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The Truth About Job Searching Over 50

The Truth About Job Searching Over 50


Dear J.T. & Dale: I am going to be 56 years old and can’t believe it! Then I look in the mirror and believe it! Anyway, that’s another story. I find myself alone with a little dog and having to take care of myself for the first time in my life. I have worked many jobs in my life, but now I am in need of a career versus just a job. I have a BA degree, have worked in retail, offices and was a teacher’s assistant. I have put resumes in everywhere, faxed, emailed, walked in, etc. I think maybe age is the reason why I’m not getting anything. – Joan

J.T.: I love your energy and enthusiasm. It’s not resulting in job opportunities because you are approaching the process too broadly.

DALE: That would be just as true if, instead of 56, you were 46 or 36, although it might not be true if you were 26. Why? After you’ve been in the work force for a while, employers expect you to have found a career. If you reach middle age without one, managers tend to be skeptical about your commitment. This seems unfair, but then again, the best employers are looking for people to do jobs they love doing, and that means having figured out what they love.

J.T.: At 56, hiring managers expect two things from you: one, that you have a specialty; and two, that you know exactly how to leverage that specialty to help them. So, when you tell people you’ll do anything, you actually are admitting you don’t have the focus they expect.

DALE: So it’s time to analyze what you like best and least about each job you’ve had, and choose futures that give you the best shot at fulfillment. That exercise will give you a story to tell prospective employers. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one type of job, not yet, but for each type of job, you need to tell just one good story about why it fits your work history and your personality.

J.T.: I strongly suggest that you work with a career coach to help you find your focus and tailor your job search accordingly. (I maintain a network of career coaches you can review here.) Once you position yourself properly, you’ll be able to do a better job of marketing your skills and networking with people who can get you hired.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at [email protected] or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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J.T. & Dale “JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.