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How to Stay Positive Job Searching After 50

Smart advice from two career-transition experts

By Kerry Hannon

I can’t shake this lyric from Carole King’s song Beautiful out of my mind:

You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face. And show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better…

It’s apropos of my topic at hand: How to stay positive when you’re over 50 and job searching, which is based on what I heard last week attending The American Society on Aging’s annual Aging in America conference in Washington, D.C.

A Resilient Job Search After 50

While there were sessions galore revolving around topics from caregiving to elder fraud to planning for housing as we age, one that particularly resonated with me was Managing Job Search Attitude in Older Job Seekers, presented by Dorian Mintzer, a terrific life coach based in Boston, and Renée Rosenberg, a career transition expert and mental health counselor from New York City.

Dorian Mintzer

The beauty of their session was its simplicity and positive message. Mintzer and Rosenberg offered the kind of can-do, action-oriented advice I also preach and have written about for Next Avenue and in Getting the Job You Want after 50 and Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness. (My HOVER Method incorporates the five ingredients I believe crucial to finding work: Hope, Optimism, Value, Enthusiasm and Resilience.)

“Basically, our goal was to offer some tips for a resilient job search after 50, combined with some of the ageism myths which may be internalized, leading to self-sabotage during the job search,” Mintzer told me. “It's important to be aware of our own attitudes about aging and what messages we're sending to others about ourselves. We can become our own worst enemy.”

Here's a sampling of these two pros’ advice on what 50+ job seekers can do to keep their eyes on the prize and a smile in their heart:

Believe in yourself and what you have to offer  Start by asking “What am I passionate about?” said Mintzer. Then, she noted, dig deeper to “assess what you really want from a job, what are your needs, skills and values.”

It’s all about knowing that you’re really good at something and then being able to market yourself based on that — articulately telling hiring managers about the results your strengths and skills produced, Mintzer said.

“You have to know what you have achieved in your years of experience and really own it,” Rosenberg added.

Run with a good crowd  As you’re looking for work, stay away from toxic people and seek out positive role models in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are working and productive, the women advised. “They can serve as inspirational mentors,” said Mintzer.

You might want to look for a job-search buddy who is also trying to find work. Then, keep each other optimistic and confident. Practice, for example, telling your sales story to one another, so you’re prepared to sell yourself in an interview.

Renee Rosenberg Portrait Embed

“You absolutely need someone who is not negative about your chances of finding a job,” said Rosenberg.


A career coach or even a therapist can also pay off. The key is connecting with someone who understands the hurdles you’re facing and can guide and encourage you. The federally financed OneStop Career Centers normally provide free counseling. Colleges and libraries may also offer gratis workshops with career coaches.

Learn new skills  By doing this, including getting up to speed with workplace technology, “you can confront some of the aging myths,” said Mintzer. Three myths she cited: older adults are too set in their ways; older adults aren't tech-savvy and older people aren't resilient.

Remember: landing a job is about what you can do for employers right now, not what you’ve done in the past. Having the up-to-date skills and certifications needed to do the work is nonnegotiable.

Stay on top of trends in your field  Set Google Alerts on your computer or smartphone to keep abreast of industry developments and companies you might like to work for. This can also help you prepare for future workplace changes that you may need to be prepared to tackle.

Force yourself to network regularly  “Part of a downward spiral is not feeling connected to others,” said Mintzer. “Don’t isolate. Join networking groups.” Get a business card with your contact information, including your LinkedIn profile address, to hand out at events.

“Academic research convincingly shows that more than half of all jobs come through a network,” Chris Farrell, the author of Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life and a Next Avenue blogger told me. He suspects, as I do I, that the percentage is even higher for workers 60 or older.

Meet with as many people from your network as possible. Glean their insights and their recommendations of companies or nonprofits you might want to consider learning more about, or openings they may know of. Always ask the most critical question, said Farrell: ‘Who else should I talk to?’ ”

Mintzer and Rosenberg are especially bullish about joining LinkedIn groups in your field and being active in LinkedIn conversations.

Volunteer  Helping out at a nonprofit while you’re unemployed is a great way to stay active and use your skills. “Treat that work as you would any job,” said Rosenberg.

Finally, maintain a sense of humor  “Laugh a lot,” counseled Rosenberg. “Laughter energizes you,” seconded Mintzer, with a grin. “Let’s practice.” And soon the room was filled with the rumble of quiet chuckling, as we all began to make eye contact with one another… and smile.

After all, as Carole King sang: “You’re beautiful as you feel.”

Photogtaph of Kerry Hannon
Kerry Hannon is the author of Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home. She has covered personal finance, retirement and careers for The New York Times, Forbes, Money, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today, among others. She is the author of more than a dozen books including Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life, Money Confidence: Really Smart Financial Moves for Newly Single Women and What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. Her website is Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon. Read More
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