Take off the rose-colored glasses. If you are 55 or older and out of work - typically because you were downsized - it is not a matter of snapping your fingers and making a new gig appear. Discrimination in hiring based on age is illegal - but it also is common, multiple experts told TheStreet.
The good news: there are jobs out there, many well suited to seasoned, veteran workers. But there also are lot of companies that very probably will nix you just because of your age. "The fact is, it is more difficult for older workers to find solid jobs," said Adam Hatch, a career advisor and hiring manager at resumegenius.com.
Author and speaker Barry Maher added: "I always advise older job applicants to be extremely sensitive to the possibility of age discrimination. If there's even a chance it might be a problem, always assume it is."
More, pointed advice is that even if you are employed, when you hit 55 come up with a plan for your next step, said Tom Martin, president of Clear Path Financial Planning. "I've worked with plenty of clients within ten years of retirement, and I tell each of them what I'll tell you. Have a plan in place by your 55th birthday."
"Is there an ageism discrimination?" he added. "Possibly. The thing about being 55 is that you've been in your position for quite some time. Many positions become obsolete and employers phase them out. Just think of the printing industry. My father was one of them that was let go. He just happened to be 55 or 56."
You don't want to be blindsided so think ahead. Plan.
What kind of plan? Steven Lindner, executive partner of recruiting experts The Workplace Group, suggested thinking way outside the box. "The most important notion for professionals 50+ years old is to work a job that truly has meaning to them," he said. "With a good 10 to 20 years left of active employment, if the path you have chosen has not been fulfilling, change course."
That is, don't assume more of the same is what you want. If you love what you do - at least like it a lot - sure, go for it. But if inside you have been hankering for a different challenge, now is the time to go after it.
Or at least, per Martin, even if you are still employed, start planning your next moves.
While you are at this, Hatch's advice is to do a little sanitizing. He elaborated: "Hiring managers often guess an applicants' age based on the years they attended university. However, on the education section of a resume you have no obligation to state the years which you attended a given institution. Just post your degree and the name of the school.
"Another resume tip is to keep your work experience section recent - as a matter of fact, we recommend that candidates only include experience from the last 10 years for the sake of brevity anyway," Martin said. "Holding to this rule can offer resume camouflage for older applicants."
Many sources also suggested using a photo on LinkedIn - increasingly the go-to place for checking out job applicants - that definitely looks like you but is flattering and at least a little ambiguous in terms of chronology.
What kinds of jobs are out there for the 55+ crowd? Lela Reynolds, a senior career consultant at Resume Strategists, urged thinking big. "A person over 55 should approach their job search with confidence because they have a wealth of experience that can be beneficial to potential employers."
What the 55+ crowd has is experience. Sell that hard.
Career consultant Cheryl Rich Heisler elaborated: "There are also advantages to bring up that favor an older hire: you can be energetic, but no longer frenetic about getting ahead. You are independent, both in your abilities to do your work and from the needs of young children at home. You have been around long enough to have seen multiple sides of most issues, allowing you to better advise your company."
Focus on the positives of age, and you will do that much better in the job hunt.
Jayne Mattson, senior vice president at career coach Keystone Associates, suggested going after the right kinds of companies: "Look for mature companies: identify them through networking where the more experienced professionals are in the same age bracket."
Last ideas come from 69-year-old Ken Bredemeier, who said a way to jumpstart a stalled job search is "consult for a very low price or even volunteer to get in doors."
And if it comes to it, hire yourself, said Bredemeier: "I'm working out of a technology innovation center, creating a new product targeting the older community and btw, planning on creating opportunities for the elderly population."
That is an option. Don't forget it.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.