Job loss at 50 – Can you bounce back?

Losing your job is a tough blow at any age, but for workers in their 50s, dealing with the unexpected challenge can be especially difficult. Here’s a map to getting back on the career path.

We spoke to three experts who offered five handy tips for navigating your way back into the workforce at 50 – so you can bounce back without losing your balance.

1. Grieve the loss

In the aftermath, give yourself time to grieve the loss. “Strong emotional reactions like anger and depression typically must take their course,” says Ken Zaborniak, career advisor with Rockhurst Career Groups in Ottawa.

But taking out the tissues doesn’t mean throwing in the towel. After all, as Mr. Zaborniak reminds us, “For skilled specialists, 50 is not a barrier.”

2. Re-evaluate your career plan

“Unfortunately in some positions, such as high-pressure sales, an image of youthful good-looks is an unofficial corporate preference,” admits Mr. Zaborniak. “Refocus on roles – like consulting to train sales teams– where gray hair is a perceived asset.” Plus, the process of rethinking your career direction can be a great opportunity to check in with your values and interests. “Rediscover the things in your life that make you feel good,” advises Shirin Khamisa, career counsellor at Toronto’s Careers by Design. The process could spark an unexpected change in direction.

3. Revamp the old resume

Ideally, we’d all update our resumes every six months, but after a certain age most of us tend to let dust gather on our personal profiles. However, “revising it is a priority after losing a job,” says Jack Shand, President of Leader Quest Inc., a company that offers career counselling services in Mississauga, Ontario. At 50, your accomplishments and experience make you a seasoned professional in the workforce. Keep this in mind as you refresh your resume.

4. Expand your network

Joining a professional association, community organization or business group is a good strategy for getting back into the game and making new contacts. “Reconnect with individuals who can help you find a new job. They include former co-workers and friends with connections in the organizations or sectors where you may want to concentrate your job-search strategy,” advises Mr. Shand.

5. Seek and you will find

“Bookmark job sites and visit them regularly. Research potential employers and approach them directly,” suggests Mr. Zaborniak. “Losing a job at 50 is a transition – the start of a new chapter in a career. Experience, enthusiasm and energy are more important factors than date of birth,” concludes Mr. Shand.