Job Search Daunting For Baby Boomers

Good Question: How Do You Find A Job Over 50?

Written by Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – “In the past Colorado, it was so easy to get a job,” said unemployed 53-year-old Mitch Hegg. “ In this Colorado, the new Colorado, it’s hard.”

The new Colorado is the one after the recession hit. There have been setbacks before, in the 1980s, but this time many older workers are finding they’re out of work for a long time. The average nationwide for workers over 55 is now over a year. Some people are losing their unemployment benefits.

“And it gets me down, yes it does,” said Eva Gutierrez.

She’s an expert in medical billing and even bi-lingual. But she’s now been out of work for more than a year.
“It’s reality,” said 51-year-old job seeker Laura Hammond, “I understand some people are going to look at the younger generations and choose those maybe consciously or subconsciously.”

Faced with a new reality, we wondered if people over 50 can do more to help themselves.

“I think there’s always been some age discrimination out there and I think it’s probably a more relevant issue because I think there’s more competition for jobs today,” said Frank Battistelli, a career counselor with experience with the Social Security Administration.

Battistelli is working with the Denver branch of the AARP to put together videos that help the over 50 crowd get prepared. They’ve posted them on YouTube and they can be found through a link at the bottom of the local AARP website.

The first thing for a lot of older job seekers is the route.

“They have a very old fashioned view of how to find a job and basically it’s answering ads; whether those ads are in the newspaper or on the internet,” said Battistelli.

But he told us, that’s rarely successful.

“85, 90, 95 percent of people find jobs because people they know put them in touch with someone.”

Think about employers you’ve known over the years. Are they posting a job opening to fill the job, or just meet a perceived legal benefit of posting the job publicly when they already know whom they will hire? Battistelli said networking is king in the job search. He likes the idea of informational interviewing.

“It’s approaching a person in a company because you have interest in that company or that industry and you’re not approaching them asking for a position. You’re saying I’m really interested in this industry, I would like to break in, and I’m impressed with what you’ve done in your position. Can we sit down and talk for twenty minutes and maybe you could give me some advice on how I could go forward?”

Often people will feel flattered you’ve contacted them. They might also clue you in about jobs before they’re posted, or help you with an inside track. Battistelli recommends at the end of the conversation, you should ask if there are others you should speak to.

“If you get three referrals from every interview you do, you’ve got a geometric progression,” said Battistelli.
In addition, begin following that industry closely.

“It’s approaching companies directly. Not because they’ve run an ad, but because you’re interested in that company. It’s keeping on top of the business press, looking for spot opportunities to approach companies. Networking is not for the timid, so you’ll just have to work on that if you’re in introvert. When you get out and actually start speaking to people, good things start to happen.”

We can only hope. Many have failed to properly tailor their resumes for the job – a problem for applicants under 50 as well. Never tell them too much because the resume gets you the interview not the job. He’s seen some books. In the current economy, there could be hundreds, even thousands of resumes for a job opening.

“They’re looking for reasons to winnow that pile down. So they’re looking for reasons to throw resumes away and a long resume, two pages, three pages, and four pages; reject pile almost automatically.”

One page. That’s all you need. Battistelli told us people spend way too much time of what they’re done and not enough on what they can do.

“Most people’s resumes define their duties, We don’t want to know about your duties, we want to know what you’ve accomplished. That’s what going to impress the potential employer.”

He suggests one of two kids of resumes. It depends on whether or not you’re putting in for a job that you have some sort of experience in he told us.

In that case, “You’re probably going to write a chronological resume. But if you’re looking to do something different, maybe break new ground, you’re going to use a functional based resume based on transferable skills.” We’re including examples of both here.

Then it’s just good writing. Active writing.

“The bullets that you write need to be written actively. Starting with active verbs, describe the activity, use numbers and most importantly, give results.”

And if you’re older, leave that birth date out. And forget the ancient work history. You rarely want to go back more than ten years.

Good luck – and don’t give up.

Additional Resources

AARP Colorado Chronological Resume Model
AARP Colorado Functional Resume Model

AARP Videos On Resume Writing Over 50

More from Good Question
  • Jennifer S.

    Dear CBS, if this article and resource is aimed at people over 50, one can assume many individuals trying to use this will not be computer savvy. So why are the files in docx, aka Windows Vista format? I just spent the last 50 minutes on the phone with my mother trying to help her open, save, or even view these files to no avail because her computer, only a few years old, runs on Windows XP not Vista. I believe many will run into this same issue where older versions of Microsoft Word will not open the files. YOU NEED TO HAVE MULTIPLE VERSIONS OF THE ADDITIONAL RESOURCE FILES SO PEOPLE CAN OPEN THEM!!!!!!!!!! Please fix this problem so that people can actually make use of this resource.

    • Jessica Hughey

      ” if this article and resource is aimed at people over 50, one can assume many individuals trying to use this will not be computer savvy” It’s this kind of ridiculous attitude that keeps us unemployed!!!!!!

  • druid0621

    This is all very nice, but the bottom line is that corporations now are actively practicing discrimination based on age and unemployment status. And HR people are very adept at the practice. My resume is TWO pages long, and it gets me in the door. But once they see me, you should see the expression on their faces. I get ushered out pretty quickly. Where is the Dept of Labor on this? For once, they could be doing something useful in prosecuting this, but they are completely inactive.

  • Dan

    I remember in the 80’s same thing was said about older workers. This is funny druido621 is right about the age and unemployment status I saw one ad stating looking for younger worker. Another stated if you are unemployed show proof that you volunteered,went to school or actively looking for work. I did leave my birthday off my resume but on applications on line require you to put your date of birth. This is the first time in 36 years I am forced in to giving that information on an application. About contacting old employers all the places I have work are no longer in business. All my friends have left Colorado due to the lack of work here. About your story thank you for making my day brighter on my job search. One more thing two more unemployment checks left, than I will not be counted and homeless.

  • Maggie


    I totally agree with druido621 and Dan. Both are right on the nose about age discrimination. Some companies are even asking illegal questions on their applications.

    I think a lots needs to be done about age discrimination. This will definitely back fire when they realize the work ethnics of someone my age is better than 25-30 year old.s

    • Maggie

      Ignore report of comment. Brain was thinking faster than my typing.

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