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How older workers can improve their job search success

Last week, we addressed H.N.’s question about wanting to connect with a person or an agency to help her find employment in Orange County. At age 63, she was laid off from her job because of Covid-19. With two degrees in theology and years of volunteer work, she is looking for a part-time position. Tips for resume writing and networking were addressed in last week’s column. This week we will focus on resources in the broadest sense.

Although there isn’t one best way to approach the job search, some tend to produce more results than others. Going to an agency may seem like the most direct way to get that part-time job. Although useful, most jobs are not attained through an agency. For adults age 50 and older, 70-80 percent are found through networking; 40 percent through referrals and the least number through job boards.

“Job boards, where older job seekers tend to spend most of their time, are the least productive avenues for a successful job search. The most success comes from networking and referrals, which is where seekers should focus the majority of their time and energy,” according to Doug Dickson, chairperson of the Encore Boston Network, a nonprofit organization that focuses on opportunities for those age 50 and over.

Networking has its advantages. It opens the door to the hidden job market, those jobs not posted elsewhere. It reduces hiring risks for both the job seeker and employer in avoiding a mismatch. Hiring managers may have to select one person out of 100 applicants with whom they never met and only have a digital relationship. Those in-person referrals are more personal; they involve trust and can serve as an initial screening for both the older job seeker and the potential employer.

Some older adults may feel anxious having in-person networking conversations, particularly if they have been out of the job market for many years. Here are a few comments mentioned by the Encore Boston Network. “Networking makes me feel vulnerable.” “It makes me feel selfish and like I am begging. “I feel I cannot repay the person or I don’t know what to ask for.” Yet we network all of the time, asking for a good plumber or painter or advice in buying a car. Networking is part of our everyday lives.

Resources are important. The largest and most well-known is AARP. Check out their website specifically focused on employment opportunities. Another source rich with information is the Encore Boston Network which provides copies of PowerPoint presentations and audio recordings of workshops for older job seekers. The tips for a successful job search are particularly useful.

Look for age-friendly employers, a concept developed by AARP. To qualify for this title, a company is asked to sign a pledge affirming the value of experienced workers and their company’s commitment to equal opportunity regardless of age. Over 1,000 employers have signed the pledge. You can search the site by location and company.

How do you know if an employer is age-friendly? Here are a few clues from Encore Boston Network:

  • Employers do not ask for your graduation dates or anything else that might reveal one’s age.

  • They don’t use ageist words such as having “high-energy” or looking for a “digital native.”

  • Their diversity, equity and inclusion policies include age.

  • All generations are included in graphics of team projects.

  • Their advertisements include pictures that include mid-life and older adults.

  • The company offers flexible work arrangements.

Rosemary Nixon, a certified retirement coach and founder and board chairperson of Encore Palm Beach County shared some observations from working with older job seekers for the past 10 years. She offered several pieces of advice: have realistic expectations, be eager to learn new skills, do not be passive and have an online presence. She added the importance of believing you can make difference, help solve a problem, prevent one or just improve some aspect of the employer’s world. “Think about possibilities,” she adds.

Regarding work in Orange County, there are several sites for part-time work that emphasize opportunities for those in later life. Examples are SimplyHired and JobHat.

And now to your background– with your experience in the nonprofit world, check out a site that posts nonprofit jobs in your area. There are many more on the Internet. Also, consider exploring faith-based organizations given your degrees in theology.

Thank you H.N. for your question. Hopefully, these tips will help you find the job that is right for you and for a prospective employer. Stay well, safe and be kind to yourself and others.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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