While it is never easy to lose a job, it is particularly difficult for Post 50s, many of whom have dedicated more than two decades to their careers and may have been out of touch with job hunting for just as long. Add to that the current job market and unfair presumptions, and middle-aged job-seekers have entered a full-on battle.
But before you throw down your job search sword in frustration, consider the positives. The December 2011 overall unemployment rate reached its lowest point in nearly three years -- 8.5 percent -- and the December 2011 unemployment rate for individuals ages 55 and over was the lowest of any other age group: 6.2 percent. Those aged 45 to 54 years old followed close behind at an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent.
"Right now I think hiring is brisker than it was a year ago," said Paul Bernard, founder and principal of the executive coaching and management consulting firm Paul Bernard & Associates. "I think slowly but surely hiring is improving."
But that's little comfort to post 50s people who are jobless and struggling to re-launch their careers. "If you are trying to get into a different firm (and) you can't get in at the senior-most level, (employers) aren't going to want to take a chance on a person in their 50s, even if you know you’re going to do a great job and you're willing to take a pay cut," said one unemployed, post 50 job-seeker, who was laid off after working at the same company for more than 20 years.
Indeed, the job market may appear grim to many unemployed post 50s, but look beyond the negatives and try these job search tips:
Don't Dwell on Anger
When you're pushed out of a job that has been a defining part of your life -- or at least a primary source of income -- it is easy to disappear into a fog of anger and sadness. Don't. A successful job search begins with ushering your negative thoughts out the door. A recent post 50 job-seeker who successfully found a position seven months after being laid off advises her peers to maintain a laser-like focus on goals. "I began making a list of things I needed to do," she said. "If I woke up on a certain day and said, 'Gosh I'm feeling too blue today to move forward,' I'd look at that list. The list would override the emotion, and by the end of the day, I felt like I had accomplished something."
Figure Out What You Want
Once job-seekers get out of the dumps, they should refine their searches to match their career goals. "The very, very first thing you need to do is have a clear, well-articulated job objective," said Bob Sloane, co-founder, prinicipal and executive coach at OptiMarket and co-author of "Fired At 50." Your career goal should include the job title, type of organization you hope to work for and how you will meet the future employer's needs, he said.
Network and Then Network Some More
One of the most valuable job search tools for finding a job after 50 is networking. According to Sloane, "over 80 percent of jobs are gained through networking, not through responding to published leads, not through recruiters."
How much time should you spend networking? Bernard suggests that job-seekers dedicate 80 percent of their time to networking, with the remaining 20 percent split between answering ads and working with recruiters.
Your Age Can Be An Asset
A post 50 job-seeker should focus on the advantages of his or her age and experience. Veteran employees may be able to tout the following skills to set themselves apart: problem solving, people management, judgment and leadership, said Sloane.
In addition, think outside the box while searching for jobs. Consider alternative work arrangements, such as consulting, which may eventually lead to full-time employment. "For someone over 50, it's a lot easier to get hired as a consultant than to get hired for a full-time job," said Sloane. Sloane also suggests that post 50 job-seekers consider opportunities with small companies and outside of their sectors.
Post 50s shouldn't be afraid to reach out for help as they embark on their job searches, whether it's hiring a coach to prep for interviews or asking LinkedIn connections to introduce you to one of their contacts. Many post 50s are used to being the ones giving assistance, and are uncomfortable asking for it, said Bernard. "They will probably have to work harder at ... learning to pitch themselves and brand themselves and learning to talk about the brand called 'you,'" he said.
Be Prepared for Behaviorally Based Interviews
Some employers use behaviorally based interview questions, which focus on how candidates handled specific situations. For example: "In your past job if you had a conflict with a co-worker on a strategy, how did you handle it?" Give a brief and specific answer instead of highlighting all of your experience during these interviews, because it might overwhelm the interviewer, said Stephen A. Laser, Ph.D., business psychologist and author of the book "Out-of-Work and Over-40." Instead, "focus on those few things that really highlight your major strengths," he said.
See the slideshow below for helpful apps for your job search.