10/03/2011 12:14 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2011

Five Keys to Beating the Age Factor

Any job-seeker over 50 knows that ageism in the workplace can be a real factor to the success of your search. Regardless of the challenges grey hair brings, there are certain key strategies you can use that will highlight your skills, stress your professional strengths, and make you attractive to potential employers.

1) Focus on the positive aspects of age. Be proud of the wealth of experience you bring, the challenges you've faced and overcome, and the well-honed skills you've accumulated over a lifetime. Emphasize your mature work ethic and your people skills. These are real assets of age.

Don't waste valuable time and energy on organizations that will discriminate against you based on the fact you're an older applicant. Concentrate on companies and industries where your experience will be valued.

There are a number of websites dedicated to helping mature jobseekers find work. Here are four to get you started:

2) Present an enthusiastic, can-do attitude. Your attitude underscores every aspect of your job search campaign. Stress the fact that you're willing to try new things, possess the required technical knowledge, and are flexible to meet the goals of the organization.

Watch your nonverbal messages. Make certain to use good posture, maintain eye contact, have a firm handshake, and smile. Choose clothing that's modern and shows you care about your appearance -- this includes eyewear and other accessories. Your goal is to exude an aura of confidence and energy, and the nonverbal messages you send play a major role in how well you'll project a winning attitude.

3) Know your skill set. You've done your job for years and you know you're good at it. Nevertheless, if you can't name and describe your skills with ease and confidence, you won't be able to attract employers. Write out a list of your skills in each of these three categories:

Your education and/or specialized knowledge: Consider the types of training and formal education you have for your work. How will your background and specific technical skills benefit organizations?
Your personal traits and strengths: What makes you unique as an individual? What is your work style? How do you interact with fellow employees? What added value will you bring to the company by just being you?
Your transferable skills: How can the skills you've acquired in previous jobs transfer to achieving in a new position? Are you good at organizing and coordinating? Are you a leader? Are you skilled at coming up with innovative solutions? Do you show initiative?

4) Present yourself well on paper. Resumes are often the key to opening the door for an interview. Be certain yours is top-notch.

Make your resume eye friendly. Use lots of white space and bullets to highlight your skills. Studies show reviewers spend about 30 seconds deciding if your resume is worth reading -- your critical information needs to literally leap off the page.
Customize your resume to the specifics of the position. If you don't take the time to show your fit with the skill set required in the posting, don't bother submitting your resume. Boilerplate resumes will end up in the black hole of cyberspace... unseen by human eyes. Today's applicant tracking systems are programmed to pull up only resumes that expressly state the necessary skills.
Substantiate your skills with examples of how you've made a difference. Did you save the company money or time? Did you oversee successful projects? Did you complete assignments thoroughly and on time? Whenever you can, quantify the results you've produced. Using numbers adds more weight to your claims.

5) Ace the interview. Interviews are your prime opportunity to sell yourself to the potential employer and land the job.

Prepare well. Study the current trends in your industry and be able to speak like a knowledgeable insider. Read up on the company -- pay particular attention to recent developments: management changes, new products and marketing initiatives, and any news about the competition.
Be able to name your key skills and back them up with examples of you performing your work at its best. Examples prove (as much as possible within an interview setting) that you own these skills and have used them successfully in the past. Prior accomplishments are considered the best predictor of future success -- so you'll want to wow your interviewer with what you've already achieved.
Follow up a few days later with a thank you note or email. Stress how much you enjoyed the interview, how your skills match the needs of the position, and express your enthusiasm for the job and the organization.

Above all, remember age does have its privileges. By following these five keys, you'll be well on your way to demonstrating your unique value as a job-seeker with maturity and confidence. You know your stuff, you've got experience, and you come with life skills and a mature work ethic. You'll be a valuable asset to any team or organization that has a need for someone with your talents. So present yourself as the valuable candidate you are -- go out there, anticipate success, and land yourself a great new job!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development. She works with midlife jobseekers helping them to successfully navigate the modern job market and achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide with tools and techniques to turn age into an advantage and give mature applicants the edge over the competition. Visit her website. Check out Land the Job You Love on Amazon here.