Whether you're pushing or pulling the big five-oh, it can be tough to find a job. So it's not unethical to give your resume - and your waistline - a few nips and tucks.
Laura Hill, a career coach and founder of New York-based Careers in Motion, says an upside to age is that "you have a very long track record at this point. If a 28-year-old or a 38-year-old has a one-year job gap on his resume, it's a real question mark. As you enter your 40s and 50s, your shelf-life is longer."
And some workplace trends - gaps in workforce demographics and a younger workforce being created in the wake of retiring baby boomers - is to the advantage of middle-aged applicants, she says. "Companies need seasoned people who can mentor and train and troubleshoot with good judgment."
Although some career coaches recommend that older applicants omit graduation dates on their resumes, Hill disagrees with that tactic. "For experienced recruiters, missing dates equal a red flag," she says. "They assume the person is 82 at the get-go, and the assumption may be worse than the reality."
However, she does suggest applicants consolidate their elementary early jobs. The guideline as to whether to do so, she says, is whether specifying a particular job adds value to your resume.
And while your job hunt is "a great time to go on a diet and lose those 15 extra pounds and shop for some new clothes," Hill stops short of recommending plastic surgery to her clients. "It's more important to be stylish than to be prim, proper or formal, although you need to be role-specific and company-appropriate," she observes. "And I do believe in coloring one's hair. It imparts a sense of vim and vigor when you go on interviews."
Fifty-year-olds generally earn more money than younger people, so it usually takes them longer to find new positions. While some job-seekers perceive this as age discrimination, employers often define it as salary discrimination. The difference, observes Richard Bayer, chief operating officer of the career-counseling network the Five O'Clock Club, is "job hunters can change the salaries they demand."
Bayer cautions job-seekers against "perceived discrimination," or seeing bias where none actually exists. Rather than throw up your hands and despair prematurely if things don't go your way, he urges candidates to stay confident and keep their job search active.
"The company knows more than the job-seeker knows," adds Hill. "It knows what the manager is like, what the job is like and what the company's needs are." If a business declines your services, it's "actually doing you a favor because it knows you'd be a mismatch, you'd be miserable and you'd be gone when the phone rings with another offer that's a better fit." She adds, "Don't beat your head against the wall. If an employer rejects you, move on."