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Tip Sheets

Over 45 and Looking for Work?


Even after you reach a certain age, changes in your life and your workplace continue to happen—for example, you may lose a job that you thought was secure or realize that you need to supplement your retirement income.

If you never expected to be looking for work at age 45 or better, becoming a job seeker at this point in your life can feel like a major challenge. You may have been imagining your future as a well-marked path in front of you. Now you’re facing a change in direction, with no idea of where the path is leading.

The following tips will help you move forward into a new phase in your life.


Allow yourself time to deal with any emotions you’re experiencing.


You may need to grieve the loss of what was before you’re ready to make plans for what will be. For example, if family illness has forced you to look for work, you may be feeling resentful. It can be hard to let go of old expectations, even when you know they’re no longer realistic. Moving forward is easier if you can put them behind you.

As you cope with change, you may experience all or some of the following stages of grief:

  • shock and denial
  • anger
  • depression
  • withdrawal

You may not experience all these stages or you may go through them in a different order. The key is to acknowledge your feelings so that you can

  • give yourself permission to have bad days
  • work through your changing emotions in your own way
  • avoid dwelling on things you can’t change
  • accept the reality of your situation
  • get help if you need it

Check out the resources at the end of this tip for more information about dealing with change.


Take stock of your financial situation.

A little planning and some good advice can help you worry less about money and free you up to look for work:

  • Review your assets, such as income from other family members, emergency funds and savings. Review your expenses: how far will your assets stretch to cover your costs?

  • Talk with family members. Work with a financial advisor. Together you may be able to find ways to reduce expenses, supplement your income and consolidate your debt.

  • Check out Money Mentors, an Alberta-based, not-for-profit financial counselling service that offers budgeting help and unbiased financial advice.

Recognize that employers value transferable or employability skills.

Employability skills such as communication and interpersonal skills are much harder to teach that work-specific or technical skills. Employers want to hire people who already have employability skills, which are also known as transferable or soft skills. A Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey found that members ranked the following employability skills as the top three employee skills and qualities:

  • willingness to learn
  • willingness to stay at the firm
  • customer service skills

Take time to identify your employability skills—skills you’ve developed through years of life and work experiences.


Recognize that you may improve your chances of finding work by upgrading your work-specific or technical skills.


Enrolling in an upgrading program or going back to school could be a positive choice. There are many ways to obtain the education or training you need, from online courses to apprenticeship programs.

Most employers will expect you to have literacy and computer skills. For information about improving your skills in these areas, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline. See Additional Reading for the number.


Focus your work search by defining what you want.


It’s easier to make a positive impression on an employer when you’re applying for work you want. Think about what interests you, what motivates you, what you enjoy doing and what you’re willing to do. Think about the things you’re not willing to do, such as move to a new location. Use this information to help you decide which positions to apply for.


Look in new directions for opportunities.


Use the following suggestions to extend your work search into industries or occupations you may not have thought of before:

  • Find out which emerging or growing occupations require the employability skills you have and want to use.

  • Consider non-traditional work alternatives, such as working on a contract basis, telecommuting, multi-tasking or self-employment.

  • Learn how to gather and interpret labour market information.

  • Use networking techniques to find unadvertised opportunities.


Plan how you will handle age-related issues during your work search.


Common beliefs about aging can work for you and against you. Surveys show that many human resource professionals believe older workers are reliable, committed to their jobs and have a strong work ethic. Yet some employers have negative views about older workers, including the stereotype that they are less flexible, healthy and productive than younger workers.

Use the following suggestions to boost the positive—and reduce the negative—impact of your age on your work search:

  • Don't make it easy for employers to guess your age from your application:

    • Unless your credential—for example, a degree or diploma—is recent, include it but leave out the date you earned it.
    • Include only your most recent and relevant work experience.
    • If you’ve worked for one employer for a long time, say it’s been for more than five years or some other appropriate number.

  • Create a positive first impression when you meet an employer.

    • Make sure you look energetic, confident and up-to-date.
    • Pay special attention to your clothing, shoes and grooming.
    • Your posture—the way you hold yourself—will say a lot about your positive outlook on life.

  • Although employers may be concerned about your age, human rights law prohibits them from asking about it. You can indirectly let them know their worries are unfounded by

    • showing that you’re productive; for example, talking about recent accomplishments or showing a good performance appraisal
    • talking about new skills you’ve learned recently and letting them know you’re committed to ongoing learning
    • demonstrating how you’ve worked successfully with younger co-workers
    • showing how the job fits into your career plans and, if true, that you plan to stay at the job at least as long as other employees
    • highlighting tasks you’ve completed recently that require strength, stamina or working smarter, if the job is physically demanding
    • asking your references to emphasize your commitment

Not many people would describe looking for work as fun. But looking back, many people say that making a midlife career move was the best thing that could have happened to them. It gave them a chance to reassess what they wanted from life and to move towards it.

If you think about what’s important to you, explore the options with an open mind and take advantage of unexpected opportunities, you may find that looking for work when you’re over 45 can pay off in ways you’ve never imagined.

Relevant Tips (alis.alberta.ca/tips)

Additional Reading (alis.alberta.ca/publications)

Resources

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