There are few things worse than staying in a job when you know it’s time to leave. Unfortunately, with today’s job market, finding another job can be very difficult. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate at 5.9 percent as of September 2014, but experts say that number is misleading because certain types of unemployment go underreported.
For example, those official statistics don’t take into account people who have stopped actively seeking work, also known as discouraged workers – the ranks of which are steadily increasing. They also do not account for the underemployed and “downwardly mobile” – individuals who are employed, but only part-time or at pay rates far below what they were originally earning due to pay cuts or by changing jobs.
The sad truth it that, despite the drop in official numbers, the job outlook for Americans is still bleak, and it is especially so for people over age 40. However, this less-than-rosy outlook does not mean that there is no hope; it simply means that we older individuals need to add a few more tools to our arsenal to get a leg-up on the competition.
Tool 1: Bulk up Your Resume
Look at it this way, whatever job you apply for is going to have hundreds of applicants, all with similar educational and professional backgrounds. To make yourself stand out, you need something extra beyond a laundry list of job-related skills and experience.
For example: if you’re looking for a public relations job, activities like spearheading a community fundraiser can show off that your PR skills extend beyond what is required for your current employer.
Think of it like the extra-curricular activities you did in high-school to look more attractive to colleges. The key is in mentioning the things that will highlight your competence and are pertinent to the type of job you are looking for.
This means you should also avoid listing activities that are explicitly partisan, unless you are looking for an employer with the same political or religious beliefs, and avoid generic activities like reading or watching movies.
Tool 2: Bulk Up Your Education
Going back to school can be a tremendous help for people looking to change careers, and for people who are trying to advance within the same field. Even if you have 20 years’ experience, the world is constantly changing and new technology and mindsets are changing the way we do a lot of things.
Returning to a traditional classroom setting can be difficult for the over-40 set because we often have life obligations that make attending classes difficult. There is also the expense and time-investment that comes with a traditional college program – some of which can take three or four years to complete.
Luckily, many brick-and-mortar colleges offer online programs, specifically geared toward individuals who need more flexibility than what is offered in traditional classrooms. There are also online colleges, like Phoenix and Gwynedd Mercy U, which offer accelerated programs that allow people to complete their degrees in less time than traditional programs.
Tool 3: Take on More Responsibility
Even if you are planning to leave your current job, taking on more responsibility will ultimately make you more marketable to future employers. You might also gain an added benefit of rekindling your love for your job, or opening the door to better opportunities with your current employer.
However, even if neither of these things occurs, taking on more responsibility at your current job will make you look like an engaged and ambitious go-getter, rather than someone who is just spinning his wheels until he can get the heck out of dodge. Because, even if you think you’re hiding it, the burnout eventually shows; and that could lead to you making your exit earlier than expected.
Even if you don’t want to keep your current job, it’s best not to burn that bridge until you’re ready to.