Tips for Older Job Seekers | Age-Proofing Your Job Search

Tips for Older Job Seekers | Age-Proofing Your Job Search was originally published on Idealist Careers.

If you’re searching for purpose in your career, joining a mission-driven organization is a fantastic way to dip your toe into social impact. Whether you’d like to transfer your private sector experience or are returning to the workforce after time away, there are plenty of exciting opportunities to apply your skills to a cause you care about. 

When submitting applications, it’s important that your materials tell the story of your career; for older job seekers with a wealth of experience or passion for a particular issue area, aligning your professional materials and skillset to each opportunity is key to age-proofing your job search.

We joined forces with AARP to bring you expert advice on navigating the nonprofit job market as an older job seeker. Read on for tips on assessing career goals, adding new skills to your repertoire, and refreshing your resume.

Find out what roles are right for you

The social-impact sector is diverse, with thousands of organizations committed to a range of issue areas. To kick off the job search, your first steps should be to narrow down potential organizations.

If you already have an idea of what issue area you’d like to support, use Idealist to explore related organizations by searching specific keywords, like “children’s literacy” or “photography.” Then, dig into any interesting roles that may be a match for your background and experience. Are there certain skills required in the job description that you’d need to acquire before submitting an application? Keep track of these so you can pursue professional training and upskilling resources (more on that below).

As you search, you may also consider other routes to becoming involved in the social-impact sector. Joining a nonprofit as a volunteer can be a great way to get involved with a mission, as well as give you a head start on building your network.

It’s possible that you’re already deeply connected to the work of a particular organization and want to take on a more official role. If that’s the case—and you have the work experience to back you up—consider becoming a board member. You’ll be able to share your expertise to help determine the organization’s trajectory, while gaining useful insights about the sector.

Add relevant skills to your toolbelt

If you’ve been out of the workforce for some time, review your resume, portfolio, and any other professional materials before starting the job search. You may realize there are gaps between your skillset and the requirements for a particular role.

The good news is that nonprofits value a wide range of skills that you may have gained from previous roles, such as project management, sales, or communication. If you’re a sector switcher, highlighting these transferable skills can help you land your first role in social impact, even if you have no professional experience in the sector.

If you’re returning to the workforce after a career break, or interested in a position for which you have no prior experience, research professional development resources like the AARP and MindEdge Skills Builder for Work online courses. There are plenty of free or low-cost options  that can teach you what you need to know, such as HR Fundamentals or courses in nonprofit management.

Age-proof your resume

In our last post with AARP, we shared specific tips for finding age-inclusive employment within the social-impact sector. If you’re concerned about age bias impeding your job search, here’s how to refresh your resume and highlight the most relevant parts of your career journey:

  • Focus on your most recent experience. Even if you’ve been in the workforce for 30 years, it’s a good rule of thumb to limit your resume to one to two pages and highlight only your most recent jobs. By going into detail about the positions you’ve held in the past 10 to 15 years, you can craft the story of your career trajectory and highlight the roles that make you qualified for the job.
  • Consider leaving out employment dates. If you’re concerned about gaps in your work history, may decide to leave employment dates off your resume. Just make sure you’re prepared to address any date-related questions a hiring manager may bring up in a phone screen or interview. If you’re confident that you have the required skills for the position, the dates shouldn’t matter!
  • Avoid the “jack-of-all-trades” approach. As an older job seeker, you may have experience in a wide-range of jobs and want to show off your know-how to impress potential employers. It’s true that some social-impact professionals wear many hats at smaller organizations, but we recommend you only include the skills that relate to the position at hand.
  • State your interests and volunteer experience. Including a section on your resume for interests and volunteer experience that relate to the role you’re pursuing is especially important for sector switchers. Hiring managers may want to know why you’d like to work in social impact now, as opposed to earlier in your career.
  • Remove outdated skills. There’s no need to include familiarity with Microsoft Office tools on your resume; that is, unless you have experience with programming or complex data modeling in Excel. If that’s the case, be specific about your software skills so employers know you can perform essential tasks.

As an older job seeker, your wealth of experience and knowledge of the workforce is an asset to any organization, even if you’ve never worked in the sector.

Just know that Idealist and AARP are here to support you. We hope the above tips and resources help you soar through the job search to find the social-impact role of your dreams.


Looking for age-inclusive organizations? Search for nonprofits through the AARP Employer Pledge Signer program, which lists employers who have committed to building an age-inclusive workforce.