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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

Ask a Real Recruiter: How Can Older Job Searchers Realistically Change Careers?

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Dear Recruiter,

I follow The Muse on Facebook and often find the articles very useful.

However, I am a bit older than your usual target market but still aspire to be productive and useful in the workplace.  I recently read the article “How Do I Convince Employers to Overlook My Resume Gap and Hire Me?”

Just for the record, I will be 60 in a few weeks and would like a career change. I can work, I want to work, I probably need to work—not just for the cash but also because I believe work gives structure to your life and keeps you mentally sharp. I don’t want to spend an over-long retirement in borderline poverty watching daytime TV with my brain turning to mush!

MORE Than Ready to Work

Hi MORE Than Ready to Work,

Let me start off by saying your work ethic’s impressive and can be seen through just this note.

Now I’ll move onto the less fun stuff: I’m sorry to say that age discrimination, though illegal, is a fact of life. But, by understanding what contributes to this, you can proactively address typical concerns an employer may have.

Let’s review:

1. You’ll Want a Huge Salary

Recruiters and hiring managers may have concerns that experienced (a.k.a., older) candidates will be overqualified and require a higher salary than they can offer. Fortunately for you, when looking to make a career change into a new industry or position, recruiters expect you’ll be open to taking a lower salary.  

2. You Won’t Understand Technology

Some hiring managers may worry that older job seekers are technophobes. Clearly as you’re reading articles on The Muse, this isn’t an issue for you!

(But you can alleviate this concern by including your LinkedIn profile on your resume and any technology or specific software skills you have.)

3. You Won’t Be a “Culture Fit”

Unfortunately, some companies simply have biases against hiring older workers. Experienced job hunters may have better luck applying at smaller companies and nonprofits who operate with streamlined staff, and who’ll view your experience as an invaluable asset.

How Can You Counteract These Three Things?


As an older candidate, you’ve probably developed an extensive network. You may not feel you have connections in the industry you want to move into, however, most likely someone you know does. So get your foot in the door (and around the above concerns) by making some direct connections in the field you’re interested in.

Address Any Skill Gaps

Look at the industry or role you want to move into and identify any skills or qualification you’re missing. Want to pursue education? Look into teaching certificates. Want to dive into marketing? Take a course. Having a recent skill or qualification on your application not only clearly demonstrates your fit for the role you’re applying to, but it also shows your ability to adapt and learn—something hiring managers sometimes question about older applicants.

Think Out of the Box

Depending on your skill set and income needs you could stop looking for a new job and explore other options, including starting your own businesses, consulting, or picking up freelance work. There appears to be less bias when hiring for consulting or freelance work and many older candidates have been able to translate their considerable experience into these less traditional opportunities.

Remember, at its core, your age and experience are an asset. Put yourself in a hiring manager’s shoes and understand the reasons, conscious or subconscious, they may pass over an older candidate. This prospective will help you apply and interview like a rock star so you can spend your “golden years” working on interesting projects, and not watching daytime TV.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

Your letter may be published in an article on The Muse. All letters to Ask an Expert become the property of Daily Muse, Inc and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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