Best Web sites for older job seekers

Whether you're looking to grow in your current career or embark on a new path in your middle years -- or later -- these resources will help you achieve your late-life goals.

The pundits can't decide whether the real unemployment problem is older people taking jobs from younger people or younger people taking jobs from older people.

Unemployed and underemployed folks in their 40s, 50s, or older just want a job that will keep the bill-collectors at bay, and maybe even provide a little fulfillment.

The recent slow decline in the U.S. unemployment rate may be misleading. Forbes.com's Peter Ferrara writes that the labor force participation rate has dropped from 65.7 percent in 2009 to 63.5 percent at the end of 2011. Ferrara claims the true unemployment rate at the beginning of 2012 was closer to 11 percent than to the official report of 8.3 percent.

Even more telling, according to Ferrara, is the increase in the number of people who have been unemployed for six months or longer: from 23 percent in January 2009 to 43 percent in January 2012.

Whether you've been out of work for less than a day or more than a year, the only statistic you're interested in is the number of days before you're working again. These sites offer services and information designed to give older job seekers a leg up.

Work-preference survey results matched with job openings
You may not want to do the same kind of work at 50 that you did at 25 or 30. The National Business Services Alliance Job Match runs you through a seven-part survey that rates your preference from "never" to "always" for various work-related characteristics, such as physical activity, research, music, mentoring, and data management.

National Business Service Alliance Job Match
Rate your preferences in dozens of work categories and let Job Match find related jobs in your area. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Based on your responses, the service suggests several job categories. Select one to view a description of the job and links to available jobs in your area (the first part of the survey asks you to enter your ZIP code).

You can skip the Job Match survey and use the Alliance's Job Search. You enter a ZIP code and then designate the type of work you're looking for by selecting categories listed on two pages. As with Job Match, the Job Search database presents the categories of work related to your selections along with links to available positions in your region.

Re-imagine your options when you reach a career dead end
Layoffs aren't the only reason for taking a second look at your choice of occupations. The U.S. Department of Labor's MySkillsMyFuture is designed to broaden your job-search perspective by suggesting new careers based on your previous field.

Start by entering your current or past field of work and pressing Enter to view a list of matching careers. The entry for each career includes the number of job postings available in the category, the wage range, and the level of education required.

Department of Labor MySkillsMyFuture
View information about careers related to your previous or current one at the MySkillsMyFuture job-search site. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

You can narrow your search by excluding the entries that entail outdoor work, irregular hours, public speaking, and other work-related activities. The listings are sortable by location: enter a city or ZIP code and choose a range in miles (five distances, from 5 miles to 500 miles).

Applying for the jobs requires registering with the employment site that hosts the original listing or a state employment service, such as CalJobs in California. When you click Find Training in any of the job categories you're shown links to training programs in that discipline, usually offered by a college or other post-secondary school.

Click Compare Skills to get a side-by-side view of your previous career and your prospective one in terms of salary, skills and knowledge, education, training, licensing, and certification.

MySkillsMyFuture lets you dream big but also brings you down to earth by indicating the education and training gaps between you and your new career. And if the gaps are small or nonexistent, the site connects you to open positions. For an even broader look at the education and training programs offered by the Department of Labor, visit the agency's CareerOneStop site.

The quintessential resource for older workers
If you're still using the same resume format you used 30, 20, or even 10 years ago, your resume may be working against you rather than for you. Quintessential Careers' resources for mature and older job seekers include several helpful articles on such topics as crafting a resume free of references to outdated technologies, preparing several different versions of your resume in various formats (such as plain text for submission via a Web form), and strategies for handling illegal age-related questions during job interviews.

Also provided are capsule reviews and links to more than a dozen sites with information about jobs, volunteer opportunities, and careers for people over 40. The site features guidelines for students and workers in the midst of a career change, as well as its own job search engine and a form for posting your (recently updated) resume.

Retiree job listings plus financial, health, other info
Job postings for older workers are only the start of the services offered by RetiredBrains, a site that has been around since 2003. You can search for work based on your state, province, territory, or country; based on keyword; or based on job type in about four dozen categories, most of which are technical/professional.

The search results aren't sortable, so finding a specific type of job listing entails a lot of scrolling. The entry for each open position includes a description and a link to view and/or apply for the job. To apply for the job or save your search you must create an account with the site.

You don't need to create an account to access RetiredBrains' information on retirement planning, managing health-care costs, and maintaining a high quality of life. Tips are provided for protecting your retirement savings, brain fitness, and senior discounts.

The standard cost for employers to post a job on the site is $99 for each 30-day posting, but at the moment employers can post five positions for 30 days for the same price. Employers pay $39 to view one of the resumes posted on RetiredBrains, but they pay nothing if the person isn't interested.

Monstrously sage advice for older workers
Online-job-posting behemoth Monster provides a special report in its advice section to help job seekers over the age of 50 develop successful strategies for finding and landing their dream job -- or at least a job they can live with.

Topics covered include overcoming ageism, building a job-search network, and writing cover letters that highlight your age as an asset. Links are provided to articles on temporary jobs for retirees, resume writing, and approaches to competing with younger candidates for open positions.

Senior job programs from two government agencies
The National Older Worker Career Center administers two programs that provide government jobs for experienced workers: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) and the Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Conversation Experienced Services (ACES).

The jobs are available only in Alabama, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. You then have to complete not one but two applications. Considering it's government work, that's likely only the beginning of the paperwork involved. Contact information is provided for the center's field offices in Colorado, Texas, and Virginia.

Golden-agers take their talents to their communities
For the people behind the Experience Works charitable organization, there is no such thing as "too old."

The group is seeking nominees for America's Outstanding Oldest Worker. The winner must be at least 100 years old and work at least 20 hours a week. Forty-three more years of blogging and I may qualify!

On a more practical level, Experience Works has offices in select counties of 30 states and also in Puerto Rico; the organization's Senior Comnunity Service Employment Program offers low-income seniors paid training positions at government agencies and other nonprofits. Unfortunately, when I visited the site, the form intended to be used by employers seeking workers was unavailable.

The Experience Works site is intended primarily for use by program participants rather than the general public, so unless you know a centenarian with his or her nose to the grindstone, you may not find much use for the site.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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