Remote work options are becoming increasingly popular with older adults. According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, a full 3 in 4 retirees “want to continue to work,” but also “want the flexibility to enjoy their retirement.”
Beyond increased flexibility, however, there are many reasons why more experienced professionals may want to jump on the remote work trend. For one, it’s a chance for you to ditch the commute and enjoy more time at home.
If you’re retired, remote work also provides an opportunity for you to secure some part-time hours and contribute to your family’s income while also exploring new interests or even traveling the world.
And during a global public health crisis, working from home can give you greater peace of mind and reduce your chances of getting sick.
But landing a remote job in a competitive, growing market can be a challenge, even for the most experienced professionals.
Here are four common mistakes that older professionals make when applying for remote jobs—and strategies to help you avoid them:
Mistake #1: Limiting your opportunities
The mistake here is getting stuck thinking you can only do one type of work. In reality, the remote jobs available nowadays cover a variety of industries, and even roles that were once believed to be limited to the office are increasingly being done from home.
Before dismissing a job from consideration, take realistic stock of your skills and see how they match up with the position’s description, including by:
Conducting a self-assessment
Every job search should begin with a comprehensive self-assessment that gives you a snapshot of your current values, interests, and skills. While this may seem like a task for high school students, everyone changes over time.
Make sure you’re aware of the skills you currently possess and identify what is important to you right now and for the foreseeable future. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Researching potential jobs
Using the information you gather above, identify job descriptions that will put your strengths to best use. Consider practical factors as well, such as salary, hours, and travel. Just remember not to limit your thinking at this point.
While certain industries are more easily adapted to remote work, such as professional services, finance, teaching, and information-related jobs, almost all industries and jobs are represented in the remote job market.
Researching potential employers
Once you have identified jobs that appeal to you, research further to identify a list of telecommute-friendly employers. This step can be done during the job search process or before if you want to target specific companies that you admire.
The values you identified during the self-assessment will come into play here. Compare the company’s vision, mission, and goals with your own values to ensure that they match.
Mistake #2: Forgetting to consider the impact remote work will have on your life
Remote jobs come with both benefits and drawbacks. Some of the benefits include flexible hours, the ability to work from wherever you want, increased productivity and job satisfaction, and cost savings. However, there are serious drawbacks that also need to be considered before making the jump into telecommuting.
While these drawbacks should not prevent you from applying for remote jobs, the mistake here is not identifying problem areas early and developing mitigation strategies when necessary. A few main areas to consider include:
While this is a benefit for some, for others, one of the biggest downfalls of working remotely is the isolation and feelings of loneliness that it can bring. If you know you might have difficulties working by yourself all the time, devise tactics to keep active socially.
This can include interacting with others on social media, taking advantage of opportunities provided by employers, or just getting out of the house once in a while by working at a coffee shop or coworking space.
It’s more than just being alone. When you work solely at home, you’ll also be isolated from your peers, colleagues, and your entire professional network. In fact, a 2014 study cited by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that employees who work from home are as much as 50% “less likely to get a performance-based promotion than their at-the-workplace counterparts.”
It’s up to you to develop and maintain communication channels and networking opportunities to counteract these effects.
Lack of structure
While flexibility may be topping your benefits of remote work list, it can top the drawbacks list, too. With fluid boundaries between work and home, you may be easily distracted by other tasks when you should be working. Conversely, you might have a hard time tearing away from work, leaving you answering emails after hours and working through break times. This is not the time to duplicate your office schedule, however.
Take the time to decide—and experiment—with the best schedule for you. If you’re a night owl, work at night. Prefer working in the early morning? Start at dawn.
Results being measured by output, not time
Another aspect of remote work that older workers may find disconcerting is that frequently, your value to the organization is determined by the quality and reliability of your deliverables, as opposed to the hours that you put in.
But this is also where more experienced workers can shine: you’ve spent years perfecting your craft, giving you a leg-up on some of your younger counterparts, who may take longer to do the same task.
Mistake #3: Failing to keep up with the latest technology
Technology can be one of the biggest barriers to older adults seeking remote employment. Career progression in an office environment sometimes means not learning the hands-on tools being used by employees. Older adults are also sometimes resistant to learning new technologies because they think they’re too complicated to master.
However, working remotely requires the ability to use a group of newly developed software applications and mobile devices that facilitate both communication and workflow.
It’s a mistake to think you can just pick up all of these skills on the job. While software and hardware companies are continually working to make their products easier to use, it’s still best to be prepared. A few technology skills that you should master include:
It may seem to go without saying, but it is critical to have good typing skills as a telecommuter. If you think you can earn a living with one-finger typing skills, you may want to reconsider.
There are ways around this if you have a virtual assistant or specialized software to transcribe, but it’s both easier and cheaper to learn how to type. Luckily, there are a number of free online resources to choose from.
Using project and content management tools
There are a number of software products used to facilitate the initiation and completion of projects, and the coordination of tasks and assignments, in an online environment.
Job descriptions will usually list the tools that the company uses, so try to identify the most common tools used in your target jobs and look for courses or free trials to learn how those applications work. This will look great on a resume, too.
Group text, video calls, and instant chat applications are ubiquitous in the world of remote work. These kinds of software keep everyone in the loop, whether you are communicating one-on-one or in teams.
In addition to learning how the technology works, it pays to brush up on your writing and public speaking skills. Computer-mediated communication requires that special care be taken to use the right words and facial expressions (and even emojis) to convey meaning.
Miscommunication is common in remote situations and can quickly lead to mistrust, so do what you can to mitigate any issues before they arise.
Mistake #4: Missing the chance to market yourself effectively
It’s a mistake for jobseekers to think that having a digital presence is optional. Today’s jobseekers, especially those looking to work remotely, are expected to have a digital presence, whether that means on social media, your own blog or online portfolio, or both. But don’t feel like you need to jump into everything all at once—start with the basics: an email address, a LinkedIn account, and a digital resume and cover letter.
It’s also important to recognize that an effective remote job search will require both good writing skills as well as video interview abilities.
You can undertake developing or updating these on your own, or you may want to secure the services of a professional career services writer or counselor to help. Either way, here are a few practical points of advice on how to optimize your application:
Clean up your email address
Almost all recruitment communications will take place via email. This is sometimes the first introduction a recruiter, hiring manager, or future employer will have when they look in their inbox and see your email address. Make sure to keep it professional using a simple variation of your name as your email address that does not include any personal information.
For example, email@example.com is clean, simple, and professional—but options like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com are not.
Use your cover letter to your advantage
This is an underutilized way of communicating directly with your future employer. There is almost always a way to include a cover letter with your application, even if you’re only provided a space for miscellaneous additional information.
Use this space to align yourself as closely as possible to the job requirements—point out how you directly meet their needs. This is also where you can explain any anomalies in your resume or emphasize your transferable skills if you are changing industries or specialties.
Update your resume
Yes, your resume is still the most important document in your jobseeker toolbox. In this case, an outdated resume doesn’t just refer to not having up-to-date information, it also refers to the format and conventions used in the document.
Today’s resume is not a traditional CV where you list everything you’ve ever done. A resume today is a marketing document that highlights the jobseeker’s strengths as they apply to the job they are looking for. In addition, resumes need to be keyword-optimized to ensure they make it past applicant screening software.
Create a LinkedIn account
Use your LinkedIn account to complement the information on your resume. While your job and education listings should match your resume closely, they can be a little less formal on LinkedIn.
More importantly, however, the site’s summary section and projects section, among others provided, allow you space and freedom to include additional information that would not be appropriate in a resume.
Prepare for a video interview
If you have never given a video interview, this is another skill to develop. A video interview is different in many ways from an in-person interview—and if you haven’t given an in-person interview in a while, you will probably be rusty at that as well.
Interviewing is even more important in the remote job hiring process; in fact, many positions will require that you interview several times to make sure that you are the right fit. Take the time to practice and prepare for the best results.
A Last Word
Changing jobs can be a difficult undertaking at any age; however, finding remote work as an older adult, especially during these uncertain times, can feel particularly overwhelming. The key to undertaking any overwhelming task—and coincidentally, one of the best ways to accomplish complex tasks in an online team—is to break the activity down into small chunks.
By proactively and methodically addressing the potential pitfalls above, you will gain the skills to find interesting, productive work at home positions that suit your life and meet your needs.
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