are not meant to be more casual then in-person interviews. Make sure you arrange a professional background, appearance and approach when facing the camera. 

4. Close Your Skills Gap

Now’s the time to boost your skillset. Digital technology savviness and computer literacy will be expected.  Tap into free workshops offered at your government funded local career center. Check out affordable online Microsoft Office tutorials offered by LinkedIn (first month is free) and Google Docs tutorials offered by Udemy to name just a few. 

5. Get and Stay Busy

Recruiters will want to know what you’ve been up to during the pandemic. Volunteer with an organization you care about to hone your skills.  Participate in virtual conferences and webinars offered through chambers of commerce and professional associations to keep up with industry trends.  Join relevant social media groups on LinkedIn to contribute your expertise and build your network.

One positive outcome of the COVID-19 job market for mature workers is the growth of work from home opportunities. Be sure to check out the growing number of job boards for remote opportunities including Work at Home Vintage Employers (WAHVE) and WeWorkRemotely

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