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Job-Hunting Tips for Midlife Career Changers

If you've been out of the job market for a while, here's how to jump-start your search.

Changing careers is daunting, especially if you haven’t applied for a job since social media burst onto the scene. But even though age discrimination is real, it’s not as pervasive as some older workers believe, says Mary Eileen Williams, a career counselor and author of Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50. Williams says the key to overcoming stereotypes about older workers is to get your foot in the door through a personal referral. That will also help your résumé stand out from the thousands of responses employers receive for job postings. When it comes to finding a job, Williams says, “it’s still who you know—I don’t care how big the Internet is.”

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That doesn’t mean you should ignore the Web and social media. You should have a profile on LinkedIn that showcases your skills, and you can also read job postings on LinkedIn to identify the types of skills potential employers are seeking.

In addition, LinkedIn job listings can help you determine whether you need to learn new skills to remain competitive. If so, Khan Academy, a nonprofit Web site, offers free video tutorials on everything from statistics to computer programming. GCFLearnFree, sponsored by Goodwill Industries, also offers free online tutorials on computer basics, such as Microsoft Excel.

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You’ve probably compiled a lengthy résumé, and it’s important to manage it strategically. Resist the temptation to e-mail dozens of résumés before breakfast every day. Instead, create a template and customize it to suit the job you’re applying for. “It’s better to send out two customized résumés a week than 5,000 that are boilerplate,” says Williams.

Don’t include your entire work history on your résumé. Most employers are only interested in what you’ve done for the past ten to 15 years, Williams says. She recommends including a section titled “Ongoing Professional Development” that details online or college courses you’ve taken to keep your skills up-to-date.

Finally, when you’re talking to potential employers, focus on areas where your age is an asset, not a liability. Have you pacified a disgruntled client or customer? Worked with someone who had a difficult personality? “All employers want problem solvers,” Williams says. “When you’ve reached midlife and beyond, you’ve solved a ton of problems.”

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