By Ron Mori
Are you over 50 and starting off the new year looking for a job? You’re not alone. Workers age 50 and over now represent a third of America’s workforce. Some can afford to retire, and many continue to enjoy working. But many others must work to pay the bills and provide for their families. And, in this time of fewer pensions, others feel they need to put more away for what they anticipate will be a longer life.
Looking for a job when you’re over 50 years old can be scary. First, you face a host of age-old myths and stereotypes that have influenced how 50-plus folks are portrayed in the media and in many other areas of our popular culture — and still influence the attitudes of many employers.
One of the most common and most destructive of these myths is that people over 50 are at the threshold of increasing illness and frailty. Yet, the reality of aging today is very different. Most of today’s 50-plus Americans are not frail and sick. Only about five out of every 100 live in nursing homes. Even among those in their advanced years, age 75-84, three out of every four report no disability at all.
Perhaps the worst of the myths about older workers is the one that suggests you are unproductive and unwilling or unable to learn new technologies. That’s nonsense! Study after study emphatically shows otherwise. You can — and do — learn new skills, develop new abilities and successfully train for new professions.
In 2015, an extensive, independent study was commissioned by AARP — “A Business Case for Workers Age 50+.” It found that today’s 50 and over workforce is, in fact, adding value for employers. You offer traits that are highly sought after such as experience, maturity and professionalism, a strong work ethic, loyalty, reliability, understanding and the ability to serve as mentors. The study also found that age is no longer a significant difference in the costs of hiring and retaining younger and older workers.
And figuring out what steps to take to begin your search is so different in 2017. Much has changed in a relatively short time. Before the Internet, the best option to find a job was through printed classified ads. The Internet has caused an often confusing explosion of information for job seekers. Interviews have moved from face-to-face meetings to webcams and mobile devices. Applications, references, work samples and cover letters — all are now linked and shipped via the Internet, only rarely by paper and postage stamps.
Have no fear. AARP can help you navigate through it all to create a job search plan that will help you to hit the ground running and give you a good shot at finding that new job this year.
A good place to start is with AARP’s new work site (www.aarp.org/work). It offers sections, for example, on “How to Say Competitive,” “Write the Perfect Cover Letter,” “How Job Hunting Has Changed,” “How to Job Search When You’re Discouraged,” “How Social Networks Impact Your Job Search” and much more.
And AARP Foundation’s website (www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/back-to-work-50-plus/smart-strategies-for-50-plus-jobseekers/) offers combined advice from job search experts, employers and successful 50+ jobseekers in its guide “7 Smart Strategies for 50+ Jobseekers,” which is filled with valuable information about the job search process. Good luck!
Ron Mori is co-president of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.