If you are over 50 and concerned that ageism will make it harder to find a rewarding job, take heart. There is an ongoing shortage of skilled workers, and your experience could give you a competitive edge. With the right approach and credentials, you should be able to compete with younger candidates for tech jobs that are both rewarding and satisfying.
According to Market Watch we are experiencing the tightest job market in two decades, with 6.7 million positions that went unfilled last spring. To fill the gap, more employers are hiring older workers. The unemployment rate for people 55 and older is 3.1 percent, which is lower than the 3.9 percent overall jobless rate. Job growth for those 55 and older is up 4.5 percent, and the average amount of time it takes to find a job for someone 55-64 has dropped from 50 weeks in 2012 to 34 weeks.
As baby boomers reach retirement age, the number of older workers continues to grow, especially since many boomers need work rather than retire. These older candidates are an untapped resource for many employers, but to stay competitive, older workers must stay current with the latest technology. That’s why more older workers are going back to school, taking career training courses, and seeking certifications to compete for tech-related jobs.
New Career Opportunities for Professionals Over 50
A variety of growth industries are seeking experienced, trustworthy employees with technical skills. For all of these jobs, baby boomers have the advantage of maturity, work experience, and soft skills that can be cultivated only over time. Technical skills can be learned, whereas life experience can’t. You can improve your chances of landing your next job by adding technical training and certification to your resume.
Here are just some of the industries that are attracting older workers:
- Medical information/health records: The maintenance of electronic medical records (EMRs) is a growing field. Hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices have all had to adopt EMRs for patient records to comply with HIPAA, and that means more demand for health IT professionals who can keep records current. Certification as a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) or Microsoft Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) could give you an advantage for these types of jobs, and salaries average $60,769 per year.
- Quality assurance: Becoming a quality assurance specialist is great for those with attention to detail. All industries are developing their own custom software and someone has to find the bugs. The job can pay anywhere from $36,000-$82,000 per year, and although the job doesn’t necessarily require it, if you have quality assurance certification, you will have a credential that most other applicants won’t have.
- Help desk technician: Demand for help desk technicians is expected to grow by 11 percent through 2026. This job is not call center support but requires mature personnel who can show grace under pressure. Salaries average $44,000. To land a help desk job, it pays to have the right certification, such as a Cisco networking certificate or a Microsoft Office certification.
- Database administrator: Database administration is another growing field that’s ideal for older workers. This is a hot job category with a projected growth rate of 11 percent and an average salary of $62,000 per year, although top salaries are as high as $90,000. To qualify for database management, it helps to have a credential such as a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) certification.
- Web search specialist: If you are more interested in the human side of technology, a job as a web search evaluator allows you to test the online user experience and help companies improve their search rankings. The median pay is about $37,500 per year, but you can improve your value and your chances of landing a job with a web specialist certification.
Competing with Millennials
When applying for a tech job, your experience has value, but you may be perceived as too old to adapt. You have to dispel those misconceptions and demonstrate your skills, attitude, and experience. If you are going to compete with millennial job applicants, you have to stand out.
Before applying for any job, do your homework. Research the companies you are targeting and understand their market challenges and the technologies they are applying to overcome those challenges.
Use social media as part of your research. Hiring managers and company executives maintain LinkedIn profiles, and the companies themselves have profiles as well as job listings. Also use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media resources to learn what you can about the company and where it is focusing its attention.
Your experience matters, but don’t lead with it. If you talk about all of your accomplishments over your decades of employment, it could highlight your age. Don’t go back further than 15 years in your job experience, and be concise in explaining your background, offering data illustrating accomplishments wherever possible, e.g., “shortened processing time by 50 percent.”.
Highlight your certifications. Those vocational credentials will prove you are up to date on the latest technologies and ready to tackle the task at hand. Due to increasing employee turnover, companies are less willing to invest in onboarding and training, so proving you are ready to get to work is a big plus.
If you want to know who is hiring, check out resources such as the SeniorJobBank. You’ll find that Fortune 1000 companies such as KPMG, General Mills, Pfizer, and Boise Cascade are actively looking for senior workers.
To prepare you for the next stage of your professional life consider career training, Career Development Services has a variety of career training programs designed for people like you who need new skills or to refresh existing skills to compete in the job market. Contact one of our career advisors to learn more about how you can benefit from career training,
As you consider your prospects for a change in jobs, or even a change in careers, remember that learning is a lifelong pursuit. And knowledge is cumulative. The experience you have accumulated over the years will serve you well in your next job, and the lessons you’ve learned will make it easier to acquire new skills and certifications to help you get there. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?