Boomer Job Hunt: 7 Mistakes You Can't Afford

Last Updated Apr 12, 2010 10:13 PM EDT

Success is often a function of knowing what not to do. With the national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent knowing what mistakes not to make in a job search is especially helpful. In a hot job market maybe you can manage a misstep here or there. Today, un-uh. The MetLife Mature Market Institute recently took a look at how older Americans (55-70) are faring in the job-hunt world, and came up with seven job-hunting mistakes that are keeping them unemployed.

Anyone in their 40s or early 50s today can learn plenty from the mistakes being made by today's older Boomers struggling with a job hunt. Where they are today is where you don't want to be 10 or 15 years down the line:

MetLife's Buddy Can You Spare a Job? report offers up seven costly assumptions you'll want to be on your guard for:
  1. "I'll just do what I was doing before." The study's warning: "..aging Boomers who assume they are going to continue on their career paths in new full-time roles are likely to be shocked at the market resistance to their plans. Not only do younger hiring managers look at them skeptically for a variety of reasons, but the skills needed in the new job have probably evolved since they took on their last role."
  2. "My experience speaks for itself. Lots of employers would be lucky to have me." You need to spin your experience forward. Don't expect an employer to connect the dots on how your experience will be a good fit. From the study: "If you don't understand how to link your experience explicitly to the employer's current needs, then you get discounted even before the interview."
  3. "I've always been successful, so why should things be different now?" Um, because we have the highest unemployment rate in 25 years. There are millions of successful people also looking for work. Jobs aren't going to come to you, no matter how well-connected you are. You need to go out and sell yourself. Hard.
  4. "I just need a job. I don't have time for this touchy-feely stuff about what work means to me." Not so fast. Once you hit your 50s, finding a job that dovetails with what floats your boat is a smart strategy. Maybe it's not an outright career switch, but segue your skills into a new industry or downshift to a less demanding job where you can bring a lot to the table, and you'll likely ratchet up the passion factor. That's how you keep yourself energized, and your employer happy well into your delayed-retirement years.
  5. "I'll just use a recruiter or some career coaching to get another job." You and everyone else. Recruiters are no different than employers right now: it's a buyer's market. And you are a seller. Unless you have an uber competitive edge, a recruiter isn't necessarily going to want to work with you right now, or be able to help you given the tight market.
  6. "I know the answer! I'll become a consultant..." Do you have the skills to be a consultant? From the study: "Mark Anderson, head of ExecuNet, said about 30% of the older executives he works with are interested in becoming consultants, but only one in five has the sales and marketing expertise to succeed."
  7. "Of course I am good with computers. I have been working with Windows 98 for years!" Don't snicker at that Windows 98 line just because you're up to speed on Windows 7 and Office 2007. The point is that from now to retirement you must keep upgrading your computer skills. From the study: " Boomers who have been fully employed until recently find themselves scrambling to update their relevant skills. Failure to do so not only gives hiring managers another reason to screen out older candidates, but it also supports the argument that "they" will not fit in the culture." Over the next 10 to 15 years don't lose your early-adopter ways. It's going to be a crucial element in working your way into delayed retirement.
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  • Carla Fried

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