By JoAnn Greco, for Yahoo! HotJobs
Charmian Foster, 52, remembers feeling "quite animated" as she lunched at a luxury Dallas resort with a potential employer in December 2004, but her energy flagged near the end of the interview. Getting up at the crack of dawn to fly from Philadelphia, then spending all day interviewing before rushing to grab a return flight later that same day had left her bedraggled and sweltering in an inappropriate wool suit.
Foster later learned that the interviewer "thought I wasn't 'dynamic' enough," she says. "This surprised the recruiter, who had known me for over 10 years. She eventually admitted that she believed it was my age that was the issue."
Plan for a Longer Search
Workers in Foster's age group can often feel left in the dust when it comes to the perceived energies of their younger peers. But are employers and recruiters really ageist? And how can older job seekers learn to position their advanced years as a positive?
Those are questions that we're going to start asking with increased frequency as our population ages. By 2012, 20 percent of the US workforce will be older than 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, despite the greater experience and job smarts of these workers, their job searches can take significantly longer than those of younger workers.
Maximize Your Skills
"If you're out of work for a year or two at this age, that's big," says John Challenger, of the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "It's crucial that someone in this group attack the search really aggressively, because he faces special challenges."
"Generational differences are huge," says Jan Cannon, of Boston's Cannon Career Development. "Younger managers see you, and they think of their parents. So you absolutely have to keep your technical skills up to speed. One way to show your potential employer that you're savvy is to use the Internet in your job search."
Get Your Network Involved
Challenger cautions against spending too much time with your laptop, though. "Older workers have real-world know-how, which includes getting out there and meeting all the people they've had any kind of relationship with during their work life," he says. "Get as busy as you can -- don't sit at home."
Most of all, says Cannon, know yourself and your strengths. "Take advantage of the fact that you've entered a new demographic by seeking out companies that sell to your generation," she suggests. "Or look for younger or smaller companies that may be seeking mature workers to guide them to their next stage of growth."
Develop Your Script
Foster, who spent 25 years as an executive in hospital administration and is now biding her time by consulting, says she understands that as an older manager, she is "better able to authentically appreciate and motivate people while quickly sorting out what works and what does not."
The older you are, the greater the number and variety of situations you've dealt with, says Challenger. "Develop a script that emphasizes your accomplishments," he says. "Companies buy track records."