How to change your mindset to get a job in your 50s or 60s

by | Career

Writing about retirement, I also need to consider ageing, we are getting older, and also work, people may want or need to continue to work. Back in 2016 my 6th book was published: You’re Hired! Find Work at 50+: A Positive Approach to Securing the Job You Want. I re-read it recently and it is still relevant today.

Whether you, or someone you know or work with has to get another job for financial or personal reasons, they want to have their best positive experience in the job search process. It’s challenging at any age, but some of my clients start job search thinking they are too old, that they won’t be successful and this starts a downwards cycle.

What we believe will affect our outcomes; we need to believe we can be successful. It’s not positive thoughts alone that we need, but thoughts based on evidence of why we should get the job.

What we believe can affect what happens. Focus on the negative, all the reasons why you won’t be successful and you dramatically reduce your chance of success. Just like an athlete you need to focus on your goal – being successful in your job search and getting a job offer.

If you think you are too old to get a job and that you won’t get shortlisted, that’s what is likely to happen. We need to have the inner belief that we can make a change and achieve our desired goal. If we expect to fail, we are creating a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. This can lead to our actual failure, which lowers our self-confidence further.

Our beliefs can have a significant impact on outcomes. For example, in a clinical trial, patients were given a harmless injection of saline solution but were told it would lead to hair loss. About 35% of the trial sample actually lost their hair! Our mind is that powerful.

It can be easy to focus on all the reasons why you won’t get a job and that employers prefer youth. Sometimes we skip over more positive stories. There are many examples of employers who welcome people like us making applications, organisations such as the Nationwide Building Society, JD Weatherspoon, McDonald’s, Centrica PLC, Ronseal, ASDA, B&Q, John Lewis, M&S and the First Group. A.T. Brown (Coaches) Ltd have said of the older worker ‘They’re like gold dust. Their experience and flexibility would be hard and costly to replace.’

Be clear on your strengths and differences

You can’t just think yourself into a job, it has to be based on evidence. You need to be clear on your strengths, have evidence that you can share at interview to back up any statement and be ready to discuss. Focus less on what you do that’s the same as everyone else going for the job, but focus more on what differentiates you. What do you do differently that makes you stand out, and have this stated clearly on your CV and LinkedIn profile.

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If you think: I’m too old

If we meet people and are apologetic about our age and see a gap as bigger than it is, that’s what other people will see too. When we meet people we need to come across with energy – both in how we speak and also how we move. We also need to keep up to date with new technology, we may not use Twitter or Tic-Toc, but we should understand how it can be useful in a business context.

If you say: I’ve applied for xxx jobs and not yet been shortlisted.

Then you need to adapt your technique, if what you are doing isn’t working, do something different. Get some candid feedback on your CV, focus on making your LinkedIn profile engaging, start taking action and contacting companies rather than waiting to see an advertised job. Talk with people from a different generation, they may know of opportunities that you haven’t considered.

We have to treat each disappointment as a learning experience, and use this to do better next time. We also need to remember that sometimes a decision is outside our control. The job may already be allocated to someone and the company is ‘going through the motions’, or they want someone with specific experience which wasn’t made clear in the job ad, it’s not just about our age.

If you feel: I’m lacking confidence, I haven’t looked for a job in years.

You may need to act confident, especially when you meet people and go to interview. Pretend you are someone with lots to offer and focus on good things rather than the negative.

Break it down, divide job search into much smaller goals. A good early goal is to remind yourself of all the times you have learnt something new and stepped outside your comfort zone. I don’t expect you to write a big list right now, but begin a list and add to it over the next few days.

Focus on what you have done this week, not the job you weren’t shortlisted for. But also recognise where you need to take action. Review what you have done and also where you need to improve.

Change Your Inner Conversation – Use Self-talk

Our self-talk can be either positive or negative. Negative self-talk is more likely to lead to negative results; positive self-talk leads to positive results and can increase our self-confidence. Too often we fill our heads with statements like:

’Who will want me? I’m too old. I worked for 28 years in the same company, and that’s all I know.’

‘I’m older than the interviewer and all the other candidates. They’ll never hire me.’

Our mind then looks for lots of reasons to make this true. If you keep telling yourself that you will fail and that you don’t expect to be successful then that’s what will happen. You need to think about your self-talk and praise yourself for your achievements.

We can turn statements around, so instead of saying ‘I’m being discriminated against because of my age,’ we can say ‘I have a lot of skills and experience to offer. I’m up to date with technology and have energy and enthusiasm,’ or ‘I’ve got some great experience that an employer can benefit from.’

It’s not just mind-set

We also need to ensure that we keep or skills up to date, that our CV is de-aged and we provide evidence of how we continue to learn and develop. We also need to stay open to new ideas and differing views, to not think that the way that we did things in the past is the only way that things should be done.

We need to go into interviews looking like we are contemporary, not dressing like we are 25 but with a nod to either current fashion trends or to embrace our quirky style.

Openness to change is a key characteristic in a successful adjustment to retirement and it is also invaluable in seeking a new job.

There’s so much more I could write on this topic – some covered in my book, but for now, over to you, I welcome your comments.

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Denise Taylor

Chief Inspiration Officer, The 50 Plus Coach.