7 Secrets to Getting a Job After 50

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Image by Dano used under the creative commons attribution license.

In what's already a notoriously difficult job market -- in a country weathering a major financial crisis -- 50-plus job seekers can be forgiven for approaching an employment search with a bit of anxiety.

But it's not all bad news. "There are great jobs out there," says Robin Ryan, a vocational counselor in Newcastle, Washington, and author of Over 40 and You're Hired! (Penguin, 2009). "I hear amazing success stories all the time, but you have to be creative and try different approaches than may have worked for you in the past." Here are 7 secrets to a successful job search after 50.

Secret #1: Get social

A Twitter conversation led to a job for out-of-work financial adviser Susan Schwartz of Boston, who answered a finance-related question posted by someone she followed on the social media network. When she received a tweet thanking her for her answer, Schwartz offered her accounting services, and a job was born. You don't have to be Twitter-savvy to find leads via social media; LinkedIn and Facebook are also deep resources for job seekers.

Don't wait for an actual job posting. Instead, create a need or foster the connections, so that when someone expresses that need, you're ready to fill it. This often means using conferences and social media to connect not just with those in your field but with those positioned to create new jobs.

How to do it: Start with a LinkedIn profile, considered an essential online resume, and get as many rave recommendations as possible from previous bosses and coworkers. (Many potential employers will go here first.) Then join every possible group frequented by those likely to hire you. Get familiar with all of LinkedIn's interactive features, and use them to be an active presence on the site. Comment on conversations, post links that show you're up on the latest developments in your field. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and online networking groups and sites targeted to different professions to do the same.

"You don't have to become an expert in social media, but it's important to see its value in raising your profile," says Julie Rains, a certified professional resume writer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Rains suggests thinking of social media in the same way you used to think of conferences and business networking groups -- as a way to reach the people who can help you get where you want to go.

Secret #2: Buy one

A corporate downsizing left Leslie Samuels out of work in her mid-50s. Then she saw a notice of a franchise for sale in her area. Now she runs an in-home care agency and gets much more satisfaction out of serving her clients than she ever did from marketing insurance.

Tax services, home inspection services, cleaning services such as Merry Maids, and fitness and activity classes for children are among the franchise businesses that aren't too expensive to get into and have a high rate of success, according to statistics from the World Franchising Network, which tracks the most successful franchise start-ups. But the variety of franchise operations available is seemingly endless, covering everything from commercial lawn maintenance to self-serve yogurt outlets to services that help people put up and take down Christmas decorations.

How to do it: Look at the financials carefully. The factors to take into consideration (in addition to your interests and qualifications) include:

  • Length of operation. Choose a company that's been around at least five years.

  • Cost to buy in. The WFN selected only those that cost less than $100,000 to get started, and many cost much less. The initial fee for a Roto-Rooter franchise will set you back just $10,000 (plus equipment), a carpet cleaning franchise just $7,000, and a Jazzercise or Kumon afterschool learning franchise just $1,000.

  • Your financing. If you're putting down cash, can you afford to lose some or all of it, at least in the short term? If you're borrowing it, have you run the numbers to make sure you'll be able to pay it back without penalties?

  • Transparency. Look for a documented track record; if the company keeps its financials secret, how are you going to know what you're really buying into?

  • Closings. How many outlets of that particular franchise have closed in the past three years?