Dana Manciagli

Question:  I'm in my early 50s and just got laid off. I haven't had to look for a new job in 20 years. I hear stories about how hard it is for "older" Americans to find work. Are the stories true? Are people older than 50 discriminated against? How do I mitigate the age question? Of course, I look at it differently. I think my maturity and experience should be welcome at most companies. But I'm not sure if employers look at it that way.

Advice: Do you want the good news first or the bad news? Ok, let's deal with the bad news first.

Bad news: Your generation is feeling the same pain as any other sub-segment of our population. Women feel they are not getting the jobs. Minorities, millennials, mid-career-changers, military veterans and others feel that they, too, are at a disadvantage. I've even heard 35-year-old white men concerned that hiring managers prefer diversity!

For you baby boomers (me, included!), it is true that many recruiters, screeners and hiring managers are our children's ages.

Good news: There are jobs out there, and hiring companies ARE hiring baby boomers along with other types of candidates. It is important that you select the right positions to apply to and present yourself as “current.” Here's where to start first:

  • Have a great LinkedIn profile with a current, professional photo, and be active in LinkedIn groups and discussion boards. Learn how by taking the tutorials and seeking extra – free! – help on the Internet. If you are not there, you don't exist. And someone looking for job candidates with your background may just find you!
  • Study the latest keywords used in your industry and function. Examine dozens of job descriptions, and see what language they use. Incorporate the latest words in your updated résumé and cover letter.
  • Rewrite your résumé. Odds are it is old and tired, and you simply added your latest job to the list. Let me guess. It's filled with acronyms, weak on metrics, reads more like a list of job duties rather than identifying skills and experiences you have, and it doesn't tell a story. There is so much help for you, again, on the Internet.
  • Write a great cover letter. I recommend a fresh, new “Candidate Packet” to stand out in a crowded field. At the very minimum, you need a new cover letter that talks to them about them. The days are gone when your cover letter is filled with “I, I, I, me, me, me.”
  • Network. Yes, face-to-face. Go to industry and function events in your city. Examples include American Marketing Association if you are in marketing, or the local technology association if that is your industry. Search your local Business Journal for a list of business events.
  • Get fit. Get in shape, buy a new interview outfit, carry a pad of paper to all meetings, come prepared, sit up straight, and more. Sorry, the mom in me just slipped out! The interview team is watching how you would interact with team members, customers, partners and executives if they hired you. Every move you make is an example of YOU as an employee.