Whether life got in the way of your dream job, you want to go back to work even after you received your gold watch, or you simply feel it's time to return to the workforce after a long absence, it is never too late. But though it may not be too late, you might want to prepare yourself for a few surprises, the biggest one being that it is now 2018.
So what are the big differences between now and 20, 30 or 40 years ago, when you first went to work? There's a whole lot of new technology. Many of yesterday's skills are now obsolete. Résumé styles are different. And one of the biggest adjustments many older workers have to make when going back is dealing with having to report to a younger boss.
Gone are the days when you could run off a one-size-fits-all résumé 50 copies at a time. You should prepare your résumé to fit the individual position at the individual company. Check out the company and the position, and come up with keywords that will catch the attention of your prospective employer. Do not include your age, gender or marital status. Many larger companies now run applications and résumés through applicant tracking systems to help pick out viable candidates, and those keywords can be what send your résumé to a human being.
Even if positions at two different companies have the same name, that does not mean the jobs have the same demands. For instance, a receptionist at an auto dealership -- a greeter in person and on the phone -- should have basic knowledge about automobiles and know how to sort customers to the appropriate people; a receptionist at a medical office should have basic medical knowledge, be able to respond quickly in the event of an emergency and be familiar with insurance forms. The same résumé, even if it is suitable for one position, is not suitable for both.
Highlight the appropriate skills for the position you are applying for. Don't fret if you have been out of the workforce for a long time. Look at the things you were doing during that time, even as a volunteer. Did you help coordinate fundraisers for the local PTA? Maybe you helped staff your church office. Perhaps you served on the board of directors at your local volunteer ambulance corps or fire department.
Think of the tasks you handled and how those skills could be applied to the position you are applying for. Don't just list skills on your résumé; be sure to include accomplishments, such as designing the new senior club newsletter or managing the best clothing drive in years for the local Lions Club. Don't make up fancy titles for such things as being a stay-at-home mom or dad, but it is OK to list things such as home-schooling, handling the family budget or being a disabled individual's caregiver.
Many employers expect their hires to have some form of computer literacy, so don't be afraid to go online. If you already have social media accounts, make sure you clean them up and delete any information that might cause a potential employer to think twice about hiring you. If you need to upgrade your skills, look for online courses or courses at a local library, adult education center or employment center; many courses are available free or are inexpensive.
Though your initial application might be submitted online, the hope is that you will be called for a face-to-face interview. Interviews may also be done via video conferencing or phone. Make sure your appearance is updated. The jacket you wore to a job interview 30 years ago will probably not make a good impression on your potential employer. Your hygiene and grooming will most likely be considered, especially if the position requires representing the employer in the business world.