Opinion: The Labor Market Seeks Older Workers

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For older Americans hit by the job market during the pandemic, here’s some encouraging news: There are 7.4 million job openings in the U.S. (as of Feb. 28), the Labor Department says. That’s up from 7.1 million the previous month and the most since January 2019. It‘s the latest sign that demand for workers is growing rapidly as the nation begins to recover from COVID-19. In fact, the labor report adds, the industries that took it seriously during the recession are the ones that post the most “Help Wanted” signs.

Openings in the food and lodging services sectors increased to 761,000 in February from 657,000 in January, for example, while openings in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector increased to 137,000 from 81,000. But there’s a need in pretty much every category, the report said, meaning there’s probably something for you if you’re looking. But we all know that despite laws designed to prevent it, age discrimination is alive and well. And if you’re a non-white older worker, it’s even worse, what Owen Davis of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) at the New School of New York calls “the double handicap of racial profiling.” Despite all the vacancies, these types of headwinds make it difficult for older workers seeking to rejoin the workforce. To do? Use social media wisely. Of course, employers look at resumes and cover letters, and I’ll get to them in a moment. But these days they are also likely to Google you and look at your Facebook and Twitter pages, if you have them. While younger people are more likely to have something on these platforms that will surprise and make a hiring manager question their maturity and professionalism, you don’t have this problem, of course. In fact, you can take advantage of these platforms by highlighting the things that show your skill set and how you work with others. Maybe you do volunteer work? Do you like to walk or take long bike rides? Photos that show you out and about, staying active and interacting with others is a subtle and smart way to manage your image. Do you have a LinkedIn account? Employers will also examine them. Think of LinkedIn as an online resume, with some powerful perks. You can and should post a photo of yourself, for example. Do you want to look younger? It’s okay to be a bit vain here. Consider whitening your teeth and adding highlights to your hair (why not?) Many people have puffy eyes from time to time (full disclosure: I’m one of them), and one way to approach this is with tea bags. Yes, says Healthline, it can really make a difference. Also consider keeping those old clothes in the closet. Google “how to dress younger” and all kinds of cool ideas come up. LinkedIn also allows you to post anything you think an employer would appreciate seeing, such as recommendations and testimonials from others. It’s a great way to stand out proactively and in ways that you fully control. But chances are, you have to get their attention first and that’s where the most important cover letter and, yes, the old resume come into play. Tips for Compelling Cover Letters. My advice here is to have a template on your computer that you can modify for each company you apply to. If a company says “we are looking for X and Y skills”, mention this specifically in your letter. Here’s one of the best free resources I’ve seen for writing a good cover letter: Resume Tips Resumes are often entered into scanners looking for certain keywords. My advice, again, is to have a template that you can modify for each job you are applying for. If you’re age sensitive, consider ditching the chronological resume and instead create one that focuses on skills and accomplishments. If you insist on using a chronological resume, you don’t need to go back more than 10 or 15 years. A friend in his 50s recently asked me to review his resume and mentioned his high school and grade point average. It is not useful. What comes in handy are these templates, examples, and tools to help you create the right resume. Finding work – at least a rewarding job that comes with a decent salary and a reasonable benefits package – can itself be a full-time job. If you’re determined to find something, consider taking a step back first and getting your ducks in order first. Social media platforms, good templates for cover letters and resumes that can be easily modified. With millions of job openings and an economy that seems to be recovering rapidly from the pandemic, this could be your time. Do you have any career advice for older workers you would like to share? I would love to hear from you. Email me at RetireBetterMarketWatch@gmail.com.