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5 Things Over-50 Job-Seekers Are Doing Wrong

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's tough out there for baby boomers out of work, especially older ones.

Data from Sentier Research reveal that Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 have seen their median income decline by 7% in the post-recession years, which Sentier defines as 2010-13. In dollars and cents, boomers in that age group saw their average annual incomes slide to $58,432 from $62,842.

That slide grows sharper for the number of 50-plus Americans who are either out of work, working part time or working full-time jobs that don't pay enough to keep up with household bills and let workers save for a secure retirement.

A Boston College study calling 50-and-older workers the "new unemployables" confirmed that unemployed older workers are less likely to find jobs than unemployed younger workers. "Older workers are involuntarily working part time because they cannot find full-time employment. Others are becoming discouraged and dropping out of the labor force, believing they will not find new jobs."

The BC study points out that younger workers are more likely to be "tuned in" to what employers want to see and hear in a job search and interview process.

What are older workers missing out on? Here's a glimpse:

They're ignoring new online media. Younger people are more likely to use social media to look for work than older Americans, especially business-focused platforms such as LinkedIn. Companies expect and even demand that applicants use technology and social media in the job hunt process, as they'll often be using those same technologies to solve problems on the job and to network with clients. If you can make the case you're highly visible on LinkedIn and Twitter, your target employer will likely give you a longer look.

They're not retraining at every opportunity. The Boston College study says 12% of older Americans looking for work had enrolled in career retraining programs, compared with 20% of younger job-seekers. "Given that older workers may be more likely to have been laid off from industries suffering permanent structural declines, and may not have skills that readily translate to currently available jobs, they are more likely to need longer-term training and education programs than younger workers, particularly in the increasingly knowledge-based economy," the study reports.

They're dating themselves. Employees don't want to see specific dates, such as college graduation dates, on a resume. Hiring managers call that an "age-defining" gaffe. Instead, focus on the target employer's goals and missions and give solid, specific examples of your experience. In other words, do what you can to take age out of the equation.

They're thinking only about full-time jobs. Employers love energy and initiative, no matter what an applicant's age. Older workers can also take the bull by the horns by offering to start working part-time or on a contractual trial basis to prove they can do the job. That lowers the "risk/downside" factor for employers and makes for a wider, more open path to full-time employment.

They're failing to network. Yes, plenty of job applicants and even employees roll their eyes over the term "networking." But talking to friends, mentors, former co-workers and workers at companies you're targeting is an extremely positive use of time. A 2009 U.K. study by ResearchGate showed that networking leads to more (and more) diverse job opportunities.

Companies still appreciate old-fashioned gestures such as thank-you notes after job interviews and interviewees who dress up for in-person visits, though.

The crux of the issue is this: Fair or unfair, older job hunters have to clear a higher hurdle than younger workers. Embrace that, keep moving forward on key issues such as networking and data-gathering and you'll vastly increase your odds of landing a good job after 50.

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