Job Search Tips for Baby Boomers in Tech

For anyone over 50 (i.e., the Baby Boomers), the depressing reality is that a job search will likely prove significantly more challenging than for younger people. No matter what anyone says, ageism remains a problem in tech. In 2018, a survey of startup founders from First Round Capital suggested ageism in tech starts to kick in around age 36, which is just… freaky.

Our 2018 Dice Diversity and Inclusion Survey told us that ageism is prevalent in the industry: 29 percent of respondents reported “experiencing or witnessing” age-based discrimination in the workplace, outpacing gender discrimination (21 percent), political-affiliation discrimination (11 percent), and bias based on sexual orientation (six percent). No wonder there are lawsuits filed by hundreds of applicants over ageism; the Baby Boomers are angry, and they’re pushing back.

In the wake of each new rejection, the Baby Boomer candidate is left wondering whether they are too old, overqualified, or out of negotiable salary range. But rather than dwell on why you didn’t get the job, you should focus on what it’ll take to succeed next time:

Full Effort

First and foremost, it’s a highly competitive market in tech, which means Baby Boomer candidates must do everything possible to score a full-time job. And we mean everything: work with a recruiter, stalk job boards, interact on social media, and build a network of professional contacts. If you need to update or add to your skill set, investigate and act on viable opportunities to do so.

Strategize Materials

For those over 50, it’s necessary to make your skills look current, especially if you graduated college or grad school many years ago. “Do not include every job you have had since you have been working,” advised Randi Bussin, a certified career-management coach. “Most résumés should be no more than two pages. Hiring managers are reading them on smart phones and tablets, so keep it tight and short and only go back 10-15 years.”

Maggie Graham, another career coach, recommends a strategic approach to all of your marketing materials. “You’ll never see a job description that says 20+ years of experience, so don’t list that in your summary on your résumé or on LinkedIn,” she said. “At the most, say 15+ years, and that’s only for senior, C-suite positions. For professional positions, go with 10+ years.”

Graham also noted that, for any Baby Boomer seeking a job in tech, it’s okay to leave off the dates you earned your degrees, and eliminate positions from early in your career. However, be intentional about why you’re choosing to cut specific information. “It’s more important to match the specifications of the job you’re seeking,” she said, “than to polish your image. It’s about fit, not minor details.”

Look the Part

While it’s not necessary to look a decade younger than you are, it’s in your best interest to appear contemporary: Photos on any networking sites should be current, professional looking and absolutely not a selfie.

“Dress for success,” Bussin said. “This includes updating your haircut, glasses, if you wear them, makeup, if you wear it, and business attire. You need to look energetic; like someone who can handle the daily stresses of the job and the hours that are required.”

You’re Not the Boss

“You can bet that if you’re being interviewed by someone younger than you, that person is wondering whether you’ll undermine their authority,” Graham said. “It’s important that you address it by strategically inserting comments related to questions being asked in the interview.”

Graham emphasized that an experienced Baby Boomer candidate’s ideas and contributions still need to be a seamless fit with an existing IT team and management hierarchy. You should be able to openly address any concerns about your technology skills (which should be current), as well as your willingness to stay in any given position for quite some time.

Bussin believes that Baby Boomers must “be and act flexible” and demonstrate that, despite being older, they are able to work with colleagues and management who are younger. To that end, accept that your age may not make you the smartest or most experienced person in the room. Being teachable and open-minded can be a substantial asset, especially during an interview with a baby-faced hiring manager.

Define Your Worth

If an employer knows you’ll add value, your age will be much less of a factor in hiring. “Get clear in your own mind about the skills, experience, and value you offer a team,” Graham said.

To that end, research what a potential employer needs from its workers, as well as its overall strengths and weaknesses. With that knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to fluidly convey how your knowledge and capabilities will contribute to the company’s overall success.

Be Realistic

“If you’re a boomer and have been out of work caring for family or ‘consulting’, be realistic about what you expect to make,” Bussin said. “If you made six figures in the past but have been unemployed for a while, be realistic about the level/salary at which you need to re-enter.”

Even if you’ve kept up-to-date on your skills, or added new ones, you may end up back in a midlevel position, at a salary lower than you might have enjoyed before. If the position is engaging and it’s work you want, take the plunge: Job satisfaction and benefits can go a long way in easing the pain of lower pay.

7 Responses to “Job Search Tips for Baby Boomers in Tech”

  1. “First and foremost, it’s a highly competitive market in tech, which means candidates must do everything possible to score a full-time job.”
    Wait I thought unemployment in tech was only 2.3%. With a rate that low it should be a candidates market. Just the fact that articles like this are still exist means either that tech unemployment rate is bullsh_t and the rate is much higher, meaning there is no need to H1b visa(s) because there are still plenty of tech people who need employment.

  2. VENETIA AUSTIN

    What a shame to have it that competitive. The truth of the matter is that older job seekers are more reliable. Will show up on time and be glad to do over time without complaining. Work more carefully and respect your customer base better. SMH.. CUSTOMER SERVICE is NOT of any importance to the youth. Just one persons opinion. The youth can learn a, little bit about respect from the older employees. .Still SMH

  3. I retired because of being asked to “train” younger workers FOR FREE LOL !! Since that was not in my job description, and I was inundated with “over-time” because younger workers could not (would not) keep up with the work flow – I retired ! The only competition I see now in the job market is for the “cheapest” not for the “best.”

    • Debra Kahler

      I have experienced that too many times. I love to work and I might appear overqualified, or anxious aboutgetting hired. I guess that I have to be more humbleand say less at the interview stage.

  4. Been in IT for 20 years…have been an “exceed” performance EE for 10 of those years. Worked at AT&T and IBM with Undergrad and Graduate level education….I can’t get an email/phone call. I have no idea what these companies or HR reps are doing!

  5. Jason W. Neiss

    I absolutely love these articles about “job search tips for baby boomers” or “job hunting over people over 50”. I’m always excited to see that it’s written by someone who hasn’t even hit 40 yet. The way it restates the same generic, worthless advice from “career advisors” and recruiters who don’t call back is one of my favorite aspects. I’m just never sure if the people quoted actually exist, or if it’s a generic hit generator pulled out of one’s ass and the general Internet.

    The best tip for job-hunting baby boomers over 50? Don’t be over 50. Better still, don’t be over 40.

  6. I am an early middle-aged, “obsolete”, “unemployable” American programmer. I have thrown in the towel in my career. It’s a good thing that I had saved up as now I can eke out a decent “college poverty” level of existence. Oh, the ACA is a godsend.