Older workers need new tricks to find jobs

Posted April 6, 2010 6:28 p.m. EDT
Updated April 6, 2010 6:39 p.m. EDT

— Twice as many people age 45 and older are unemployed today than two years ago, and the demographic now accounts for one-third of all unemployed workers nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Many of these people haven't been in the job market for decades, so experts offered some advice on how they can maintain a competitive edge in the new economy.

Teri Schultz of Cape Fear Staffing said middle-age and older workers offer plenty of positives for employers, especially experience.

"(They are) someone that has the experience, that doesn't have child care issues, and they're not looking for a bigger and better thing – the next best thing, so to speak," Schultz said.

Still, these workers could be competing against someone younger who is more eager to learn how a particular company does business. Schultz said experienced workers should emphasize that they have proven skills and the background needed to succeed

"They have seen a larger picture than someone just coming out of a four-year college," she said.

She suggested that middle-age workers describe themselves in interviews as "high-energy" and "flexible" and note their technology skills.

"Everyone needs to learn computer skills of some type now," she said, adding that exposure to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter also could prove helpful.

"(Years ago,) it was yes or no. It was, 'What are you looking for in a job?' Now, it's, 'Why are you looking for that job?'" Schultz said.

Alan Maggio, an accountant who is over 45, has been looking for a full-time job for more than a month. He noted at least one major change since the last time he was in the market: Fifteen years ago, he had no need for a cell phone.

"(Now,) if you don't have a cell phone, you are taking yourself out of the loop and losing communication with potential employers," Maggio said.

Schultz said job-seekers also should become proficient at applying for jobs directly on company Web sites, which were the second-biggest source of external hires in 2009, behind only referrals by current employees.