There are many reasons that men and women in their 50s and older return to the workforce after an absence: children leaving the nest, changes in finances, illness or death of a spouse, divorce, or just plain desire to go back to work.

But going back into an evolving workplace requires thought and planning. The following ten tips can help you make the return with greater ease.

1. Know Your skills

Knowing where your skills lie and where they are valuable is key to any job search. When Ann Clayton Chamberlain returned to work full-time in her 50s, she found a position that draws on both her career background in finance and her experience volunteering and serving on boards for nonprofits.

Now vice president of program management at Methodist Health Systems Foundation, a nonprofit that serves health related programs in New Orleans East, Gentilly, and St. Bernard Parish, she uses her talent as a self-described numbers person while engaging her passion for helping others.

“Draw on all parts of your life, what you do in your work and your play time,” Chamberlain advises. “You want a fresh perspective about what gets you excited.”

Employee Experience Coordinator Taylor Schmidt Pospisil of Broadmoor LLC, a design/build construction company for commercial clients, which is a subsidiary of Boh Brothers, adds that recruiters look at both hard and soft skills. Hard skills include things like computer knowledge, while soft skills include communication, time management, leadership, and teamwork.

2. Renew Your Resume

The immediacy of the internet has made the need for a stand-out resume greater than ever. Pospisil advises having a summary at the beginning of the resume that specifies what skills you bring to the specific job for which you are applying, followed by the traditional mix of sequential information and other skills.

For inspiration and ideas on how others market themselves digitally, check out their profiles on linkedin and on professional websites.

3. Position Your Age as a Plus

“In the workforce today, we have about five different generations working with each other,” Pospisil says, noting that each of those generations brings its own experience, work ethic, and perspective to the table.

Boomers are known to be hard workers with long-term loyalty to their employers, so consider yourself an asset and don’t be afraid to capitalize on the things that are best about your age group. One way to do that: replace words like “older” with positive descriptions like “mature” and “experienced.”

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Ann Marie Gwyn, who went back to work after a 30-year hiatus to raise her children, sees wisdom, stability, and reliability as some of the bolstering attributes that boomers, now in their 50s and older, bring to the job.

“It’s scary as hell, but put yourself out there and take the risk,” she says.

4. Update Your Tech Know-How

“You always have to have a good working knowledge of technology to be productive in the workplace,” says Pospisil, who suggests continuing education courses at technology centers like New Horizons as a way for prospective employees to bone up on essentials like the Microsoft Office Suite.

Most job listings specify what computer skills are needed. In many fields, a working knowledge of social media is required as well.

Serah Ridolfo, executive vice president of GetOnlineNOLA.com, which helps customers (mostly small business owners and entrepreneurs) build an online presence, suggests the following ways to improve your computer knowledge: free computer literacy classes at the public library, free workshops from online sources, and YouTube for tutorials.

For the over-50 market, she says Facebook and linkedin are the two most important social media platforms for connecting with others.

5. Network With Friends and Family

According to Pospisil, “networking with friends and family is still the number one way to get connected.” This includes talking to people and using social media accounts like Facebook to get the word out.

Chamberlain explored numerous options and interviews during her job search, but ultimately found the right fit through a friend.

6. Use the Internet

Since most recruiting is done online, searching job sites, such as Monster.com and Craigslist, and marketing yourself online is essential. Professional organizations and university alumni pages are also great resources. Ridolfo also suggests googling yourself to see what you find.

“That is what potential employers are going to do so make sure the information is correct and that you want it to be seen,” she says.

Also, make a website using any one of the many free website-building services like WordPress and Wix. Upload your resume, a high-resolution professional photo, skills, experiences, and any related work samples. This is a great way to introduce yourself to recruiters.

7. Consider an Alternative to the Traditional 9-5

If demands in your life require your time but you also need or want to work, try negotiating for flexibility -- working at home one day a week, for example. Pospisil advises being upfront about your needs.

“More companies today are creating a culture of family first,” she says, and with that comes greater freedom with things like working remotely.

She adds that some companies offer transition-to-retirement programs, in which employees can work three to four days a week at a reduced rate. In addition to providing mature workers with flexibility, it allows them to train their successors and pass on their knowledge.

8. Try Volunteer Work or an Interim Job

Getting involved in the community is a great way to find out where you excel and what you care about while also building your resume. Pospisil notes that volunteer organizations such as the Junior League help build leadership skills, while an interim or temp job (recruiters can help with this) may lead to a permanent one.

During the years that Gwyn was a full-time mom before returning to work, she volunteered as an advocate for children in the foster care system. Though it wasn’t a paying job, the work kept her people and communication skills, two of her strengths, in use.

She also worked part-time for a friend before finding her full-time job -- a people-oriented sales position with the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group.

9. Try a New Path

Starting from scratch may seem daunting, but you may already have skills that transition and some careers have built-in training. Real estate agents, for example, are required to go to school and pass a test a before becoming licensed. Going through training also can help you make contacts. Community involvement and volunteering are also ways to try something new.

10. Look at the Big Picture

Determining what jobs are paying is easy enough. Pospisil advises talking to local recruiters and looking at listings. But she also recommends taking benefits such as medical plans and whether a company offers a 401K match, into account.

Knowing how the workplace has changed can give Boomer job hunters an advantage.

  • Most recruiting happens online. Networking through friends and family is important, but searching online listings and marketing yourself online is a top priority.
  • The workforce of today is more diverse than ever before. In addition to the fact that there are more generations in the workforce today, there are more women, working mothers, and households with two working parents.
  • Computer skills are a must. That means being or becoming comfortable and proficient in the technology skills needed for the job.
  • Today’s workplace offers greater flexibility. More companies are creating a family-first work culture, making things like working remotely or getting into a transition to retirement program more common.

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