Seeking a New Job at 40+?–16 Critical Mistakes to Avoid

Over 40, out of work or sick and tired of your present career–Here are 16 critical job search mistakes to avoid.

1. Expect someone else to solve your problem. No government bureau (state or federal) or private employment agency is going to locate and hand you a great next job. It’s perfectly all right to query them for advice and ask for maximum unemployment benefits (you earned them, after all!) but the job search puzzle is yours to solve, so go for it!

2. Plunge into job search without a family transition budget and a targeted self-marketing plan. Finding a job these days is far from easy and may take some time, so sit down with spouse and offspring to develop a family contingency budget of at least one-year’s duration. Agreeing upon shared sacrifice and making tough decisions up front will “buy” you the time needed to scope out then search for that “ideal” next position.

3. Avoid contact with close social friends and former business associates. There is no stigma to looking for new career opportunities in today’s economy. Networking may be your key!

4. Blindly chase after a position identical to the one you just lost. Your old job is gone–most likely never to return. No matter how specialized your skills, you will need to visualize how best you can adapt to new job functions in a different culture. Don’t neglect to promote functional and leadership skills you can demonstrate away from the job. There’s nothing wrong with years of expertise managing a household, parenting children, raising money for charity or leading a volunteer cause.

5. Harbor then express anger or resentment against your former employer, immediate boss or business collegues. A logical recruiter will react: “What’s to prevent him or her from making the same negative remarks about us? I’ll wait to hire someone who I can count on to exert a positive influence on fellow employees.”

6. Fail to appoint self as job search CEO. It’s your life and your career! By all means, ask others for advice and introductions, but keep all final decisions to yourself. It’s you, not they, who will benefit from finding “that perfect career.”

7.  Invest full emotional capital in any one opportunity. Like a baseball team, it’s always best to have backup possibilities “on deck” and “in-the-hole.” Don’t let yourself off track every time a “perfect” job falls through. Next time you miss out on a prized position, spend a few hours researching what, if anything, you can do better, then move on and prepare for the next big opportunity.

 8. Permit unemployment to interfere with family, social or volunteer resonsibilities or to strip away your zest for living. Taking periodic times out for recreation with spouse and kids and for volunteering in church and community are musts to calm frustrations and to reenergize for tomorrow’s challenges. Concentrating attention on others makes us feel good too!

9. Hide from others that you are out of work and are seeking employment. Share with any who will listen your job search campaign. Keep your comments positive. Ask for advice; true frinds will be more than happy to lend a hand. Next time, you may be able to help them!

10. Tie your identity and self-worth to the position you just lost (or are planning to leave.) In no way are you any less of a person simply because you presently do not hold a job. Every one of us is much more than the title we hold or the workplace functions we perform. While executing your campaign, do not hesitate to explore aspects of your personhood you may have neglected while earning a living.

11. Fail to step back to determine precisely what you really want to do in life’s second half. What are your long-term career and lifestyle objectives? What will you need to sacrifice up front to wed the two–to bring your life into financial balance and to pursue a career which will pay you to have a good time? 

 12. Harbor unrealistic career aspirations. At age 55 with no previous medical training you are not likely to become a physician. You can however choose “healthcare” as a general area of concentration then seek a position better suited to you. For example, with a business degree, might seek to become a clinic administrator, open a healthfood store or market non-prescription natural medicines over the Internet.

13. Out of despiration, accept just any position. I’ve been there and done that and it simply doesn’t work. If you accept a position (other than a temporary assignment to pay the bills) far short of your potential without a clear pathway to the ideal, you will neither blossum nor relish the workday. Don’t give up on your aspirations! Never lose sight of the target and be ready when the right moment comes. 

14. Fail to visualize continually an ultimately favorable outcome.  Think and act like an incumbent. Routinely imagine yourself performing targeted career functions. Savor the monetary and emotional benefits you will accrue. Once you convince your sub-conscious of a successful outcome, good things will start to happen. Your inspired inner being will point you in the right direction.

15. Plunge headlong into an unrealistic “get-rich-quick” franchise or work-from-home business venture. In general, the only ones who get rich from working at home are the sponsor’s! A few home business ventures do work but you should enter into one only after thoughtful due diligence and independent reference checking.  

16. Cancel all family vacations and recreation until you are hired. In fact, this is the worst thing you can do. For now, your primary occupation is marketing yourself or your new venture ideas. Like any other vocation, you will need periodic time away to recharge you bastteries and to sustain a loving connection with spouse and offspring. You may not be able to afford an exotic European family vacation, but why not frequent yet inexpensive day trips or weekend excursions in your area? 

Want to learn more about mid-career transition? For a comprehensive guide to inspired midlife job search, I recommend Chapter 7 of my recent book, A Mid-Life Challenge–Wake Up!  You can preview this book and our other middle age renewal resources through our company website:

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