10 Tips on Finding & Keeping a Job After 50.

September 18, 2023

10 Tips on Finding & Keeping a Job After 50.

May 29, 2023

Age 50 may not just be midlife; it also might be mid-career. In a world with a President in his 80s, you might have as many years of work ahead of you—at 50—as you do behind you. Here are 10 tips to navigate the world of work in the last half of your career:

  1. Decide how much you need, not how much you want. Peak compensation is around age 50, so it’s not unusual to see your salary drop in your 50s and beyond. Don’t let your ego get in the way of work you may love but pays you less than you’re used to. Be open to working 80% time for 80% of the salary, remembering that “time affluence” is the true sign of wealth after 50.

  2. Highlight experience that requires more years of work to master. This comes from a Harvard Business Review article suggesting you highlight the personal, interpersonal, and soft skills that have contributed to your career achievements and progress. Giving examples—almost like a case study of your competence—can help. Use the expression “same seed, different soil” to articulate that you’ve built some mastery that can be beneficial in a new habitat. And, be open to addressing your age head-on as an asset, not a liability.

  3. Solve your prospective employer’s problem. The power dynamics in a job interview are often in the hands of an employer, so how do you show up with the wisdom and confidence—while exhibiting humility—to change those dynamics? Sheryl Sandberg suggests asking your interviewer what the most significant challenge the company faces is and creating a conversation, based on your experience, about how the company might solve that problem. You move from being the interviewee to being perceived as a knowledgeable consultant. A wise person asks great questions.

  4. Embody the two key qualities of a “modern elder.” When I joined the Airbnb founders to help them turn their tech start-up into a hospitality brand, they complimented me a couple of months into the job by saying I was as curious as I was wise (their definition of a “modern elder”). At 52, I joined a tech company for the first time. While I was hired as a mentor, I was also an intern (what I now call a “mentern”). Show that you have an openness to learning and a genuine curiosity about work and life, and they won’t notice your wrinkles; they’ll see your energy.

  5. Spend some time learning about Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI will revolutionize work, and you might surprise your prospective employer when you talk about not just the upside and downsides of AI but how it can benefit the company. You don’t have to become an engineer; you need to be fluent enough to explore the possibilities of this new technology.

  6. Advocate for the value of age diversity. Especially if you’re interviewing with a company that has a younger workforce, you might ask them about their commitment (and their data) to supporting age diversity. Check out my book “Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder” for helpful data and arguments about the value of mixing the generations at work. Just know that ageism exists. In a recent survey conducted by ResumeBuilder, 38% of hiring managers admitted to reviewing an applicant’s resume with bias against their age.

  7. Articulate the value of your “invisible productivity.” You will likely be an informal mentor in the company, so be clear about how you can assist younger co-workers as both “The Librarian” and “The Confidante.” The longer your career, the more “know-how” and “know-who” you can offer your employer, so you’re a bit of a librarian and a networker. And, because you hopefully are perceived as wise and are not competing on the same career track as your young co-workers, you can be a confidante. This doesn’t just mean you’re good at listening and keeping secrets; it means you are the one who helps create both confidence and a roadmap for younger employees’ success.

  8. Create “mutual mentorship” relationships. You can learn as much from your younger co-workers as they can from you. At Airbnb, my boss (CEO Brian Chesky) was 21 years younger than me, and he was also my mentee. We had something to learn from each other. He learned EQ (Emotional Intelligence as applied to leadership) from me, and I learned DQ (Digital Intelligence as to how a tech company works) from him, and we were both better off for it. Reach out to your HR leaders to suggest that mutual mentorship has the highest ROI of any form of leadership and development, and it’s a great employee retention tool as well.

  9. Intern publicly, mentor privately. I made this mistake with Brian early in my time at Airbnb. In our weekly senior leadership meeting, I tried to advise Brian on how he should run the meeting in front of everyone. That didn’t go over well. No one wants to be corrected by their dad in front of their friends. From that point forward, I realized that I would display my curiosity in public and my wisdom in private.

  10. Get used to having a younger boss. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the majority of Americans will have a younger boss by 2025. With five generations in the workplace for the first time and power moving younger, this is a whole new workplace. Let go of your generational stereotypes and lead with your curiosity.

If you’re worried that the odds are stacked against you because of your age, read MEA faculty member Kerry Hannon’s Yahoo Finance article citing the stats on how more employers are open to hiring older workers. It also shows that older workers tend to be happier and more fulfilled in their work than younger workers. Wishing you all the best on your journey, and don’t forget that MEA is a great place to consider what’s next on your career path.

Lastly, I’m a big fan of the Encore Network, a coalition of leaders that helps those 50+ offer their wisdom to organizations that are making a difference in their communities. The Network has created an Age Friendly Employers Guide that has all kinds of great stats and suggestions in it.

- Chip

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