Changing Jobs

The issues that older workers face in the job hunt

Written by Kate Lopaze

With age comes wisdom. That old proverb may very well be true, but with age and wisdom also come challenges during the job hunt process. The further along you get in your career, the more challenging it can be to find and chase the right opportunities. If you find yourself looking for the next step or a fresh start as an older job seeker, here are some of the challenges you may face.

“You’re overqualified.”

Accumulating a career’s worth of skills and experience is a great thing. However, many companies are trying to save money or resources by hiring more junior employees, with more junior salaries. When you’re looking for a new job, be prepared to make a case for why you think the job is the right opportunity for you, even if it seems like you’re overqualified on paper.

“We need someone tech savvy in this role.”

Fighting the stereotype that older employees are not as tech-savvy as younger ones is tough. Having entered the workforce before everyone had a phone surgically attached to their hands, there may be an assumption that you’re not as tech-friendly as other candidates. But this is a skill set you can absolutely build, and one you should emphasize on your resume and any application materials.

“We’re looking for someone to grow into this role.”

This can be code for “we’re hiring younger because it’s cheaper.” Discriminating a potential employee based on age is illegal. However, there are many ways that age discrimination can still sneak into the process. Dates on a resume can be a giveaway, and in-person interviews can make it very clear that you’re not an intern fresh out of school. It’s ugly, but unfortunately, it will likely continue to be a source of bias (conscious or not).

If it seems to be a case of the company not wanting to support a more experienced employee’s salary, you don’t need to take entry-level dollars to get the job. Rather, show how an investment in you is an investment in the right skills for the job.

“We’re looking for a specialist.”

One of the selling points of your career is that you’ve likely built a number of strong skill sets and a solid base of experience. When pitching yourself for a particular job, make sure you’re specific about the most important skill or quality that makes you perfect for this role. Your resume (and interview) should be targeted for the most important skills, not just the most skills, period. 

“We just don’t have any senior-level openings.”

The further you go, the tougher it will be to find job openings on your experience level. It’s a fact of hiring life that most jobs will likely be for entry-level or junior positions that have a naturally higher turnover. This means you may need to be more proactive in your job search. Traditional job sites may not have a satisfactory number of openings, try other avenues. Build your network, and work it for word-of-mouth opportunities. Whatever edge you can get in an increasingly narrow field will help make your job search less frustrating (and hopefully shorter!).

If you’re a mid- or later-career job seeker, it can feel like there are many factors working against you as you look for your new career opportunities. But it’s important not to feel stuck, and make sure that you’re creating a lean, focused approach to branding yourself. Being ready for these challenges can help you navigate them more easily when they come your way.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.