Nonfarm payrolls rose by a 69,000 in May -- much less than expected, and the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 8.2 percent, the government reported today. The news is daunting to post 50s who find themselves struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. The AARP Public Policy Institute said that in May, 54.9 percent of people over age 55 seeking work had been looking 27 weeks or more. On average, unemployed people over 55 have been out of work for 56 weeks, or more than a year.
With that in mind, HuffPost50 spoke with Ellen Lubin-Sherman, author of "The Essentials of Fabulous: Because 'Whatever' Doesn't Work Here Anymore," about what midlifers need to do to land a job in today's market. Be forewarned: You might be surprised by some of her advice.
What's the biggest roadblock boomers face when they want to re-enter the workforce with a resume gap?
Their defensiveness. People over the age of 45 get defensive about that gap in their resume. Without realizing it, this defensiveness may be interpreted as hesitancy rather than full throttle energy -- the sine qua non of a winning job search. I would strongly urge someone not to engage in a serious job search until they are confident their self-presentation will dispel any doubt about the hiatus, their age and their ability to quickly assume a leadership role and increase revenue.
Are there some specific things midlifers should be reminded of when they are job-hunting?
Yes. Change your email address if it’s obnoxious (Loves2Golf), family-oriented (Mom2Four) or salacious (no explanation necessary). Everything in your packaging reinforces your credibility or undermines it.
Get fit. Yes it’s unfair, but people are judgmental about potential employees who are out-of-shape. Shave 10 years off your life by going to the gym and skipping wine at dinner. (And eat foods that are natural diuretics such as asparagus and kale.)
Let's talk about resumes. Should you make it age-neutral and if so, how do you do that?
Everyone is pressed for time, so keep resumes to one-page and do not include work experience beyond the last 10 years. If you’ve been furloughed, downsized, or chose to leave the workforce, include part-time and volunteer work to cover the gaps between jobs. Don’t use jargon in describing your previous experience: Make it to the point, clear and direct.
Other than staying in shape, should you do anything to try and look younger?
To dye or not to dye -- that is the question. The elephant in the room when you’re 45 and older is “are they fit and will they be able to keep up with the pace?” I recommend that you dispel any doubt by having your hair professionally colored (both men and women) and men should shave off a beard if it has tell-tale gray hairs.
OK, what else do you think is a potential landmine?
Speech patterns that include the words “like,” “um,” “to be honest with you,” do not underscore your eloquence. Do not raise your voice at the end of a sentence; Valley Girl-speak is irritating. Stay hip to the zeitgeist. Be informed about world affairs, the debt crisis, the IPO for Facebook, even the return of Andy Pettitte to the Yankees -- a sure indication that you’re a brilliant listener and have a sharp memory for details. The best conversationalists listen more than they speak.
Never talk about your involvement with your children’s sports activities. That could be a tip-off you will not be able to stay late to finish up a project.
There's a perception that boomers are techno-phobes. How do you address that?
If your digital skills are lacking, head to a class at your local library. You need to be familiar with the most essential tool for corporate work. And while you’re at it, brush up on various social media platforms and find their use in your realm of work. Practice as if your professional life depends on it (because it does).
Does the generational gap impact a midlifer's chance at getting hired?
It can if you let it. Shocked that you’re working for someone who could have baby-sat your own children? Get over it -- fast. A young boss has the skills you need to acquire, while your maturity, empathy, and common sense might rub off on him/her.
Check out the slideshow below for 6 things Lubin-Sherman suggests you never wear to a job interview. Let us know if you agree, and what other items you think should never be worn to an interview.
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