So much is written about the search for work today. When it comes to finding a job after 50, much of it is helpful, but only some of it is true. Some consists of more myth and misunderstanding than fact.

It would be a solid practice to dismiss most of the assumptions you’ve made about how you get hired.

People hire people that they connect with. Associated with that are a host of urban myths regarding the job search process and how to succeed within it. Here’s the truth about finding a job after 50.

 
 

Fact: It Is Impactful to Network with Human Resource Managers

One of the many roles human resources serves is to fill open job requisitions. Often, there are numerous requisitions in the pipeline, and the No. 1 priority is to fill these jobs. Requesting to network with people in human resources is in your best interest.

Even if the human resources managers don’t directly own the recruiting function, odds are that they manage it. They most likely are aware of future openings or department-level plans. Their interface with senior management in a company assures them of this insight.

Crap: You Will Land and Interview for Each Job to Which You Apply

If you’ve purposely submitted a vague or general résumé with the hope that a recruiter will call for more details, think again. Most of the time, you will not receive a call. Recruiters, human resources staff and the hiring manager only call you if you are a good match for the job. If your application and résumé don’t show how you are a perfect match for the job, the recruiter has very little interest in speaking with you.

Being a generalist doesn’t fly today in a world that has become more specialized than ever. It makes sense for you to focus your efforts on your skills and experience as they directly apply to the open position. Or refrain from applying for that opening.

Crap: The Best Time to Network is After the Job Has Been Posted

If you are interested in finding a job after 50, it’s never too early to start networking. Imagine… you see the perfect job posted and believe you’re a match. With great excitement, you reach out to someone inside the company only to be ignored. You’re doing the right thing, so why isn’t it working?

The reason: you’re too late to the party. That job has probably been circulating inside the company for weeks. The person you are contacting may even be in the running for the job.

The best time to network is in advance of job opportunities being posted. In fact, networking after a job has been posted really isn’t networking – it’s tracking down a job. That’s not bad – in fact, it’s recommended – but it’s not truly networking.

Fact: The Best Time to Look for a Job After 50 is When You Already Have One

Now, who would put themselves through this arduous task when they already are working? Looking for work is a full-time job itself! The smart person in this case is always assessing the market, researching opportunities and if applicable, taking interviews. This process will keep you current, fresh, in the market and aware of the trending that occurs within your chosen industry or the one you may seek to enter.

Besides, when we look for a position while having one, we are relaxed and not fearful, knowing that worse-case, we still have our present position. This allows for a real and perhaps more confident interview process with us more in control, sans the desperation and timing issues that accompany a jobless search process.

Fact: Your Résumé Is a Very Important Job Search Tool

Your résumé is at a minimum your calling card and your public face. Along with your cover letter and LinkedIn profile, your résumé tells your story to a stranger who is considering another stranger (you) for a position in their company.

A powerful, compelling, unique and honest résumé will tell the tale and serve its singular purpose: to get you that interview. Don’t agonize over your résumé content or format. Get it done with some outside critique, and get it out. Too much time spent on endless revisions only serves to delay your search.

Crap: You Should Expect to Hear a Response Soon After You Apply

After you have taken time to strategically apply for a desired position, you assume that you’ll soon hear something. The reality is that you may never hear back from the company. In fact, this is more the norm than not. Plan to follow up with someone in human resources after you have submitted your application. Ask what the time frame is for filling the job, and then ask if your application was received.

Always end every conversation by asking when you should follow up next and with whom. Don’t be bashful or hesitant. However, don’t wait by the phone, mailbox or inbox. Finding work is a numbers game. Play that game well and make the numbers work for you.

Crap: Finding a Job After 50 Only Requires You to Apply to Positions Online

You may believe that if you apply to enough jobs, you’ll eventually beat the odds and land one. While applying to jobs may make you feel productive, most jobs are either filled internally or through referrals. When you spend all your time and energy scoping out jobs and applying, you’re hurting your chances of landing a position.

The formula is to cast a wide net searching through networking, looking online, using recruiters, attending professional association meetings, volunteering and meeting new people every day. Remember, more than 70 percent of people land jobs through networking and 93% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) report that they award work based upon chemistry alone.

Fact: Your References Will Be Contacted Early in the Interview Process

Every company has a different policy regarding this. Seldom will your references get checked while résumés are being reviewed or early in the interview process. It costs time and money to verify references, and if there are multiple candidates applying and interviewing, this can be a costly investment. That said, references will be contacted once you have been identified as a viable candidate and an offer is made.

Be prepared with a minimum of three professional and two personal references. Only a few may be checked but your confidence in providing these names will be the final determinant in an employer’s hiring process and you ending up with the position you desire.

Fact: Your Cover Letter Is a Powerful Tool

You can’t assure that someone will read your cover letter. In reality, some people will never read a cover letter, and others won’t look at your résumé until after reading your cover letter. The bottom line is that you should always include a customized cover letter that explains specifically why you are interested in and qualified for the job, and shares something about the company to show that you are a great fit. If you don’t take the time to do this, then why should the company take time to review your qualifications for the job?

Most applications now require this alongside your résumé. It’s your chance to tell your story using more text and fewer truncated bullet points to do so. Make it compelling and well-written. Remember, the goal of a cover letter is to get hiring managers to learn more about you on their way to inviting you in for an interview.

What advice would you give a friend about finding a job after 50? What specific conversations have you been having as you network? What challenges have you been facing? What advice have you found most valuable. Please join the conversation.

Jeff HenningJeff Henning is a business leader and educator in Southern California. He is the father of 10 daughters. His expertise is in creating meaningful change within a business to drive results focused upon people, profits and planet. Jeff is the co-founder of No Square Peg, an organization that recognizes the tremendous challenge Baby Boomers face while attempting to reinvent themselves in the new career landscape.

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