The difficulties they face and how to overcome them
Women over 50 face two major difficulties when looking for a job: ageism and sexism. Both equally difficult to overcome for anyone separately, for women over 50 they turn into a double conundrum that can be daunting and stressing. The issue is very real: half of American women aged 50+ face long term unemployment. This problem gets more chronic when they have gone through employment gaps, which a large number of women have, and then with technology advances, women handle a higher chance of job disruption than men due to automation.
However there are some important changes in terms of skills, mind-frame, approach and attitude that can help you get the job you need, or at least take a big step forward to it. With some work and dedication you can make this happen.
What should women over 50 do in terms of skills?
So, how to start? We recommend you begin your journey by doing a self-evaluation. We understand that the challenge of assessing and improving your own skills can be daunting, but it can be started through excellent online free resources like this skill matcher, a tool where you will rate your skills and match you with an occupation. It will help you realize if your skills are aligned with the job you are looking for.
But how can you know if you are lagging in skills, especially in technology? Public libraries offer a variety of computer courses that you can follow to update your skills. You can find your closest local library here.
Another approach, if you are aged 55 or older, is to contact your local Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) organization to see if you are eligible to work with one of our counselors. Our counselors will assess your goals, your career path and how your skills transfer to those goals to design a training plan and help you achieve your goals. If you don’t qualify for SCSEP, American Job Centers, can help you assess your skills, abilities and needs; job search and job placement assistance; and information on training and education.
Don’t be afraid of the results from self-assessments. You can’t improve something if you don’t know you are missing it, and the process will be a great opportunity for personal and professional growth where you will have the guidance and assistance you need to step up in your game.
After acquiring your new skills, it is important to keep them in use: practice them whenever possible (staying active on social media can be a way to convince your prospective employer that you are up-to-date with technology and that you can stay current), put them to work volunteering at a local organization and/or ask your relatives to help you improve your skills. That way, you will not lose your skills and you will not have to relearn them.
Whenever you go through a hiring process that does not lead to a job offer, many experts recommend to simply ask the manager what skills you were missing that didn’t allow you to get the job. No one likes rejection or facing it, but to be frank you are already out there and you are not trying to change their mind, so why not make the best out of the situation and turn it into a learning experience? From then on it’s just following up and catching up. Here you can find some dos and don’ts if you decide to ask the hiring manager for feedback.
Some people advise getting a paid certification, but most of them can be expensive. We advise you to steer away from them unless it is a requirement of a job you really want.
Change your target and find companies that value older workers
Some women over 50 focus on benefits, pay and famous companies when searching for an opportunity. However we recommend focusing the search on companies that are well-known for hiring seniors and people over 50, as you will have undoubtedly a higher chance of getting hired than in other companies. Those companies appreciate the loyalty and experience that seniors bring to their companies and some of them cater specifically to an older audience. Here is a very valuable list of companies that are well-known for hiring seniors and by extension, women over 50.
Smaller companies can be a great alternative as well, as they usually have a smaller array of candidates to cover those positions. Think about the type and size of company that would allow you to do your best work and through research, identify those employers to target.
Work on your resume
The expectations and rules of resumes have changed over time. The technology that employers use to evaluate resumes has also changed. Our Chief Operating Officer, Donna Satterthwaite, wrote a blog post specifically on how Applicant Tracking Systems work.
If you work with your local American Job Center or a SCSEP organization, they will help you build a powerful resume showcasing your current capabilities and potential. If you don’t, what we definitely need to avoid on a resume is a career obituary, a collection of old past experiences unrelated to the job, which shows how you are stuck in the past and unable to take on the challenge of this new job opportunity.
In order to avoid a career obituary, experts recommend to focus on the past 15 years (focus on stories that are relevant and present), build a story relevant to the employer that captures what you can do for them based on what you did before, and to reclaim any employment gaps (what you did in those years is important too, if it adds to the overall story).
If you want to improve your resume beyond those tips, we recommend you this great article that summarizes how to get your resume right if you are 50+ years old.
How to face your search
After that you will have most of the tools needed to get good results in your job search, but you will also require some mental fortitude. Resilience, optimism, and the willingness to improve and grow will be vital in your pursuit. Good luck!