(CNN) -- If you're over 50 and unemployed, you already know how difficult it can be to land a new job. But there are some ways you can position yourself to get back on the career fast track.
Let's look at the numbers first. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 754,000 workers, 55 years of age or older, were unemployed last year. But remember, this data does not include people who gave up looking for work and those who were forced into early retirement. In reality, the situation for older unemployed workers may be much bleaker.
Before you start blanketing companies with your resume, reflect on the kind of industry you've worked in. Have there been a lot of layoffs at other companies? Where is the demand for the type of skills you've acquired? What industries are growing?
Let the Bureau Web site be your guide. You'll get a list of the fastest growing industries.
Look farther down the page and you'll get a link to the Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2006-2007. Here is where you'll get detailed information on the job market in your state. Then you can search through hundreds of jobs , including descriptions of the work, what kind of working conditions exist, what training you'll need, the job outlook and what kind of pay you'll be likely to get.
It may also be time for you to rethink your resume. List your accomplishments first, whether it's a big project you spearheaded or a successful campaign you launched.
"Don't start your resume with dates," cautions Richard Bayer of the career counseling firm the Five O'Clock Club. Leave off the date you graduated from high school or college. Try to avoid gaps in your work history too.
Volunteer, join an association or take a class to show that you've been active in your field. And if you've been job-hopping for a long time, there's no need to list every position you've had.
Make yourself seem as active as possible. If you enjoy playing racquetball or tennis make sure you list that on the bottom of your resume. Bayer says he's even heard of older job applicants bringing a gym bag -- along with a briefcase -- to the interview.
When you are ready to send out those resumes, customize your search. Check out AARP's National Employer Team. This is a list of companies that actively recruit older workers. Some of the companies include Quest Diagnostics, Pitney Bowes and Verizon. Other online resources include: Senior Job Bank, Your Encore and Seniors4Hire.
When it comes to the interview, make it all about the company. Employers may be afraid older workers will leave the position soon. They want someone who will stick around for a while.
Make it clear that you're in it for the long haul (if you are). Most important, emphasize the accomplishments and experience you bring to the table. That's how you can make your age pay off.
Employers are not allowed to directly ask how old you are, but if you feel some questions are skirting around the age issue, steer the conversation toward your professional experience.
If you're asked questions about your personal life, talk about community projects you're involved with or the last great golf game you played. Keep the photos of the grandkids in your wallet.
Whatever you do, don't give up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that if you're 55 or older, it takes about 10 weeks to find a new job. That's just two weeks longer than it takes the general population. But we all know that's just not reality for a lot of folks out there.
"Enemy No. 1 is discouragement," says Bayer. Don't be a victim. Join professional associations, subscribe to trade journals and keep up with innovations and developments in your field as much as possible. In this dynamic work environment, it pays to be a lifelong learner. E-mail to a friend
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