How a 55-year-old software developer can get hired in this economy: 8 tips

I retired three years ago at 54 from a career in programming. I never got a degree in the field, never got certified, but I still get calls from ex-employers and head hunters checking to see if I want to go back.

The average age of the developers in the office I left was 47 and females were in the majority. We had two in their late 60s. There wasn’t much age discrimination there. All they cared about was breathing bodies who could produce.

If you’re trying to get hired in the IT field today, here are some suggestions:

  1. Ignore the certification requirements posted for specific jobs and apply for ones you like anyway.
    Only the most elite of companies will turn you down for lacking certification, if you have some experience.
  2. Try temping.
    Often, temp jobs result in permanent positions.
  3. Approach IT consulting firms.
    They hire you, give you benefits, and contract you out. Some will test you and market your skills accordingly. Most are very good at making you look good. Once hired by them, most will work closely with you to get you the skills and certification you need to make you more marketable. (Because the better you are, the more money they make).
  4. Take an entry level help desk job in a company that does in-house development.
    Let the hiring manager know what you really want to be doing. It’s menial. But one of the best ways for developers to get their feet in the door. The company may even pay you for the certification courses and tests. Better yet, try a for a QA, analyst or tester position. Those jobs will put you in contact with developers and maybe you’ll find a mentor. Since you were in real estate, try mortgage financial services. the more you know about the business, the more willing a company is to hire someone with entry level skills.
  5. Jobs for Women Over 50:
    5 Keys to Find Work You Love Now

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  6. Consider additional courses in mainframe or midframe areas (take a few courses in the old languages – like COBOL, Assembler).
    Large companies cannot get away from mainframes and struggle to find people who can do this work. You’ll also find more companies willing to hire you for that type of work, because the young people do not wish to pursue mainframe. And older, mainframe people, are usually the ones doing the hiring for it. Try the older large companies (IBM, HP, insurance, banks and utilities companies).
  7. Look and feel young.
    Get a makeover. Lose some weight if you need to. Update your wardrobe.
  8. Look up the AARP’s list of age-friendly companies.
    I don’t know if that still exists, but if it does, it might be helpful. (Also, have you tried them for life insurance?)
  9. Network.
    Join local and online IT groups. Most openings are by word of mouth. Put your resume online. My favorite all-time job came from somebody finding my resume online after I had forgotten I put it there.

It’s tough out there. But there are IT jobs left in the US. Best of luck to you.

[This advice was first posted as part of this conversation ~ Eds.]

Share your own job hunting tips below! Or, follow this link to read Dallas Lady’s post, “Tough love for job seekers”

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Posted in live it! lists, work & money.

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8 Responses

  1. JEM JEM says

    Since this was re-posted as a new thread, just want to say again that this is spot on!

    0 like

  2. Generic Image Dale Frailey says

    If you’re willing to travel or do project work, there are all kinds of options for #3. Especially with companies like IQ Tech Pros that offer a high percentage of the bill rate. EX: http://www.iqtechpros.com/Freelance/Consulting_Jobs/Best_Solution.aspx

    #6 is great too, its not necessarily about how others perceive your looks, but how YOU feel. Confidence is key.

    For #7, LinkedIn can actually work pretty well to get your name out there.

    great article!

    0 like

    • watruw8ing4 watruw8ing4 says

      Great addition. This article was originally a post responding to someone I believe was already freelancing and looking for something more stable. I never went the freelancing route. But another good way to get that experience.

      I think #6 is a little of both. If you look older and out of fashion, an interviewer might perceive you as tired, non-energetic, or unwilling to change.

      0 like

  3. Linda Varone Linda Varone says

    For #8 Networking Check out MeetUps in your area. It is an national/?international online bulletin board for affinity groups. I belong to two groups to help me manage my own website and meet a lot of IT professionals there. No one talks about certification, but about new opportunities and new technologies. My expereince has been that everyone has been friendly and generous. Good Luck!

    0 like

  4. MrsB MrsB says

    AARP has listings for age-friendly jobs? I kept getting AARP literature in te mail (I’m 57) and just thought it was something for 65+ folks and tossed it aside. I am in Portland, the mecca of HP, INTEL, Tektronics, etc. I never thought of these corporations as potential job placements, although I once had a job at Tek, saudering circuit boards for oscillascopes. In 3 months I’ll have my B.S. degree in Sociology. I have worked in banking for over 30 years and am leaning toward mortgage lending or government work. Any companies that come to mind where I might be a good placemnet? I have also worked with temp agencies and I enjoyed the floating around to different companies, until I found permanent placement. There are pros and cons to temp work but for someone looking to find a good match, it’s a plus.

    0 like

    • watruw8ing4 watruw8ing4 says

      AARP does a list every other year. 2009:


      I joined AARP several years ago – I’m 57 now. The small membership fee has been paid for out of AARP discounts for hotels, a computer, and my personal favorite – homeowner’s insurance for our hurricane area retirement home. You get lots of mailings. But I just ignore what I’m not interested in. You also get the AARP Bulletin and Magazine, which I find helpful.

      One of my long-term consulting jobs was with HP. In the IT arena, at least, age was not an issue. 

      Hmmm, Sociology and banking. . .  Maybe a reputable credit card or mortgage counseling position?


      0 like

  5. Generic Image Anonymous says

    Many articles of this nature are way off base an inaccurate.  That is not the case with this article.  I’ve been working in IT since the late 1980′s and I agree with every point in this article.

    Ignore the certification requirements posted for specific jobs and apply for ones you like anyway: Absolutely, certification is way-overrated by some; businesses want problem-solvers and hard-workers, a certificate often means very little – something to tack on a cubical wall.

    Often, temp jobs result in permanent positions: Very true – if you’re good you will distinguish yourself and a company is not going to want to lose you.

    Approach IT consulting firms: Yep, it’s kept me working, with just a couple of gaps, for 20 years.

    Take a few courses in the old languages – like COBOL: This is just simple common sense. The folks that know older technologies are retiring and, uhm, in many cases no longer living. The law of supply and demand cannot be ignored.

    Look and feel young: Why is something so simple and clear so not understood? If you “act” 50, 60, 70, then sure enough you’re gonna “not be hired” like 50, 60, 70.  This doesn’t mean wear hipster clothes or babble about the latest meme in social media, this means look and act like you are full of, and love, life.  It’s an attitude thing, and a take-care-of-yourself thing. And a have-a-sense-of-humor thing too.

    Network.  Yes, if you know someone who is already working at a company and they can recommend you internally, you have a much better chance of getting hired.

    Software engineering is the #1 job out there according to recent analysis quoted by the Wall Street Journal.  Your attitude and aptitude mean everything, your age is either irrelevant or – it might even be your trump card.

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