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Dispelling Myths About Job Seekers Over 50

Dispelling Myths About Job Seekers Over 50

By Susan Kushnir, for Yahoo! HotJobs

In "Field of Dreams" Kevin Costner's character heard a mysterious voice saying, "If you build it, they will come." Soon a team of deceased yet remarkably preserved ballplayers show up to play on Costner's newly renovated ball field. That mythical strategy may work in Hollywood, but not in the land of job seekers, especially those over 50.

There are, in fact, many myths about job seekers over 50, and many aren't relevant to today's job market.

Myth: If You Wait for the Perfect Job, It Will Come

No way. Leigh Branham, author of Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business: 24 Ways to Hang On to Your Most Valuable Talent, recommends spending at least 10 hours a week researching desirable companies. Then, circulate that list to your network of former colleagues, relatives, friends, etc.

Next, use the AIR strategy, which stands for advice, information, referrals. When you speak with someone in your network, emphasize that you are looking for advice, information on the most progressive companies and suggestions for next steps including possible referrals.

Myth: 'I'm Too Overqualified'

Yes, you've produced a lot of results, and some midlevel positions are no longer suitable for you. That's a good thing. You've morphed into a trusted adviser that others seek out for your know-how and can-do spirit. Companies are also interested in people with more gravitas and experience to help mentor Gen X colleagues.

Myth: Hold Fast to the Techniques That Have Worked for You in the Past

Limiting yourself to the paradigms you've always had will be just that -- limiting. Harry Newman was an over-50 employee with Chase Bank for over 24 years before it downsized. "Approach the job as if you're self-employed, so that if tomorrow you need another job, you'll be prepared," Newman says. "It is a beginning, not an ending. Be open to possibilities."

For example, focusing on finding a job in a large company may have worked 20 years ago, but today half of new jobs created are in companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Myth: 'Companies Aren't Interested in Me Because I'm Too Old'

By 2012, 20 percent of the US workforce will be older than 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Age becomes irrelevant when the focus is on results.

Greg Waldron, talent management officer for Porter Novelli, says, "I've never had so much job activity and been so sought after since I hit 50."

Maryanne Rainone, senior vice president and managing director of Heyman Associates, an executive recruiting firm, says that 33 percent of placements in 2007 were for candidates older than 50. "Many companies want someone that has not just seen good times in the industry but also knows how to weather bad times," she says. Bad times may include stock market plunges, company scandals or buyouts.

Finally, stay energized, current and enthusiastic about your field. Focus on your significant capabilities, rather than your lengthy experience -- it's all about your value, not your age.

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