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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. June 28, 2023

9 Tips for Women Entering the Workforce After 50

Welcome—or welcome back!

Woman over 50
Photo courtesy of Paris Lopez

Entering the workforce can be overwhelming, especially for women who have taken significant career breaks and are entering or returning later in life, like in their 50s or 60s. Oftentimes, traditional career building blocks are missing and that, coupled with rampant ageism, impacts returners’ opportunities. 

"Ageism in the workforce is a pervasive issue that not only deprives individuals of meaningful employment, but also hinders business productivity and economic growth,” says Kevin Loux, Chief Impact Officer at Charlotte Works. “Research shows that ageism is costing our society billions of dollars annually, and it's time for employers to recognize the value and potential of older workers.”

Still, “late” entry among women is happening more often than you’d think given that adversity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2001 and 2021, the labor force participation for women over 55 went up by 6.3 percent, which was the largest increase for any age or gender demographic in that period. And with the retirement age climbing higher and higher (most people are expected to work past the age of 65), the need for businesses to embrace and retain older workers is growing. 

If you’re in that demographic, welcome—or welcome back! We’re here to help you find your next job, even if the task of searching for an employer has changed or marketing yourself seems daunting. We asked experts to share with us the top tips for job searching, standing out, and acclimating to the workforce after the age of 50. 

9 tips for women entering the workforce after 50

1. Change your expectations 

The workforce has changed significantly in recent years, and it is important to understand how these changes may affect your job search or your initial opportunities. You might need to skill up in order to learn new technologies or skill sets. “It may be necessary to reinvent yourself—start a new career path than the one you’ve been on,” says Sheila McKinnon, a talent engagement facilitator. “This may mean starting at entry-level again, but be open-minded. Knowledge is never wasted. The experience and skills you’ve already gained will make you shine and excel faster than when you were in your 20s.”

2. Reposition your skills and time outside the paid workforce

One of the first steps to take when entering the workforce is to reframe your skills and time outside of a paid job. Many women over 50 may have taken time off to raise children or care for aging parents, and these experiences can be valuable assets in the workplace. Skills such as communication, organization, and problem-solving are highly valued in many industries and can be highlighted on your resume.

Read more: How to Get Hired Fast

3. Visit your local career center

There are workforce boards across the country that manage and operate career centers that can help you gain the skills you need and help with the job search. “Women should look for centers and programs that specialize in workforce development and employment placement assistance,” says Franecia Rosemond, a talent development special initiatives and engagement manager. “For example, NC Works Career Center provides professional career development and employment services that will help a jobseeker in the form of training opportunities, career readiness workshops, one-on-one career guidance, soft skills training, use of computer resources, employer connections, states largest job database usage at any age.” 

4. Leverage the power of networking

Networking has also become increasingly important, with many job openings filled through personal connections rather than traditional job postings. When looking to enter the workforce, sometimes it’s easier to get a leg up by reaching out to people you already have a relationship with. If you don’t know someone, then networking and maintaining relationships is key.  McKinnon says it may help if you attend seminars or hiring events, and Rosemond recommends thinking outside of the box. “Women can get into networking groups that allow the conversation around entering back into the workforce,” she says. “Meetup is a great place to find like minded individuals with the same focus and goals.”  

5. Use LinkedIn to your advantage

LinkedIn has quickly become the most influential social media app when it comes to recruitment and job searching. The platform gives you the opportunity to network with other people in your field and to create a digital resume, where you can showcase your skills and experience. You can also have former managers and coworkers endorse your strengths, which acts as a built-in recommendation. Use these resources to streamline your LinkedIn profile:

6. Make your resume work for, not against, you

Resumes speak to who you are, Rosemond says, and they are the best marketing tool to showcase your skills—within reason. Put yours together carefully. “You should stay away from anything that would give away your age,” she says. “For example, in the education section, never put the date that you completed your education. Your resume should only go back up to 10 years unless your current job has been more than 10 years.” 

Rosemond also says going to a local career center can help with getting your resume in tip-top shape. “[Job seekers] have to understand times have changed, and it’s not how it used to be where you could walk into an office, fill out an application, ask to speak to management, and then they ask when you can start. Everyone, from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, is utilizing software to screen applicants, so make sure you find someone to help make your resume keywords marketable by focusing on your skills and transferable skills.”

Read more: How to Make a Resume for Your First Job

7. Upskill and refresh

It’s important to research the types of jobs you are looking for. “Learn what skills are valuable and what employers are looking for. Consider taking courses or participating in training programs to refresh your skills and show your commitment to professional development,” says McKinon. She adds that if you are lacking in skills, try to gain those skills by earning certifications and taking workshops in person or virtually.  She also suggests looking for opportunities to volunteer or take on freelance work to learn new skills and to network. A standout tip? Check with a local college, library, or Parks & Recreation department on available resources. Often, these institutions offer free or low-cost courses to the community that can be valuable during the job search. 

Read more: 8 Tech Courses We’re Taking to Level Up Our Skills

8. Create your own opportunities

Maybe you spent the first half of your career doing something that paid the bills and gave you health insurance, but you yearn for a passion project.  If you are re-entering the workforce after 50, the time is now to pursue something that you love doing. Make a list of the things you like to do and research how to create your own opportunities, even if it means doing it as a side-hustle at first. 

9. Work part-time or do contract work

Transitioning from not having a structured work schedule to a 40-hour workweek can be a shock to the system depending on how long you have been away. While you may look forward to jumping right back into full-time employment, consider how it could take away the flexibility you have acquired. If you think it may be a lot to process, then look at applying for part-time positions or accepting contract work until you are ready to ease back into a full-time work schedule. There are also positions that are temporary-to-hire, so you can work and decide if the company and the hours are the right fit. Some places to look for these types of positions are at staffing agencies. 

Finally, even if full-time is the way to go for you, explore companies that offer flexible work hours. This benefit was less common 10 or 20 years ago than it is today, and it offers employees the ability to shape their schedules to their needs, plus it’s a hallmark of inclusive company cultures.

Read more: How to Handle New Job Anxiety

What not to do when entering the workforce 

When re-entering the workforce, it is important to avoid some common mistakes. 

  • Don't underestimate your abilities or sell yourself short. You have valuable skills and experiences to offer, and it is important to communicate these effectively. 

  • Don't limit yourself to jobs that you have done in the past. Be open to new opportunities and consider roles that may require you to learn new skills or take on different responsibilities. “Don’t sound like you can’t learn or be coached,” McKinon says. “You may think you know everything, but the young ones can teach you something too.” 

  • Don't let ageism discourage you. Remember that age is just a number, and your experience and expertise are valuable assets in the workplace. “Remember to stop looking at your age as a barrier and look at it as an asset,” Rosemond says. “You bring something to the table and most individuals over 50 years have stability within a company which would help the company with turnover rates within the company.”

Re-entering the workforce as a woman over 50 can be challenging, but with the right strategies and mindset, it is possible to succeed. By repositioning your skills and time away, understanding the ways the workforce has changed, embracing digital platforms, and finding your passion, you can find fulfilling and rewarding work that utilizes your strengths and experience.

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