The jobless rate for adults 45 and older is the lowest among all age groups, but the picture is less bright for people who are the same age and are unemployed. On average, it takes unemployed adults in that category about a year to find a job, longer than any other age group.
But if you're looking for a job, a change could do you good.
The majority of older workers who change careers late in life are ultimately successful, according to a new report by the American Institute for Economic Research, known by its acronym, AIER.
"Most older workers don't think about changing careers for lots of good reasons," says Steve Adams, the institute's president. "You've got an established career and you know your business." Additionally, the shock of being laid off usually means the unemployed worker hasn't had time to think about a new career, and the first impulse is to look for work in the same field.
Adams says the key to being successful is to realize many of the skills you have are transferable to other fields. "You may not think of yourself as somebody who interacts with customers, but if you were in a company and interacting with people outside your division, that's the same type of skill set you would use if you're interacting with a customer," he says.
The report identified 14 skills that older workers obtain from their lifetime of work that are transferable. Among the most desirable are computer proficiency, problem-solving, bilingual ability, interpersonal skills, reading comprehension, customer service, mentoring, client management and social media skills. These are things that can easily be mentioned in a resume or cover letter. "You don't have to have to the exact same skills, but it's a combination of skills you're bringing," Adams says. The report found that those who were successful in changing careers had at least seven of these skills. Those who were unsuccessful had only about two.
The hard part is convincing your new would-be employer that you can do the job and avoid the dread "We'll keep your resume on file" response. After making the case in your cover letter that your abilities will transfer, Adams says drive home the point that you're looking for a change and will have no problem adjusting to a new career with different duties.
Still, Adams knows how difficult finding work can be for an older adult. "I don't want to understate the challenges faced by older workers," he says. "We do have an ageist society."