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Questions and Answers for Older Workers After a Job Loss

As an older, experienced worker, you may have unique concerns about navigating the job market.

I'm worried that potential employers will think I'm overqualified. Should I "dumb down" my resume — exclude certain experiences or achievements — so employers give me a second look?

You shouldn't portray yourself as less qualified than you are. The key is to show prospective employers how your extra experience can be valuable to them. You may have unique perspectives or insights that a less experienced person does not. Read job ads carefully, and research employers thoroughly. Tailor your resume appropriately, and get ready to explain how your background is an asset rather than a liability.

As an older job hunter, how should I organize my resume?

Older workers may want to consider using a functional resume. This will highlight your specialized skills and experiences rather than detail past experience by date like a chronological resume. Make sure your resume highlights the skills and experiences that are relevant to your current career objectives. Omit the irrelevant details. You do not need to list every job you've ever had.

Can I compete in today's labor market if I don't have good computer skills?

It's true that most office jobs do require computer skills. However, there are still many jobs where you need only basic computer skills. You can use the tools and technology report to find occupations that don't require you to use a computer. You may also want to consider taking a computer class or getting short-term training. Introductory computer classes are often offered through public libraries, school districts, and community centers. Community technology centers have been organized in some Minnesota communities. These provide computer training and access for the public.

If your computer skills aren't up to date, make sure your resume doesn't advertise this. If you do include computer experience, use current terms to describe your skills.

If you are weak in one area, highlight your strengths in another. Older workers are often perceived to have excellent soft skills such as customer service and communication skills. These are extremely important at any job. If you have strengths in this area, make sure to highlight it on your resume or job application.

I'm not web savvy. Do I have to use the Internet to find a job?

If you are serious about finding a job, you should use all your options. Employers often post job openings on the web. If you ignore online job banks or social networking sites, you may miss out on possible jobs. If you are not sure how to use these, visit a Minnesota Work Force Center to get one-on-one help.

I've been laid off after many years in one field. Where do I start?

A good way to begin any job search is to take a step back to assess your skills. You can do this by using the ISEEK Skills Assessment. Write about three to five work experiences you've had that you enjoyed or were good at. Next, try to identify the similarities across all those experiences. This can be a good way to identify three or four of your best skills. Once you've done that, take the Skills Profiler to rate your skills and view occupations that are a good match for you. Or check out O*NET's free assessment tools.

How do I deal with age discrimination on the job market?

Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Still, many older workers perceive that they are passed up for jobs, promotions, or pay raises because of their age. If you believe you are the victim of age discrimination, you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Learn how to deal with the stereotypes about older workers during your job hunt. For example, some employers think that older workers will leave the job sooner for retirement. Find a way to let prospective employers know that you are interested in working for a long time. Some employers also think older workers cannot adapt to new workplace cultures or rules. Make it clear that you are comfortable with change and can follow protocol.

Now that I'm getting older, I'm considering a career with more meaning. What's the best way to get started?

Career counselors recommend taking an experimental approach to changing careers. This means testing the waters before diving into a new career. Volunteer or take a part-time job to see how you like a new field.

The good news is that most health care, education, and social services jobs cannot be outsourced. While no job is completely recession-proof, these are some of the safest jobs because they are less subject to economic downturns. Green careers are also likely to be in higher demand in the coming years.

I've been laid off. How can I maintain health coverage?

Health coverage is important for everyone. It's a special concern for older workers who may have health concerns or need specialized care. Medicare is available to people age 65 or older and to some disabled people younger than 65. Medicare's eligibility tool can tell you whether you qualify. Medicaid also provides health coverage for low income individuals. Finally, COBRA allows laid off workers and their families to continue their health coverage by paying the premium themselves.

Minnesota seniors can get help with all of these issues from the following:

  • Senior Linkage Line (1-800-333-2433) is a free telephone information and assistance service. It makes it easy for older adults and their families to find community services. With a single call, people can find specific services near them. They can also get help evaluating their situation to determine which type of service might be helpful.
  • Minnesota Area Agencies on Aging offer many services to seniors in seven regional centers across the state.
  • MinnesotaHelp.info is an online directory of human services, information and referral, financial assistance, and other forms of help. It is a rich source of information for seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers, parents and families, and low income people.

How do I prepare motionally for a layoff or career change?

Change is challenging for almost everyone. It can be especially hard if you've had the same job and routine for years. You can prepare yourself emotionally by adding small changes to your daily routine. Take a different route to work. Eat a different breakfast. Take up a hobby to learn something new. Any small change that puts you out of your comfort zone can help to prepare you for bigger changes that may be coming.