By the time you reach your 40s, you might think you’ve got the whole adulting thing down to a science. So it’s only natural to assume finding a job after 40 is going to be a walk in the park — methodical and by the book.
Unfortunately, research shows older workers face unemployment longer than younger workers. That suggests there’s a hitch in their job search. For instance, going in with blind faith and zero regard for the changing times is absolutely detrimental to the search.
There are a few questions to consider when finding a job in your 40s. How will you tackle younger bosses? How about age discrimination? And why the heck won’t recruiters respond to applications? To remain relevant in today’s workforce, there are several things you must know to succeed. Here are 15 ways to better your chances for landing a job later in life.
1. You might be approaching your peak earnings
By the time you hit your 40s, you’re likely to be making as much money as you ever will, regardless of gender. In fact, Business Insider reports men’s salaries peak at 48, and women’s salaries top off at 39. This is due to two things: job choice and family responsibility. Women’s salaries expand alongside men’s salaries up until age 30, when many tend to have children, taking them away from the workforce.
Salary is also a factor, as men usually have higher paying jobs than women do. By the time women hit 39, their typical wage is $60,000 per year, while men earn $95,000 per year, according to the data.
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2. The interviewer or boss might be younger than you
As the workforce continues to turn over, it’s entirely possible your interviewer — or boss — will be younger than you. Will you be able to work cohesively with one? Career expert Brad Karsh tells The Huffington Post, “Younger interviewers are in that job because they earned it, and you want to show that you respect their experience and position and that you’re excited to be on their team.”
The most important thing to remember is “the standard rules of interviews still stand regardless of age,” Karsh continues. “Be excited about the role, exhaust all resources to learn about the company, and don’t be afraid to create a conversation.”
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3. Volunteering is looked at with admiration
Lawrence R. Samuel, author of Aging in America, predicts volunteering and service will become “primary status symbols” in the near future, according to MarketWatch. As the job market gets increasingly competitive, the over-40 crowd can differentiate themselves with extracurricular endeavors. “These altruistic efforts will be looked on with envy even more than net worth,” Samuel says. That is all the more reason to leave that volunteering section on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Next: Forget everything you know about resumes.
4. Most of what you know about resumes is outdated
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. Your resume from 2000 is irrelevant, outdated, and detrimental to your over-40 job search. That objective statement listed under your contact information? Remove it. And replace it with a strong summary statement that highlights your skills and experience. Those graduation dates? Delete them. The paragraphs under every job title? Break them out into short bullet points instead.
One of the first things people who want to find a job should do is update and modernize their resume. It’s often the only first impression a hiring manager gets of you, so you best make sure it does you justice.
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5. You must capitalize on your earnings
During this time in your life, you’ve probably already tackled your biggest financial endeavors, such as buying a house and paying off residual debt. This is a good thing because your peak earnings will likely occur during your 40s.
Fidelity Investments suggests people in their 40s should have three times their annual income saved for retirement and six times their annual income by age 50. Smart adults will capitalize on this time and search for employer incentives that allow them to max out savings opportunities, such as 401(k) contributions.
Next: Consider the true hiring timeline.
6. It could take months to find a job
Your search for a new career won’t seem so disheartening if you know what to expect from the start. CareerCast estimates the average person takes six months to find a job. That might seem like a long time, but in reality the estimate is not far off. Even if you’re lucky to get a response from the first email you sent, the hiring process will likely take weeks. Make sure you and your family can withstand the laborious process, as it rarely produces instantaneous results.
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7. It’s not just a 9 to 5 anymore
In addition to learning new skills, people in their 40s who find themselves back in the job market must be susceptible to working flexible schedules in newer, more innovative environments. Before technology infiltrated every nook and cranny, employers were satisfied with employees who worked from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Every other urgent matter after that time could wait until the next morning.
Today, email is readily available on our phones, and the work day is increasingly flexible. More employees are working from home or abandoning the rigid guidelines to stay late to finish a task. People in their 40s must demonstrate they can handle flexibility and regulate a heavy workload with the demands of outside life.
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8. This likely won’t be your last employer before retirement
The average person has 12 job changes throughout their career. Many baby boomers and Gen Xers will embark on encore careers for both financial and social reasons. As people gear up for retirement, they’re more likely to change jobs in exchange for better pay, more flexibility, or career advancement.
In the near future, employers might even start helping you find purpose elsewhere. Jim Emerman, executive vice president for Encore.org, tells MarketWatch, “Employers will begin providing those about to retire with both information and experiences to prepare them for second and third acts for the greater good.” They’ll want to be seen, Emerman says, as “not just good places to work, but good places from which to launch a next chapter.”
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9. Employers are looking for a specialty
Because of your age, employers will expect you to bring more to the table. To effectively prove your value as a seasoned workhorse, you must have a specialty. You create your own job security by building up an in-demand expertise and serving as an employee who will personally alleviate their headaches. Any effective over-40 job seeker will make an effort to pin point their specialty. A company’s purse strings might be tight, but they’ll pay for someone who brings value by resolving their most pressing problems.
Next: Here’s how to beat younger applicants.
10. You still have a leg up on millennials
Why is it always about millennials? There are other people in the workforce with meaningful skills. Luckily, people over 40 have some buying power in the job force just by being their age. Fast Company reports, “While millennials may be unfairly caricatured as socially inept much the way boomers are wrongly dismissed en masse for poor technical chops, the trends in companies’ staffing needs are unmistakable. Gen Xers, on the other hand, may be more likely to prove communication maestros by comparison.”
If you’re in your 40s, you grew up half in and half out of the digital age, meaning you offer skills from both sides, such as using actual words to communicate but also being able to learn technology.
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11. Beware of ghosts
There’s a new trend in the professional world: It’s called ghosting. This is when a person suddenly disappears out of thin air and ceases all communication, denying you any hope of closure in a situation. It’s already a common phenomenon in the dating world, but it has become increasingly prevalent in the hiring industry, as well. Have you gone on any interviews lately? Are you still waiting for a response?
For those who have been out of the job search for a while might be surprised to know such a trend is gaining traction. And though there are a few ways to combat such travesties, over-40 job seekers will need to come to terms with the fact that they won’t always receive a response from a hiring team, no matter how far along they’ve gone in the process.
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12. You might have to tackle age discrimination
By the time you reach your 40s, you might deal with age discrimination in the workforce. By 2018, there will be over 39 million employees over 55, compared to just 27 million in 2008. And unfortunately, older workers experience unemployment longer than younger employees, as companies sometimes correlate age with the term “washed up.”
Yes, there are laws to protect against it, and no, it doesn’t always stop companies from thinking it. Knowing age could work against you is the first step to revamping your job search to promote value over experience and land the job you want.
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13. Salary negotiation looks a little different
By the time you hit your 40s, you likely have plenty of wins on your resume to support a higher salary. But at this point, there are children (hello, college tuition) and other impending expenses to consider. Even more than the annual salary number, you have the power to negotiate stock options, bonus incentives, vacation time, or profit-sharing. This is the time you’ll want to conduct intense market research to stay up to date on your industry and examine whether you truly have the new skills that require, and warrant, such pay.
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14. You’ll have to learn new tricks
If you find yourself out of work longer than expected, use that time to learn a valuable new skill. For millennials, it’s assumed they can handle technology, but hiring managers might have some questions pertaining to technology and older applicants. Stay on top of your industry, and delve into areas relevant to your career. This also helps if you’re looking to make a transition into another industry. Make it clear you value learning and can creatively apply those new skills in a variety of ways.
Next: Get social.
15. You have to get social
If you’ve been avoiding the social aspect of your over-40 job search, it’s time to bite the bullet. It’s been said many times: Employers rely heavily on social profiles to screen potential candidates. If you’re invisible on social media, you might be overlooked for an interview.
Now, we’re not mandating Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In fact, we won’t blame you if current events have jaded your opinion of the social world entirely. But you must create a presence on LinkedIn at least. This will help recruiters find you and verify your online application more quickly.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.