Job hunting and over 50? How to become highly employable

To get a job you need up-to-date skills and industry knowledge

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Job hunting over 50 how to become employable

To get a job in today's market you need bang-up-to-date skills and industry knowledge. Take an in-depth look at yours with this nine-step guide and turn yourself into a marketable prospect, says High50's Ceri Wheeldon

Many of us are likely to be either choosing or needing to work beyond traditional retirement age, but when you have decades of experience under your belt it can be easy to get stuck in an employment rut.

It's equally easy, when looking for new opportunities, to simply present your most recent job spec to prospective employers.

But that won't work. You need to sit down and understand which of the skills you've acquired have a value, and which may even command a premium in today's market.

Over the past ten years, have you continued to develop your professional skills, grown within your career, and enhanced your employability?

Or have you stagnated, using well-honed skills on a repeated basis but without adding more personal value within the workplace?

Here are the questions you need to ask yourself, what you need to do, and what you should be able to demonstrate to prospective employers..

Identify your marketable skills

List all aspects of your role over the past five to ten years. Break down the elements that have enabled you to be successful. Highlight your key strengths in your current or most recent role.

Update your skills for the job

These are the skills needed to actually perform the functions of the job. Keep yours up to date, and take the courses that you need to bring your skills up to speed. Keep your professional accreditations current.

Attend industry conferences to understand what is driving your sector, and how your skills might need to be adapted to play a role in the future.

Are your strengths in consultancy, such as change management? Are you up to date with the tools and techniques that are being used by the forward-thinking firms winning the business?

Be honest in your assessment and identify both your strengths and any gaps that need to be addressed.

Know your industry/domain

How much does your knowledge of a specific sector factor in your success?

If this is where your value lays, you should know the sector inside out, be it food retail, for example, or expertise in managing and driving change within the public sector.

Be clear about if and how the sector is growing and whether your expert knowledge is in demand or could even command a premium.

Have an understanding of how competitors do things, as this could be used to good effect in a new role (taking into account any non-disclosure agreements, of course).

Build your contacts book

You may have had a long career in sales or business development, but you also need a contact base that is strong and current. Attending industry events to network could help you to reconnect with previous contacts or forge meaningful new connections.

Likewise, digital networking: strengthen your network on sites such as LinkedIn.

Strengthen communication skills

The way we communicate in the workplace has changed dramatically over the past decade. You should be able to demonstrate strong communication skills dealing with all levels, and age groups, within your organisation.

Face-to-face meetings have in many instances been replaced with communication via video, such as Skype, Google Hangouts or teleconferencing. Like it or not, you have to become comfortable in front of the camera.

In many industries there is now a need to demonstrate expertise with a strong online presence. If you haven't already, give yourself sufficient exposure on social media to be seen as an expert in your field.

Use technology to your advantage

Smart use of technology has become a major part of roles at all levels of an organisation. You should be able to demonstrate that this is an area you are comfortable with and can use to advantage in your role.

Be a cultural and team fit

Have an answer ready for when a prospective employer asks you to describe the culture of your current employer and indicate how you have thrived within it.

If you have worked for a company undergoing major change, be able to get specific on how you thrived through the change.

Demonstrate your key achievements

Achievements are as important as skills. Having yours off pat is essential, as is being able to demonstrate how you could repeat your success.

Understand which skills have value

Look at all the elements you have broken down, and take an honest look at which are transferable to a new role and have the greatest value in today's job market.

It is these that you should be prioritising on your CV during your job search or highlighting on your LinkedIn profile.

Think not only about which of your actual skills are transferable to another full-time role, but whether elements of your skills would be better packaged in a consultancy/subcontractor role or in portfolio working (having multiple strands to your career)?

This can reveal a key component of your job search: whether you should be focusing on roles where the likelihood of success is based your technical skills, or if you should be targeting employers where your sector and competitor knowledge is of greater interest.

To be marketable in the workplace in your 50s and into your 60s you need to ensure that your skills and market knowledge are current, and that you can demonstrate that you have the flexibility to change in a fast-moving job market.

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