You're never too old to shake up your career
Finding a new job isn't just a young person's game.
Increasingly, older workers are deciding to look for greener pastures rather than stay stuck in a stagnating career.
More people are also choosing to work longer – up to and beyond the traditional retirement age of 65 – because they're living longer, healthier lives and some have had to delay retirement due to shrunken investment portfolios.
Metro Vancouver-area career coach Bruce Sandy says it's a common misperception that a late-life job change is too difficult.
While no career change is easy, he says there are plenty of reasons to be open to the possibility at any age.
"Often people's second or third careers are more satisfying for them than their earlier careers," said Sandy, who runs Port Moody-based Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting and brucesandy.com.
People in their late 40s, 50s and beyond often become much more clear-headed about what they want in a job and what they're passionate about.
One path many follow – if they're entrepreneurial – is to start their own business.
Others find they can use the experience and skill set gained earlier as consultants, often working less than full time and more flexible hours.
Sandy said that's particularly viable for people with some management or professional experience.
Older workers heading back onto the job market should target companies or fields they want to work in and do advance research, use contacts and even consider conducting informal interviews to gain an edge and decide whether a position is a good fit.
Do what you can to ensure your skills are up-to-date and you're current on industry issues and challenges.
That said, ageism is a reality for older workers, Sandy said.
People over 45 may not get called for an interview or called back after having one.
Younger bosses may make assumptions about their skill set, comfort with technology or drive to work hard.
Demonstrating you're adept in the required technologies and emphasizing your experience in the industry (if applicable) are good ways to counter prejudice, Sandy said.
"It's about changing the mindset," he said,
"Older workers have seen a lot in their careers. They're often more emotionally intelligent and wiser in dealing with interpersonal situations."
He's also a proponent of social media as another way to both network with career contacts and demonstrate an ability to quickly learn new skills.
"That's where using things like LinkedIn, even Twitter and Facebook comes in," he said, adding appropriate use of such sites can enhance an older job seeker's credibility.
Sandy recommends taking courses or leaning on friends and family to get a good handle on professional use of social media.
The job outlook for mature workers is not bleak at all, Sandy argues.
Huge numbers of baby boomers are beginning to retire or cut down their working hours, creating major opportunities in the workforce.
"There's going to be a shortage of experienced workers," he said.
"People are going to be able to pick and choose how they're going to work."
Sandy's seen situations where older workers downsized out of their jobs in recession-wracked industries have quickly bounced back.
Some have hung out their own shingle to consult and may even end up working for their old employer – sometimes at higher consulting rates than what they were paid when they were staff.
Others opt to consult or work again part-time after retiring voluntarily.
Another key piece of advice: realize what skills and talents you have and look strategically and how they could be applied for a different employer.
Sandy said a positive attitude is key, particularly in dealing with employers who may think older workers are slow, grumpy or cynical.
"Present yourself as a wise, experienced relationship-builder," he advises. "Someone who is engaging and really willing to continue being vital in the workplace."
Three key themes for an interview
According to Forbes, there are only three things an employer really needs to know about you:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can they tolerate working with you?
The three also boil down to your strengths, motivation and fit for the job.