Published Sunday, November 18, 2012 at: 7:00 AM EST
Many people consider the 1950s to have been the best decade in the economic history of the United States. The nation’s gross domestic product grew by 250% during those 10 years, average income tripled, home ownership came within reach of most Americans, 60% of all Americans were considered middle class, and consumer spending doubled. Good times, indeed!
But now, more than a half century later, the children of the '50s face a much less certain financial future. Millions of members of the post-World War II baby boom now are approaching retirement age, and many are in difficult financial straits, having lost their jobs during the recent economic downturn. They need to return to the work force for at least a few more years, yet they find it hard to find new employment.
In many cases, these baby boomers’ unplanned early retirement becomes permanent. They’re forced to take Social Security benefits starting at age 62—even though opting to begin payments at that age sharply reduces the amount they will get during the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, those in this generation who have jobs are staying in them longer, choosing to remain in the work force until late in their 60s or beyond. Many enjoy continuing to work, and a few extra years of income can go a long way toward ensuring a financially secure retirement.
So what can older workers who have lost their positions do to get back on the job? Consider these seven tips:
Polish your resume. Search the Internet for Resume Tips for Older Job Seekers. You'll find a wealth of information on how to write a succinct and compelling job history. Advice will cover what belongs in your resume, including how best to present your skills and how to market yourself to employers, and may provide reminders about how to dress for a job interview. To "age-proof your resume," don't list every job you've ever had and don't include academic graduation dates.
Write a strong cover letter. This is a vital step in your job search. The purpose of your cover letter is to make potential employers eager to read your resume, and many job seekers these days get professional help to aid with this and other aspects of presenting themselves to potential employers. If you go ahead on your own, be sure to customize the letter for each job for which you apply. To get other ideas, do a search for Cover Letter Tips for Older Job Seekers.
Network, network, network. Networking remains one of the best ways to find a job. The schools you attended have career networks that you can use, and you also can do this informally by making sure former colleagues know that you're looking for work. Search Networking by Older Job Seekers.
Get job search help. You can find free assistance online (Job Search Help for Older Workers) or offline at your local library and career center. Read the classified ads in your local newspaper. This can be a frustrating way to try to find a job, but you never know what's there until you look. Also, if you are a professional or skilled worker, read trade magazines that cover your line of work.
Brush up your skills. In today's fast-changing world, it's crucial to be able to show potential employers that your job skills are up to date. No matter how old you are, you need to be computer literate to compete in this job market. So consider signing up for computer classes. Even if you think you've kept up, technology advances so quickly that you may need a refresher course.
Consider a career change. This could be easier than you think. If there's something you've always wanted to do—or if you're attracted by a line of work that is thriving today—research the field and then be bold about going after job opportunities. And there's plenty of help out there. If you use Google to search for Changing Careers After Age 50, you'll get in the vicinity of 200 million results!
Don't give up. Older workers have just as much legal right to work as anyone else, and the federal Age Discrimination Act forbids age discrimination against people age 40 or older. Yet the reality of the marketplace is that many employers are biased against hiring late-career job seekers, and it's very difficult to prove that you were passed over for a position because of your age. But if you persevere, continuing to send out resumes and working full time every day at your job search, you'll greatly improve your odds of finding a position that fits your skills.
This article was written by a professional financial journalist for Advisor Products and is not intended as legal or investment advice.