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Over 60 and looking for work? Can you do it?

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Question: My company will be closing its doors within the next two years. I am 61 years old and have worked as a secretary here for 19 years. Our facility is out of the city limits, I have not had to interview for many years and I do not have the early-year career-drive that I did while in my 30s. Does anyone have any advice as to where or what I do to begin re-thinking my current job position and future potential? I find that the job market is keener on hiring the younger and more adventuresome admins. I had hoped to be able to work at this position until I could retire at age 66. — Anonymous

Alice Bumgarner, Moderator: There's a definite upside here: You're a mature worker. You can offer experience and sound judgment to a manager.

The challenge, though, is in appearing "relevant" to today's workplace.

I recently wrote in Administrative Professional Today about Lisa Johnson Mandell, the 49-year-old who was stalled in her search for a new job ... until she removed old jobs and dates from her resume and added youthful energy to her appearance.

If you’re an administrative professional over 40, it pays to spend some time on your image and appearance, and not merely when you’re job hunting. I liked these tips from Marci Alboher, who writes about careers for The New York Times:

__ "You can remove graduation years, early jobs and other tip-offs about your age from your résumé," says Alboher, “as long as you don’t lie.”

__ Form your own board of advisors (trusted friends who know the standards within your field). Ask them to weigh in -- honestly -- about your wardrobe and appearance. Be ready to toughen up.

__ Learn technologies that people are using in your field. Do you know a teenager who could tutor you on blogging, Twitter, social networking, RSS, instant messaging, wikis or other tech tools you aren’t quite comfortable with?

__ Play up your online presence, and keep it professional. If you don’t have an online presence, create one. A growing number of employers say they look for that.

__ Exude enthusiasm when it comes to new things. For example, says Alboher, “If someone asks you to do a video chat or use some other technology you’ve never used before, your answer should not be, ‘Is there some other way?’ It should be, ‘Can you walk me through it?’”

__ Stay current within your field by going to a conference and reading professional journals and newsletters. At the very least, find the Web sites of upcoming conferences to see what topics are on the agenda.

__ When you speak, present ideas about what you can do in the future, rather than harkening back to the year 1996.

One final tip: You can find a great list of job-source resources and websites for older workers here.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Denny March 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I am just telling people I am better than two 33-1/2 year old’s! It has got to work one of these days! 6 months out of work and 600 resumes later, I am trying more personal networking and less job sites where you get buried and stomped on! Some of the applications have the nerve to ask your DOB! I thought that is illegal, but I guess they use EEOC to cover their rears and pretend they really considered an old guy!

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Virginia October 27, 2008 at 9:21 am

I was laid off at 57 after 10 years with the same company and was devistated. However, I went to a temp agency and found a wonderful job that I’ve be in for nearly 9 years and plan on staying in until I’m too old or sick to work.

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Anon October 20, 2008 at 6:10 pm

I agree with Liz – be “current” on skills, appearance, attitude. When I had to enter the job market in my 50s, I registered with temp agencies, which gave me work experience and boosted my confidence (most of the places I went to like me very much and several requested me for repeat assignments. I experienced age discrimination (unable to prove conclusively) in the interview process when i was obviously older than what hiring managers expected. I finally ended up with a permanent job in a government agency 15 years ago, and I’m still there in my late 60s.

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Jo October 20, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Make sure your skills are up to date. You can always go to places like Experience works that handle people who are 55 and older for jobs.

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Liz October 20, 2008 at 11:33 am

Don’t look or act your age! Keep up with the times (appearance, attitude and technology). Always smile. Exude confidence as well as enthusiasm. Don’t say “can’t” or “don’t know how”. If you are unfamilar with something, just say ” haven’t tried that way before, can you show me” then pay close attention. You CAN do it. Learning new things will help to keep you young! If you look good, you will feel good and make that impression on others.

I got my current job when I was 52 … 8 years later my boss still can’t belive my age!

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Rose October 17, 2008 at 4:17 pm

The thing to do is keep your skills up to date, software, hadrware, etc. I have been employed with this company for 24 years and am hoping to retire next year. I have already received an offer of employment with another company after retirement. So, don’t sell yourself short, there are still jobs out there for those after 60.

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Darrel October 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm

I have had to make two career changes after the age of 40. I got my current job at age 59. It wasn’t easy. I cut the first 14 years off my resume and did not give any dates other than job start and stop dates. That helped get my foot in the door in several places; however, when I walked into a room for an interview I could see the change come over interviewer’s faces when they saw that I was older than they expected. Age discrimination is rampant but you can’t prove it. This job was the 904th application out of 914 over a two year period. Don’t give up, just keep looking until you find what you are looking for. In the meantime, use more than one temp agency to keep busy and work on leads.

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Pam October 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Check into what is available in your area for displaced workers. Our city has an Alliance for Business and Training which is designed specifically for people in your situation. They bring people in, evaluate their skills, provide necessary training, and assist them with job placement. It has been a “win-win” situation for both the individual and the organization that eventually employs him or her.

Will your company provide any type of assistance with resume preparation, additional training, employment counseling, etc. when it closes the doors? If so, take advantage of all of that.

Previous comments have all been good. If you need to upgrade your appearance (wardrobe, hairstyle, make-up, eyeglasses), technical skills, thought patterns (forget how it “used to be done” and concentrate on how it is done now), now is the time to start working on that.

When you start looking for employment, consider organizations that are generally more conservative (financial institutions, schools, insurance agencies). You might find that they are anxious to hire a mature person who really values her job!

Good Luck!

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Jocelyn October 17, 2008 at 1:34 pm

I think there is a job out there for you. Maybe you should also think about your skills and if there is something new you would like to do. We have an apprentice program at my work to become a licensed professional as an optician. I have a 60+ women who used to be a middle school secretary in the program and in 3 years she will be licensed in a completely new field. So anything can happen and be open to companies and interviews you might not think you fit, because you never know! Good luck

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Colette Benson October 17, 2008 at 1:13 pm

I suggest registering with an agency such as Manpower. My mother who is 70 had retired from her job as a secretary and found she was bored at home. Manpower keeps her very busy and has just found her a permanant part-time position. They have also offered her full-time positions that are permanant. You would be surprised at how many offices are looking for people just like you.

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Debbie October 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Register with the closest temp agency. This avenue provides you the ability to “try on” a job before committing long term. It also gives the company the chance to get to know you and your skills. I have used temp agencies the last four times I’ve had to hire an administrative assistant and it’s worked beautifully. While it was painful on a couple occasions when they sent me someone that wasn’t a good fit, in the long term, we now have the person we need in that position. I would definitely use the agency again.

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