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Job Hunting when you are Over Forty

Updated on August 26, 2013

Laid off Over Forty

why focus on it?

When you are Over Forty and laid off, the game has changed. Its no secret that this is a young man/woman's world and everyone is constantly keeping up with new technology and ideas.

Those of us in the Over Forty category have acquired experience and are usually paid for that experience and loyalty to the employer. When we are out and looking for a new job, are we reduced to a piece of paper and a number?

When we talk to recruiters, how do they see us? If all they see is our resume, how does it represent us?

Laid Off! What do I do now?

First, we all face the shock of being laid off. It is one of the most difficult things in our lives that will ever happen to us. Expect to experience the five stages of grief.

1. Denial and Isolation

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5 Acceptance

Expecting to experience all of these may help you process your feelings better and recognize that what you are feeling is all a natural part of it. There are strong feelings of worthlessness and helplessness that can undermine your best efforts, but knowing that everyone who gets laid off has them, does help.

When I was laid off, I felt like I was the only one in the world having these dark thoughts, until I went to a workshop given by the State Unemployment office and realized how many talented professional people were in my same position and having feelings just like mine.

These feelings can be disabling, or can undermine your best efforts at being productive but don't let them. You have a new job when you are laid off. You have to go back into marketing, and the product is you. And there is such a learning curve....


Common Myths about Job Hunting

Myth: They can tell how old I am by reading my resume.

You can write your resume and not reveal your age! Most employers are only interested in what you've done in the last 10-15 years. Anything older than that, is probably technologically obsolete anyway. So rewrite your resume but only keep work experience from about the last 10 years. Remember, the purpose of a resume is to get you an interview, not to tell your life story. Depending on your field, it should be 1-2 pages long. Also, If you got a degree twenty years ago, leave out your graduation date.

Myth: There's laws against age discrimination, so I'll never be discriminated against.

You never know who is screening your resume for managers. Some recruiters are very fair and honestly looking for the right candidates. Some will screen out candidates who are older than their parents, or siblings. Some older recruiters may screen out younger recruits because they feel they are inexperienced. I've heard it both ways. It happens.

Myth: The best way for me to apply for a job is online.

There are so many job boards online, I couldn't begin to list them all here. Every occupation has their favorite job boards to list to as well. Not to mention, each employer has their own website with a little tab called "careers" or "jobs" where you can also fill out a form and leave another copy of your resume. You can apply to a thousand of them and it can take you eight hours a day; it can feel like a full time job just finding them all! How many phone calls do you get back?

If you do apply to these job boards, keep a running spreadsheet with the date, name of the company, website, contact name (if they give you one), phone number (if they give you one), email (if they give you one), job number, and any other pertinent details. Follow up in one week to see if anyone received your information.

Myth: Employers constantly check to see if there are new applicants to the jobs they advertise.

Employers collect applicants in their database and then search at specific times. I've talked to some recruiters at career fairs and they admit to going to databases like,, etc. or wherever they advertise and look for people with the skills they are looking for. Recruiters have told me that the most important thing is to keep your resume up to date in job board databases. But which ones?

Myth: Now that I've been laid off, its impossible for me to network.

You NEED to network! There's always a way. Try Linked-In to start. If you don't already have an account, create one and search for recruiters in your line of work and send them invitations. Search for your previous coworkers and invite them. You'll be surprised at how many contacts you can make. This is one way of networking without leaving the house. You can pick up the phone to call some of the recruiters if their numbers are listed on their Linked In accounts. Introduce yourself with your elevator speech and open a dialogue with a recruiter. They may not have anything at the time, but you have established a contact.

Elevator Speech - 30 second to 2 minute summary introducing you and something interesting about your career and what you are looking for. Your go-to speech if you ever find yourself in the situation where you have just 30 seconds to impress.


What else can I do?

Career Fairs/Job Fairs

Meet with recruiters. Ask about what jobs they are hiring for and most times you can interview on the spot. These job fairs are advertised online on the job boards, in newspapers and at the state unemployment centers.

Local Unemployment Centers

There is a wealth of information at your local unemployment center. In Maryland, there are free classes to update your skills, computers, resume help, and all kinds of resources available.

Go Back to School

If that is an option for you, wonderful! Upgrade those computer skills. Learn the latest and greatest on the newest technology. Read the internet listings and know what skills are needed. Get the certificates in computers, medicine, management, etc. More schooling is never going to hurt you. Its also a great place for networking. You can go back to school online or on campus.


Employers don't want to see gaps in employment, but to see that you've done something during that time is good. Volunteering in any capacity is good, volunteering somewhere that teaches you new skills is great.


Writing a Resume

There are so many great articles with templates out there, I won't cover it here.

I will steer you to some great places to help you build an awesome resume. The first link is an actual class from Purdue University about writing a resume. The second is the free Resume Builder.

Free Resume Builder - Maintenance |

Here are some basic tips for the market today:

  • Keep your resume simple. One type, no art, no flair, no colors.
  • Use white paper, bright white
  • use bullets, be concise.
  • Keep it 1-2 pages
  • Remember to keep it to 10-15 years
  • Take off any dates that are too far back, like college graduation


Marketing Yourself

It's hard to think of having to market yourself again, especially when you are over 40 and laid off. You're dealing with a lot of the issues mentioned in the first part of this article and yet, you've got to be positive and approaching this job search with a winning attitude. And that's hard.

But you've got to compete with all of the other job seekers out there who are qualified for the same jobs you are seeking. The really hard part is that employers want to hire these recent grads or those with little experience and willing to train them because they are willing to work for less. You not only have to convince the employer that they should hire you, but that they should pay you what you are "worth".

You have to think about this before the job interview because you may find it to be an emotional issue. Your previous employer determined your "worth" through the years through all kinds of measurable and unmeasurable factors.

Anything that is measurable should be highlighted on your resume. Anything else, you can find an imaginative way to measure it.

Sometimes a job is going to be limited by what that employer is willing to pay for that position. Especially if that employer is a contractor and they have won a contract by under bidding, their rates aren't going to be high, even for Senior jobs. So regardless of what your "worth" is, they will give the job to someone who will work for their underbid wages. Such is the reality in a recession. And yes, they will find someone to work for it.

This, of course, is not anything we want to hear, but it is the reality of the job market unless you have the skills that are in demand right now.

Before you go on an interview, really look at your finances. Look at what you need to live and what will be acceptable for now. Try not to compare it to what you used to make. But know what your bottom line is. When asked about salary, honestly, ask for a reasonable wage, but when they tell you the wage they are offering for the position, you will know whether or not you can afford to take the job. Also, know if you can afford to NOT take the job.

Sometimes, it is just a starting salary. Sometimes, I have heard, that the salary they offer is just to see if you will start at that wage and their bonuses and raises come quickly. I've also heard that promotions and opportunities come along more often then people expect they would. So sometimes it is just getting your foot in the door.


Is this the time for a career change?

Many people in their forties and fifties who get laid off wonder if this is a sign that maybe they should do something they have always wanted to do...This is the time to start a business. Maybe this is the time to make that career change.

Its an option.

Remember to do all your research. Putting together a business plan is an excellent exercise to make sure that your business will not only be sound financially but it will force you to look at every angle.

Just a couple of parting bits of advice before I go....

When you have a phone interview, or answer the phone and know its a recruiter or job prospect - stand up. It does make a difference in the sound of your voice. It also makes you focus on what you are saying.

When you speak to people on the phone, SMILE. They can hear the pleasantness in your voice and when you aren't smiling, they can hear that too.

If you ever have a teleconference interview - DRESS for it. Not just from the waist up...You never know if you may have to stand and reach for something during the interview.

When on an interview or when at work, always dress for the job you WANT, not for the job you HAVE. It makes a difference.

So, my friends, from here on out, I wish you many opportunities to get your foot in the door of whatever you wish to be a part. I wish you happiness, fulfillment and peace.

If you have any questions or comments on anything I've written here, please leave them in the comments below....


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    • Erin LeFey profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin LeFey 

      5 years ago from Maryland

      Thanks Ruby. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I was amazed at how much the market and job hunting has changed in the past 15 years!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Lots of good advice Erin. I am so glad i am out of the market. It is a tough economy now. In my line of work they preferred experience over youth. Great info. listed..Thank you. Hope you find a wonderful job...


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