The job search landscape has changed and continues to evolve at an exponential pace. Societal forces impacting employment include:

•       Exponential technological change

•       A fundamental shift in organizational structures including increased use of networks, both virtual and real time

•       A truly connected world

•       A global market place for talent

•       Human/Machine collaboration

I secured my first professional job by knocking on doors of organizations until I found someone who had a role I could fill. That may still happen, but it is increasingly rare; the landscape has changed and continues to evolve rapidly. For the experienced worker these changes can be particularly disorienting. The 50+ age group is an increasingly large segment of the workforce. In fact, 35% of the U.S. labor force will be over 50 in 5 years. People are working longer for a variety of reasons. Because of my role as the Chief Human Resources Officer with AARP, I am keenly interested in helping individuals navigate a complex job market and AARP is leading the way in providing resources to job seekers and employers. Many individuals, but particularly those 50+, are re-entering the workforce after an extended absence, are looking to begin a new career, or simply looking to expand their horizons. Whatever the circumstance, there are some basic guidelines I have found useful. There is no shortage of career advice but if you are struggling in the new work environment here are some tips you might want to consider.

Preparation for Your Journey

Preparing for a job search requires a degree of mental toughness. You will undoubtedly face rejection, delay, frustration, and irritation along your journey. Patience and persistence are key. With a new outlook and a realistic set of expectations let’s begin .

Establish Objectives

When someone asks me for career advice one of the first questions I ask is “What do you want to do?”  This question seems to surprise many people- don’t be one of them. It is vitally important that you are able to answer this basic question. Whether you are a career changer, reentering the workforce, trying to advance within your career, or have been unemployed for a period of time, the answer to this basic question will drive your career search approach.

Get Assistance with Your Resume

A resume may seem like a vestige from a by-gone era (and in some ways it is!). Like it or not, your resume is a reflection of you and can be the difference in getting an interview or having your search prolonged. I hesitate suggesting you spend money in your job search, but unless you are an exceptional writer it is worth hiring someone to help with your resume. An investment in a well-crafted resume can pay off. Over the years I have seen more resumes that I can count. Recruiters can see hundreds or more resumes for a single job. In a future post I am going to give you some insights into working with internal recruiters and search firms (headhunters), but for now let’s focus on that resume and make sure it stands out from the competition. Here is a sample excerpt from a resume:

Volunteer Experience

Main Street Food Bank                                2007-Present

I serve as a volunteer in the community food bank on weekends. I prepare meals, maintain clean conditions in the food preparation area, and provide information on community resources.

This is a nice example of what this candidate has accomplished. Now let’s see if we can make it stand out.

Volunteer Experience

Main Street Food Bank                                2007-Present

I serve as a volunteer in the community food bank on weekends. I prepare over 300 meals, maintain clean conditions in keeping with local health department standards in the food preparation area, and provide information on community resources. This prevents more than 100 working families from going hungry.

The second example is outcome oriented and provides data, rather than simply listing an accomplishment. By adding an additional 20 words, this example answers a basic question – “so what?” Unfortunately for many job seekers, their resume is a list of all their wonderful accomplishment. Make no mistake employers want results. If you construct your resume to highlight the results of your accomplishments, you will stand out from much of your competition.

There are many styles of resumes and you will find a lot of information about the best format, the length, and many other stylistic factors. It can be confusing. This is why it is important, if you can, to find someone you trust to help you navigate this component of your search. In a future post I will highlight some tips on how to customize your resume based on specific jobs and ways to get a recruiter or hiring manager’s attention with some simple changes to your basic resume format.

The Search

With a new perspective, some sound advice and an updated resume you can embark on your search. Let’s take a look at some networking and search basics.

Leverage Traditional Search Methods

We live in a digital age. Your community may soon have a driverless taxi service! But don’t under- estimate the value of your personal relationships. In my role as a human resources executive, friends, colleagues, family, and people I barely know, ask me for advice and assistance. I am happy to help. Your network is also happy to help you. Enlist your loved ones and your network early. Activating your network and letting them know about your ambitions can be unnerving. Take the plunge and trust that your family, friends, neighbors, and others want to help you. They can be a great source of comfort and assistance and a sounding board for you. Think about creating a close circle of people in your life to act as an advisory board, the response will be pleasantly surprising and will pay off.

New and Emerging Search Methods

Effective recruiters and head hunters use a wide variety of methods to locate good candidates. Progressive recruiters leverage their existing networks and relationships to find qualified talent and they probe social media sites, local events, and other forums. Familiarize yourself with job boards, if you are already on social media (Facebook Instagram, LinkedIn) find employer sites to see what jobs they have posted, what employers are looking for, and connect with the employer’s site so you can stay up to date on the latest developments and offerings.

Networking in the Digital Age

Expanding from your traditionally personal, more intimate networks to the digital space can be daunting. The primary digital space for job seekers and recruiters tends to be LinkedIn. Before you dive in and start creating a profile, go to the site and look around. There is a job search function, so you can take a look at what employers are looking for. You can also peruse a variety of profiles. You will see some that are really good, and some that are not so good. Remember, LinkedIn is a professional network and presenting yourself professionally is important. Through a new partnership with www.lynda.com, LinkedIn also provides a robust learning platform where you can get information on interviewing skills or maybe brush up on technical skills. It is likely some of your friends or family has a LinkedIn account and using them for advice and counsel can be a valuable tool in your job search. LinkedIn is not the only source of job networking, but it is certainly the most popular among recruiting professionals and job seekers.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

If you are a job seeker AARP is sponsoring another in our series of highly successful virtual career fairs on January 26th from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. You can register on line at www.aarp.org/parttimeworkfair

AARP is also a great career opportunity (I should know!). Engage with us at www.careers.aarp.org there you can find information about careers with our great organization and join our talent community.

The talent community is where you can upload your resume for review by our recruiters and hiring manager even if you are not interested in applying for a role or wish to be considered for a future role.

If your organization is looking to tap into experienced workers for talent, check out AARP’s Employer Pledge Program at www.aarp.org/employerpledge. This is a nationwide effort to help employers solve their current and future staffing challenges and direct job seekers to employers that value hiring experienced workers. Spread the word!

Next time I will focus on navigating the world of the recruiter, how to tweak your resume to achieve optimal results, and what to do when you get an offer.

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