How to compete in the job market and win when you are in your 50’s

Subject Expert: Kim Crawford, the Joinery

Prime Time career

If I was a man in my 50’s I would be in the prime of my career, at my peak with a ton of experience, in a senior role at the top of my game looking at how I can maximise my position over the next 10 years and then retire with financial security and personal fulfilment.  Is the same true for women?

Of course it should be (and is for many) but then so many women don’t have straight-line careers. There are bumps and gaps along the way – time out for having children, running the home (and supporting that corporate man!)  Thankfully life is not so stereotypical today.  And things have changed a great deal.  There are more 50+ women working today than ever.  Around 69% of women over 50 are in employment – a rise of over 20% over the last 30 years.  And this is an on-going trend partly driven by the rise in State Pension Age to 66 in 2020. 

So, the good news is that getting a job in your 50’s is no longer unusual

But getting a job today is very different to even a few years ago. The process has become digitised, recruiters no longer network, and everything is driven by the internet.  Here are some things you can do to help beat the system.


Still a crucial tool.  Ideally keep it to 2 pages.  Take out dates of education.  Remove those early jobs or condense them.  Focus on achievements in all your roles.  It’s an overview.  Look at the job description you are applying for and make sure your CV highlights the relevant experience the job requires. 

Polish up your Linked in profile.  It’s really important this is up to date with a good professional photo – not one of you at the beach with your family! Make sure you are ‘open to opportunities’ and optimise your profile so that when that perfect job comes up you’ll be matched against it. Check the email address linked to your LinkedIn profile is not a work address and is one that you monitor regularly.

Start networking

Get in touch with old colleagues, old bosses, and let them know you’re looking and you’re always around for a coffee and a catch up. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to recruiters. Be front of mind and always pleasant. Remember it is in the recruiter’s interest to find you a job so they won’t be deliberately ignoring you – they just might not have the right thing for you right now. Keep a spread sheet and be diligent with follow ups and thank you’s. This might sound like generic job-hunting advice, and it is! But you have an advantage. Being over 50 you have more networking opportunities, more contacts to get in touch with and more experience to sell so be proud and confident in your approach but never arrogant or patronising.

Why won’t people recruit over 50’s? What’s wrong with being ‘too old’?

The fear is that women who are 50 plus are out of touch. The world of work and business has moved so fast over the last few years and it’s true, a lot of 50+ women either don’t have the confidence, discipline or inclination to keep up. You have to stand above the crowd by being more than relevant. Be diligent in your research. Subscribe to relevant podcasts, blogs, articles in your industry. Have a point of view and be happy to debate. You also have to be committed.  Be honest – are you really ready to work 5 days a week with 20 days holiday a year?  It’s a big change if you haven’t worked recently and many potential employers will want reassurance that you are ready to jump back in.

Active bodies feed active minds.

Keeping yourself fit is not an indulgence it’s a necessity. Radiating energy is essential. Looks aren’t everything but no matter how south you think everything has dropped there’s no excuse not to be stylish and current. If you know you look good and feel comfortable and you radiate confidence and energy you’re already halfway there. And check out what the dress code is.  Most companies are pretty casual but there is a fine line between casual and tatty and the athleisure look is probably a step too far for most companies!  First impressions count so make sure you dress appropriately.

Reality check

At 50+ you’ve probably got a lot of experience under your belt and may well be looking for a very senior role. However, the pyramid gets quite pointy at the top resulting in fewer senior roles and more competition for them. There may be a trade-off to be made. Is it the title you want or the job satisfaction? Could you handle working for someone considerably younger than you? You will both have many different skills and you need to be the voice of experience but not the voice of seen it all done It all.

Empty nesters/going back to work after a big break

There are many 50+ers for whom the job of running a family is lessening and you might be looking to return to work after many years at home. There’s no way of making this easy.  If you’ve been out of the workforce for several years, even if you have amazing qualifications and an outstanding early career it’s still going to be hard to find the right job. Be realistic, do you want to go back into your previous career? If you do then you may have to update your skills, retrain, get an internship, do whatever it takes to show you have some recent relevant experience.  Think laterally and consider using a job as a stepping stone to your ultimate goal. Working full time is a big commitment. It sounds obvious but remember, you’ll have limited holidays. You won’t be able to sort out your children wherever they are at the drop of a hat and the house won’t run itself!

Part time – often a good first step back into the world of work. Can you do your job on a part time basis? Does it make sense for the employer? Is it commercially viable?  Think about how you could adapt your skills to work for the company on a part time basis – make it an easy decision for the employer.


Don’t be sold short but be realistic. You may not get that pay rise you would like but it may be better initially to accept a great job for less money.  But make sure you feel valued.


When you get the opportunity to have a face to face meeting always treat it like a interview. Before you go, think about what your objectives are for the meeting. Is it a job offer, intel about the industry, names and recommendations of potential hirers? Think about the questions that you will need to ask to reach those objectives. Rehearse potential interview questions. Sit in front of a mirror and talk about yourself so that when you get that ‘so tell me about yourself’ question you’ve got the answer off pat. Be interested in their company, do your research. Have questions about their ambitions, their ideal candidate, the job role, any interesting insights that would be relevant. Keep your answers concise and engaging.

In summary there are no magic short cuts to finding a job in your 50’s.  All you can do is put your best foot forward, be proud of what you can offer and get out there.  Be confident, relevant and persistent!  And good luck!

About the author:

Kim Crawford is 50+ graduate with a career that started in advertising with Saatchi’s.  She fell into recruitment and started her first recruitment business a few years later which she then sold and since has started a Search consultancy.   She is also a NED.  Kim sees first-hand the job-hunting problems for women of all ages and is particularly aware of the issues facing the over 50’s.  She herself is experiencing the “sandwich” effect as a single mother with 4 children and an elderly mother to care for.

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