How would you like to be viewed as the #1 Candidate for the job? Think it's impossible once you've hit fifty or older? Think again! Although it's true that older job-seekers face special challenges in today's market, you might be surprised to learn that some of the best ways to successfully compete against younger applicants have little to do with technical skills or physical prowess. Rather, these key strategies rely on good, old-fashioned social skills.
One defining factor remains the same no matter what your age: people get people jobs. Your attitude, the way you present yourself and the contacts you generate are critical determinates of your ultimate success. Here are three simple practices that will go a long way to creating a dynamic, positive presence and help to turn you into candidate #1.
1) Ask for Advice
This may seem counterintuitive, especially for mature job-seekers. Shouldn't you always strive to present yourself as a skilled, self-assured candidate?
It is true that you will want to project an aura of professionalism and confidence. Nevertheless, by asking a contact for advice, a piece of information or their thoughts in general, you will immediately engage them in the conversation. You are also far more likely to make them want to help you. Therefore, consider using one or more of the following examples the next time you interact with your network:
- "I've been looking to expand my target list of companies. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations of organizations that might be a good fit for me and my career goals?"
- "You've got such a visible presence in widget sales, do you have any thoughts on people I might contact to enlarge my network in the field?"
- "Although I pride myself on keeping my skills current, do you have any suggestions for ways I could increase my knowledge base so that I'd be viewed as an even more valuable candidate?"
2) Follow-up with Flair
People love being asked to give their thoughts and opinions. But be certain that you thank your networking contact for their help and advice. Besides displaying your good manners, there's an added bonus to this practice. After letting them know how much you've appreciated their help, you can use this second opportunity to ask them for additional names--thereby enlarging your circle of potential leads:
- "This information has been so helpful, do you know anyone else who might be willing to give me their take on the current marketplace?"
In general, following-up with your contacts in a timely and courteous manner is vitally important to your job search success. People, especially those who have gone out of their way to provide you with either information or networking partners, will appreciate knowing that their time was well spent with you. So, along with your expression of gratitude, list specific ways you have or will follow-up on their suggestions:
- "Thank you for suggesting I contact Mary Marketer. We have an appointment set up for next week."
- "I appreciate your suggestion that I read the article in Salesperson Weekly. I've done so and found it to be extremely helpful."
- End your networking message with "Thanks again and I will keep you apprised of my progress."
That way, you will have opened the door to contacting them from time to time. Later, you can express your ongoing thanks and/or ask for additional help and references. And don't forget that successful relationship building needs to be two-way street. So pay it forward and send articles or other pieces of information that will be of interest to your networking partners.
3) Use Your Network to Maximize Your "Halo Effect"
Nothing can compare with the "Halo Effect" you will enjoy if you are recommended by a trusted colleague, co-worker, employee or friend. Employers want to know as much as possible about applicants so that they can avoid hiring any dreaded bad apples who might spoil their team. Equally, if not more important than work-specific skills, personal traits such as integrity, a willingness to cooperate, and a strong work ethic are prized. These kinds of strengths are assumed if a recommendation comes from someone they trust.
So spend the majority of your job search time on your network! Don't be shy about requesting your contacts' input and support. People feel good about recommending and helping their friends. Even more, this is an area where people over fifty have a decided advantage. You have a lifetime of relationships built up over the years including family, friends, coworkers, customers, clients, fellow club and church members, and professionals you've hired (e.g., doctors, lawyers, CPAs), to name a few. Also, your connections are generally with people close to your own age. Therefore those in your network may hold senior positions and will likely have ties with decision makers in your targeted companies.
Although mature candidates do have negative stereotypes to overcome, you also bring multiple pluses to the job search. You have a well-honed skill set, market knowledge, an extensive personal and professional network, a mature work ethic and much, much more. Despite the realities of the modern job market, people do get people jobs. So use your social skills to your advantage and anticipate success--you just might become candidate #1 and land that great job sooner than you think!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!
Tennessee's cost of living is the second lowest in the country, just behind Oklahoma, according to data collected from the Council for Community and Economic Research. And the Tax Foundation puts Tennessee's state and local tax burden as the third lowest in the nation. Tennessee also ranked among the best in the country for access to medical care, and its weather is warmer than average.
Besides jazz and beignets, Louisiana offers retirees an excellent combination of low taxes (the Tax Foundation ranks it as the fourth lowest in the nation) and balmy weather. Louisiana has a 30-year average temperature -- that includes both winter lows and summer highs -- of 66.7 degrees. That's higher than every other state except Hawaii and Florida. It also has better-than-average access to medical care and a relatively low cost of living. One major knock on Louisiana, however, is a crime rate that's among the highest in the nation. The FBI says there are 4,244 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people in Louisiana.
The Mount Rushmore State may not be on many retirement wish lists, but it should be. What it lacks in warmth, it makes up for in a variety of ways. South Dakota has the lowest crime rate in the nation. The Tax Foundation also says South Dakota residents have an estimated state and local tax burden of 7.6 percent, which is lower than every other state except Alaska. Its temperatures are on the chilly side, with a 30-year average of 46 degrees -- about the same as New York and Colorado.
One of the strongest benefits that Kentucky offers retirees is an extremely low cost of living. The Council for Community and Economic Research, or CCER, which collects data on the relative costs of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care in communities across the U.S., found that retirees in Kentucky are paying less than many of their counterparts across the country. Bankrate, which analyzed CCER's data, found that Kentucky boasts the fifth-lowest cost of living in the nation. The Bluegrass State also has warmer-than-average temperatures and a crime rate that's slightly lower than average.
Mississippi is just another Appalachian state to make the list... sensing a trend here? The Magnolia State is not just one of the warmest in the U.S., it also has relatively low state and local taxes and a lower-than-average cost of living. Those factors make Mississippi an accommodating place for retirees, even though its crime rate is a little higher than average. It also has only 178 doctors per 100,000 people -- one of the lowest physician-to-resident ratios in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Virginia isn't just for lovers. It's for seniors looking for an all-around good place to settle down. The Old Dominion is better than average in most categories that Bankrate considered, including cost of living, warmer temperatures and access to physicians. With only 2,446 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people, Virginia has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Throw all of that in with Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, the Blue Ridge Parkway and other gems, and you have one of the best states in the U.S. for retirees.
Retire in the heart of Appalachian coal country? Absolutely. West Virginia ranks No. 7 on Bankrate's list of great retirement states for three main reasons: It has a lower-than-average cost of living, boasts a lower-than-average crime rate, and residents also have better access to hospital beds than the national average. And then there are the intangibles: The mountain ridges that ripple across the state are home to countless trout streams and hiking trails; its vistas look like something sketched by Thomas Kinkade; and temperatures are right in the middle range for U.S. states. Last year, temperatures in Charleston, West Virginia, ranged between a low of 12 and a high of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and the 30-year state average is about 52 degrees.
Home of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama boasts a trio of benefits that retirees may find alluring. It has some of the lowest local and state taxes in the nation. Its cost of living also is relatively low, especially for a Gulf Coast state. And its temperatures are among the warmest in the U.S.: Its average annual temperature of 63 degrees compares favorably to the national average, which is more than 10 degrees lower. However, Alabama has relatively high crime rates, with 4,026 property and violent crimes per 100,000 people (compared to the national average of 3,253). And access to medical care isn't as good as the national average.
The Cornhusker State ranks at No. 9 on Bankrate's best list for several reasons. Nebraska residents have excellent access to hospital beds, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and FBI statistics show that its crime rate is slightly lower than average. Its cost of living also is one of the lowest in the country, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research, which tracks the cost of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care in most major U.S. cities. The state and local tax burden is near the national average at 9.7 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. And its 30-year average temperature is about 49.2 degrees, which is colder than the national average.
Yes, it's frigid there. The 30-year average annual temperature in North Dakota is around 41 degrees, making it the coldest state in the continental U.S. If you can handle the cold, North Dakota could be an excellent place to settle down. Consider its access to hospital care. There are five beds available for every 1,000 people in the state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's tied for second-best in the country. North Dakota also has the second-lowest crime rate in the nation, and the state and local tax burden, which takes into account income, sales, property and other taxes, is at a relatively mild 8.9 percent of income.
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