Over 50? Looking for a job?

5 Tips for Job Seekers over 50

It’s hard finding a new job or transitioning careers, especially when you might be thinking more about retirement.  Things can be extra challenging these days competing with tech savvy millennials who will work for lower wages and can relocate easily—however your future is still bright!

Here are 5 tips to compete in the job market!  (By the way, we’re always hiring at Peak!)

  1. Stay positive, stay current: Employers can sense energy and enthusiasm—they appreciate perspective but don’t want someone stuck in the past.  Make sure to stay positive and in the present both on paper and in person.  Remember that you want to highlight your past and not live in it.
  2. Get techie: Realistically, most of your work will be done on a computer from now on.  Most likely you already use a computer on a daily basis but maybe it’s time to learn some new skills.  It’s likely in your new job you will be using Google Docs, Quickbooks, Salesforce, or another cloud-based, collaborative application–so maybe it’s time to do some research and familiarize yourself with the software currently prevalent in your career field.
  3. Update your resume: Have you been in one job for ten years?  Twenty?  Probably time to update your resume.  Did you know that your local library may have resume writing classes?  Have you looked at resume writing tips online?  Also, don’t forget to tailor your resume towards each job you apply for.
  4. Link up—Linkedin: Linkedin is not only a great way to look for jobs but also to reconnect with former colleagues and friends in the field.  Many of your best job leads will come from personal referrals.  So tighten up that resume and get online to connect.
  5. Leverage your experience: you’ve been there and done that.  Don’t forget to show it on your resume and talk about it in the interview.  Most employers value experience, perspective, and a long list of things you’ve done.  While ideal resumes should be tailored specifically to the job you’re looking to get, don’t be afraid to point out all the ways you’ve changed the world!

By the way, have you heard about our mission at Peak?  Do you think you might be a Peak Performer?  Send us your resume!

4 tips for job seekers with disabilities

Based on Census Bureau data from 2015, there were an estimated 1.6 million working-age Texans with one or more disabilities. In the same year, Austin was home to nearly 72,000 residents living with disabilities or roughly 8 percent of the city’s population. These are significant numbers, and they likely do not include many invisible disabilities as defined by the ADA Amendments Act (2008).

While the situation is improving, many challenges remain for job seekers with chronic medical conditions in the United States. Discrimination in the workplace, lack of accessibility and inaccurate perceptions are all contributing factors to a disability unemployment rate that is more than twice as high as the general population. Moreover, the unemployment rate is not an ideal metric to gauge the economic participation of people with disabilities, as it does not account for many people who would like to work but are not actively seeking employment.

However, more and more employers are realizing the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities. In this day and age, companies need employees who are able to solve problems in unique and creative ways. And candidates with disabilities are often well positioned to think outside the proverbial box.

With more than 22 years of experience putting people with disabilities to work in Austin, we’ve compiled some of our best advice for job seekers with chronic medical conditions.

Consider a public sector job

The Obama administration exceeded their goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities during the past several years. With many states and municipalities following, this act alone has undoubtedly contributed to a falling disability unemployment rate over the same time period.

If you’re unable to get a government job directly, you might consider working with a company that does business with the public sector (shameless self-promotion alert). At Peak Performers, we recognize that disabilities have little to no bearing on an individual’s skills and capabilities. Our mission is to find jobs for qualified individuals, especially those with a disability. In fact, at our company, your status as a person with a disability can actually put you at an advantage–when we fill jobs, we give priority to qualified people who have a chronic medical condition.

Expand your network

Shameless self-promotion aside, we’re not the only ones in Austin providing jobs for people with disabilities. We recommend utilizing a variety local and online resources in your job search. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Launch Pad Job Club is a networking, support, and job lead sharing organization that aids and supports job seekers in Austin. Looking for work is hard to do alone. The job club model offers free, weekly meetings to network and learn from local experts and job seekers.
  • Workforce Solutions is our regional workforce development system and a partner of the American Job Center network. With three locations in the Austin area, WFS is a one-stop resource for job search assistance and employment-related services in Travis County.
  • If you are new to the workforce or are recently disabled, you might benefit from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – one of the leading sources of guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Consider when to disclose

The key question for many disabled job seekers is when (or if) to disclose their medical condition to a potential employer. Depending on your individual circumstances, this decision will be different for everyone. However, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared to address any skepticism from a hiring manager.

For people with highly visible disabilities, it is generally recommended to address any accommodations at the outset, so that expectations are set early in the process. Those with invisible disabilities can typically choose whether or not to disclose at all. Many career advice articles suggest that if your disability is not easily noticeable, it’s best not to say anything. Despite legal protection, the sad truth is that workplace discrimination is still a significant reality for people with all types of disabilities.

Know your worth

If and when you do decide to disclose, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to outline your entire medical history. We recommend sharing any accommodations you might need and focusing on how you’re able to contribute to the company. As with any job search process, it’s important to highlight your skills, experience and professional accomplishments. Understanding your worth can go a long way to giving you the confidence to nail the interview. The system might be broken, but you certainly are not.

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Invisible Disabilities

Recently, I was reading through a comment section below an article about what it’s like living with a disability. One contributor offered this example scenario:

A blind person is in a store. Through an “oops” in their cane technique, they accidentally break a piece of merchandise…A person suffering from PTSD is in a store. They smell a cologne that was the same their attacker wore. They become very upset and accidentally break a piece of merchandise…Who do you think the store owner will be more sympathetic toward?

It might sound pessimistic, but my bet is that 9 out of 10 times, the person with PTSD will end up paying for the broken merchandise, while the blind person probably will not. Why is this?

Many would argue that it’s the difference between a visible disability and an “invisible” one. Invisible disabilities are the ones you might not even know someone has. A longer list can be found on our Disability Defined page, but I’ll name a few here:

  • anxiety/depression
  • heart disease
  • sleep disorders
  • digestive disorders (such as Crohn’s Disease or IBS)
  • bipolar disorder
  • cancer

Often, the applicants we see here at Peak Performers who have “invisible” disabilities also have this in common: they’re more likely to protest, “Oh, but I’m not really disabled.”

The legal definition of “disability” was originally set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passed in 1990, this Act offered a fairly limited definition, covering mostly the physical conditions we traditionally think of as “disabling.”

In 2008, however, this definition was broadened considerably, under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). Most notably, the ADAAA now includes individuals who have been diagnosed with the “invisible” disabilities.

Traditionally, these are the conditions that, because they were not protected (either under the ADA, or pre-dating regulations), were not only invisible, but were also hidden. These are also the “newest” disabling conditions, in the sense that it hasn’t been until recently that scientists and therapists have begun to understand them. Today, in spite of laws meant to protect disabled individuals from discrimination, I’ve seen plenty of career advice articles extolling the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In other words: unless your disability is hard not to see, it’s best not to say anything.

To me, this is a sign that there is still something wrong with the system. Individuals still expect to encounter disability discrimination in the workplace.

Recently, to the tune of $7 million, a Missouri judge successfully sued the state for firing him due to his disability, a very difficult form of muscular dystrophy. His lawyer called the success “vindictive” for her client, adding that: “He felt like he was heard and somebody listened to him and believed him and saw him for the first time on these issues.”

Visible disabilities, such as the Missouri judge’s muscular dystrophy or blindness, have often been documented for many years. And yet, they are still discriminated against. Invisible disabilities, such as PTSD or Crohn’s disease, are easier to hide, less understood by your average person, and tend to have a shorter history of documentation. They’re also harder to “prove,” and someone could be accused of simply “faking it.”

I’ll leave you by returning to my first example, and ask: Who would you ask to pay for the broken merchandise in your store?

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Learn more here, and follow Peak Performers as we work to grow awareness.

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