In a fiercely competitive job market, your job prospects vary based on age and experience.
Here’s a timeline for job seekers of all ages.
Your 20s: Time to Get it Going
Entry-level workers are having an especially hard time finding jobs. The unemployment rate among people in their early 20s was 13.8% in February, compared with 7.5% for those 25 years and older, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.
What’s worse: Newly unemployed mid-level workers are now competing with twenty-somethings for lower paying jobs. During your search, you may want to take what you can get and keep an eye out for something better. And don’t underestimate the value of face time.
“Networking is a contact sport,” says Jeff Hocking, managing director for northern California at Korn/Ferry International, an executive recruiting firm in northern California. “People in their 20s spend way too much time networking on their computer.”
Your 30s: Get Ready to Really Work
During budget cuts, mid-level employees are often the first to go because a bare bones staff needs both decision makers and grunt workers. So now may not be a good time to look for a bump up in job title. You may actually have to take a pay cut or have to absorb the work of another person.
“With all these jobs cuts, people are forced to take jobs that are much broader than they’ve ever taken,” and have an extremely heavy workload, says Hocking.
In your 30s, you might also want to re-evaluate your skill set and determine whether you’d qualify for a job in another field.
Your 40s: The Most Employable
“In their 40s, people are looking for stability more so than people on either end,” notes John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment consulting firm.
Although you might be worried about saving for retirement and saving for your kids’ education, you’ve got it made compared to other job seekers. Workers in their 40s are probably the most employable, says Hocking. “By now you have great experience and a great skill set, and you’re not considered to have less energy” than younger workers, he adds.
Your 50s: Re-examine and Reconnect
You may have made more money than ever at your last job. But if you’re searching for employment now, you’ll have to come to terms with possibly taking a pay cut, even at your age.
“More people today recognize that salary is going to go up and down,” says Challenger. “They’re looking for the right job that uses their skills. They’re not going to make demands on pay.”
When searching for jobs, use your network. “People don’t network enough until it’s too late,” says Hocking. “Getting a job is all about networking. Search firms, ex-classmates…People in their 50s and 60s tend not to network enough, and their only network is the people they work with.”
Hot tip: Online networking is a good way for boomers to tap into their past, and a great way to connect with Generation Y workers.
Your 60s: Options Abound
There’s an assumption that “if you’re not at the top of the heap by 50, you’re not willing to contribute,” says Hocking. And employers often incorrectly assume that people in their 50s and 60s don’t have the energy or interest to work long hours or travel. More older workers are also willing to take a pay cut and endure long commutes, Hocking says.
And with the kids out of the house, this is a great time for some sixty-somethings to try their hand at part-time and consulting work through their retirement.
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