About Me

My photo
Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. Her functional experience includes a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 30 years. She is currently in Consulting & Analytics Business Development for a health care firm. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires a strategy. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

3 Secrets to Finding Work Over 40

If you have not looked for a job since you entered your forties, get ready for a rude awakening! You may feel young, you may look young and you may consider yourself hip with your arsenal of cool tech gadgets. However, in the eyes of those that hire----the 40+ crowd is so yesterday. And if you are in your 50s and 60s, recruiters scrutinize you with the squinty-eyed analysis reserved for police detectives interviewing a homicide suspect. Who is being heavily recruited right now? Older Millennials and the GenX contingent born in the mid-1970s are highly sought after groups. The recruiters are calling them; they are not responding to online recruitment ads or editing their profiles on Linkedin. If you’re not keeping up with the generational definitions-here is a handy cheat sheet:

 Generation Name

Birth Years

Current Age Range

What You Need to Know

33-13 years old
Grew up on Tech—Entry Level Corporate Recruiters
Generation X
1961- 1980
52-33 years old
Currently in Middle Management waiting to have their moment
Baby Boomers
70-53 years old
Age of many CEOs, Sr. VPs & Policy-makers; Struggling to stay relevant

Unless you dislike your job, most people today do not imagine leaving work at age 60 or 65 to become full-time babysitters to their grandchildren, zip around in a golf cart or plan their next cruise. You know why? At 60 and 65, many workers today are still feeling good; enjoy socializing with others and having a sense of purpose. So how does that person over 40, 50 or 60 find work? I think there are three strategies you should employ to keep your career fresh while others wilt on the vine.
#1: Cultivate a Winning Attitude--No company is going to hire a victim. No company is going to knowingly hire a bitter whiner with a chip on their shoulder. Companies are looking for winners who can help their business grow in these uncertain economic times. If your confidence is in the tank, it is on you to figure out what you need to do to give yourself a boost. At age 40+ the time for negative self-talk has long past, because there are enough people who can find something unflattering to say on your behalf. I am not saying you need to become arrogant, haughty or hard to deal with—Divas Need Not Apply.  Understand and be able to communicate your strengths and explain how hiring you will benefit the organization.
#2: Be an Expert at Something--The world is filled with people with general skills.  Stand out from the crowd by being able to prove you have something—a skill, a talent, a degree, a track record, a certification, a designation, an award—that others don’t necessarily have. I recently met a woman at 50+ newly unemployed through a company lay-off. She has a great resume filled with good companies that have had mass lay-offs that everyone is aware of and a strong background in telecom. She’s a project manager and has her PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. I told her with confidence that while job-hunting in her 50s will not be a walk in the park, her PMP designation will serve her well. If you are a human resources professional take the time to earn your CCP, CBP, CEBS, PHR or SPHR. If you are in health information management earn your RHIT, RHIA, or CCP® (Certified Professional Coder®). If your field doesn’t have designations, then become viewed as an expert by publishing in journals or doing public speaking.
#3: Know and Be Known--It doesn’t matter if you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn if you raided them from someone else. Those people don’t know you. It is especially true as you become a more experienced worker—relationships matter. I have a 40+year-old friend who counts several influential CEOs as close friends. He is in the job market again and doesn’t have to go through HR or gatekeepers to speak to these business leaders. He can leverage these relationships for introductions, a job, and temporary consulting work while he strategizes his next career move. One of them might provide the investment for a business opportunity. Maybe you don’t know any CEOs—you need to know somebody who can help smooth the path for you if you suddenly lost your job. My advice is to create your list of the ten people you would call within 48 hours of a job loss. Tend to those relationships beforehand whether it is sending a birthday card, endorsing them on LinkedIn, forwarding an article you know they would be interested in or meeting for lunch twice a year. Don’t be the type of networker who only shows up when you need something.
It is a challenge, and yet not impossible to find a great job when you have more years of work in your past than you do in your future. It is not a strategy, but it also takes a little luck to connect with that company willing to look past your birth year toward what you can contribute or the hiring manager who sees your experience as strength. You may get a lot of “No” responses; remember it just takes one “Yes”.


  1. Brenda, Thanks so much for this post. I would expand on being an expert to include being outstanding at what you do. Some fields may not be as easy to quantify results and it becomes very subjective between the manager and employee. You want to be able to define some metrics because as you know, what gets measured gets managed. Thanks again for all you do and the entertaining and informative read.

  2. Brenda,
    Thanks for the tips. very informative and timely. I definitely will pass it on.
    Lorraine Knip

  3. Brenda,
    You are right on! (Oops! I just gave my age away by saying "right on"). The nerve of an interviewer to ask me, "Do you own anything with an "i" in front of it? At the time I said, "No, but I know what those things are." Since then, I have acquired an iPad. So, it is important to at least appear you are somewhat tech savvy. They were impressed with my skills, but that "i" thing did me in. I totally agree everyone should have that "shingle" to take with you especially in these "downsizing" times. Get that PMP, ITIL, RHIT, SPHR, etc. that you can take with you and call your own and no one can take from you, even if you have to pay for it yourself. Consider it an investment in you!

    Also, don't rely on "passive" networking - LinkedIN is great, but see if you can get an informational meeting with someone that you can make a connection with. Join a local business professional networking group and check out your local state WorkOne office (the agency that handles unemployment) - they offer classes free to participants.

    I may get in trouble for saying this, but don't wear dated clothes (you know that suit you bought in the early '80's or '90's - update your wardrobe (women tend to keep abreast of fashion, men don't), even if it is a nice crisp white shirt/blouse or one with a little color in it. And don't be afraid to "shake that bottle" ( hair color that is) You may be over 40/50 but you don't have to look it!


    1. Thanks for for your comments! Very important advice and I know readers will benefit. Right on, Right on-lol.

  4. Many have tried the generic techniques you suggest and have remained unemployed. There is an obvious bias against any job hunter over 60. It is inevitable that careers end once you enter your 6th decade.

    1. Thanks for taking time to post a comment. A job search for a 50+ or 60+ person is not easy. I am the first to acknowledge that and at the same time, there are people finding work at 60+ and others creating work they love for themselves at 60+. Best of success in your job search!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.