If you aren’t from the millennial generation, it can sometimes seem as though all the attention in the workplace is being lavished on younger workers while opportunities are passing you by.
There may be some truth to that. One research study found that it takes an older job seeker (55 and older) a lot longer to find a new job: 54.3 weeks on average looking for work, compared with 28.2 weeks for younger people. And while this may not be true in every case, it is certainly the reality for some.
We don’t want to frame this an all-out generational war, but older workers do need to take some different steps to stay competitive in the workforce. In fact, you might even be able to steal a page or two from the millennials’ playbook. Here are seven tips to compete with younger workers in your job search.
Learn to use and talk about current technology
This is mission critical. You won’t impress any HR managers with your outdated skills and knowledge of antiquated software programs. Find out the latest technology being used in your industry and get up to speed. Make friends with social media – create a LinkedIn profile, start using Twitter, and set up a Google account.
If you know younger workers, see if you can get them to give you a tutorial! Often, you’ll find that they are happy to share their technological prowess with an appreciative audience.
Develop a strong, consistent personal brand
Personal branding is a marketing concept that didn’t exist a generation ago. So having your own personal brand that distinguishes you from other candidates will give you a more youthful vibe. What exactly is branding? It’s simply cultivating and clearly communicating your specific professional persona.
Are you a maven of fundraising for small nonprofits? A communications specialist for socially responsible companies? Or a business coach for solopreneurs?
Whatever you do, you already have a personal brand! All you need to do is tell your story in a similar way on all your networking platforms, including social media, your website, and your resume. Utilize these four personal branding tools to expand and polish your presence.
Network like a pro
You have a big advantage to leverage as an older worker: the longer you work, the more robust your personal and professional networks can become. Your community of contacts is priceless, and is more often than not a direct line to job opportunities that don’t even get advertised.
If you manage to connect with enough people, you might even find yourself in the enviable position of having a job created for you! So devote yourself to networking as though your professional life depends on it – because it does.
Give value by volunteering your time & expertise
People sometimes think of networking as the mere exchange of business cards. But that is just the result of a connection made – not the goal in itself. When you are putting yourself out there, always think of what you can do to help your contact. Did you see an article the person might find interesting or have a tip he or she might find useful? Pass it along.
If you really want to up your game, contribute something significant to an organization you’d like to work for. Volunteer, consult, or do freelance work for a period of time or on a specific project. This professional “courtship” allows both sides to test the waters and see if there is a fit.
Be adaptable and open to change
Nothing makes you seem more obsolete, professionally speaking, than talking wistfully about how things used to be, or how they did things at your old company. Employers care about the present and the future, and they are looking for problem solvers to help them get from one to the other, respectively. Figure out a way to be a change agent, and you will part of the solution.
Consider starting your own business
If the job search has you discouraged, and you just don’t think you can take one more day of informational interviews, consider whether you should be your own boss. Sure, not every job lends itself to self-employment, but there are plenty of things you can do as a one-person shop, if that appeals to you.
Remember that you will need to wear all the hats in the organization, at least at first. And being solo has its challenges. But it also has its rewards, as many older workers have found after giving it a go.
Stay confident during a long search
A long-term job search can take its toll on even the hardiest professionals. You will need to remind yourself (and find others to remind you!) of the incredible value you will bring to the right organization. Confidence is contagious, and an employer will sense when you know your worth.
Keep or create your resume, and review it often. Take stock of your many accomplishments that millennials would envy, achieved over a well-seasoned career.