Key Takeaways

  • At least 70% of open positions are never advertised. This is referred to as the “hidden job market”—and it’s a great source of job leads.

  • Finding a job in the hidden market requires a strong professional network that opens doors to new opportunities.

  • If you’re wondering how to build your professional network after age 50, the tips in this article can help you get started.

While many openings are posted online and in trade publications, at least 70% are never advertised.1 This is what’s called the “hidden job market.” The best way to find opportunities in this unseen market is by building and growing your professional network. In fact, it just may be the most important thing you do to ensure job search success.

What are the benefits of building a professional network as an older adult?

A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showed that networking can help you find a better job, faster. The more connections you have, the greater the odds that you’ll hear about promising new opportunities. When you tell your network you’re job hunting, they can be your eyes and ears to roles you may be suited for. Maybe your neighbor just heard of an opening at their company that matches your qualifications. Or your former colleague offers to refer you to the hiring manager at their organization.

Networking also reduces hiring risks for both you and potential employers, since it promotes high-quality referrals from trusted connections. If you’re over age 50 with established experience behind you, the people you know will likely recommend you with confidence.

How do I build my professional network after 50?

The idea of building a diverse network after 50 might feel intimidating. Times have changed, and you know it’s not enough to just hand out business cards. What is the best way to grow your network? What networking resources should you tap into?

If you’re a mature job seeker wondering how to expand your connections, check out the tips below. These strategies can help you build a robust network over time and improve your chances of landing the job you’ve been looking for.

8 networking tips for older adults

1. Create a list of everyone you know: Your personal and professional contacts are the basis of your network—and can often be a great source of job leads. An important first step in networking is to list everyone you know who might be willing and able to help you. It's acceptable to go as far back as 10-15 years, including:

  • Current and former colleagues/co-workers
  • Family, friends, and neighbors
  • Business associates of family, friends, and neighbors
  • People you know from professional organizations you belong to
  • Acquaintances from book clubs, church, volunteering, etc.

Once you've created your list, bring all your contacts together in one place—such as your smartphone, contact management system, or spreadsheet. Be sure to update your contacts regularly to keep the information from getting outdated.

2. Craft a personal “elevator pitch”: An elevator pitch is a quick overview of yourself. It should be about 30 to 60 seconds long (75 words) or the duration of a short ride in an elevator. Think of your pitch as your response to the phrase "Tell me about yourself." It should focus on your background, professional strengths, and the value you bring to a potential employer. Your elevator pitch will be the foundation of all your networking, whether it’s done face to face, over the phone, or online.

3. Tell your contacts you're open to new opportunities: Word-of-mouth is a common way for older adults to find jobs. That's why you want to broadcast your search to your entire contact list as well as people you’ve met through job training programs. Send individual messages—not an impersonal mass email. You'll also want to be clear about the field you're in and the type of position you're looking for. Be specific in what you want your contact to do, such as review your resume and cover letter or recommend another contact you might benefit from talking to.

Lastly, when reaching out to your contacts, don’t focus on “needing a job.” Instead, stay positive by emphasizing how excited you are about getting back to the workforce. And if someone does take the time to respond to you, always express your appreciation.

4. Ask your network for informational interviews: An informational interview is a casual conversation with someone who works in a job, company, or field that interests you. Start by using your contacts list or LinkedIn to find people at organizations you’d like to work for (or in positions you'd like to hold). Once you've collected a few names, reach out individually to request an informational interview. Use your elevator pitch to introduce yourself and explain why you chose to contact that person. Don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting, either in person or via phone or video chat.

When you do have an interview, ask your interviewer if they can suggest anyone else you should talk to. This will allow you to keep growing your network—and expanding your possibilities—all throughout your job search.

5. Take advantage of online networking tools: It's a different world now, and many aspects of the job search are happening online. Networking is no exception. LinkedIn is a powerful network-building tool that can give you even more visibility in the job market. For that reason, having a polished and up-to-date LinkedIn profile is essential. New to LinkedIn? Explore our tips and best practices for creating a LinkedIn account.

In addition to having a presence on LinkedIn, it's important to stay active on the platform. This means not only posting and sharing content, but also staying in regular touch with your important connections. Reaching out to people when you don't need anything (instead of only when you do) can help you build lasting, authentic relationships.

Business Network International (BNI) is another networking tool to consider if you're currently in or targeting a service-based field. BNI offers online networking groups that can help you connect with other professionals in your area.

6. Find a mentor (even if they're younger): As a mature worker over 50, you're a source of knowledge for younger generations. But mentoring is valuable at any age. Young professionals have technical expertise and workplace-culture savvy that can benefit older workers. So don't be afraid to ask more junior members of your network for advice on how to increase your employability. Chances are they can benefit from your wisdom, too.

7. Attend in-person networking events: While a lot of professional relationship-building happens online these days, old-fashioned formal networking is still an effective job search tool. Don't shy away from events like trade association meetings or business socials. If you're uncomfortable in a crowd, try bringing a friend with you or volunteer to work at the registration table where you can meet people as they arrive.

8. Get active in your community: Raise your personal and professional profiles by volunteering for local charities, helping at community events, joining a board, or taking part in an area business networking group. These are all great ways to meet new people and learn new skills while you’re at it.

NCOA can help you add tools in your job search arsenal

Searching for a new job? Or returning to work after a break? NCOA recently launched its new employment tool, Job Skills CheckUp, to help older adults get tips on how to succeed as a mature worker.  All you have to do is tell us about your goals, describe your current employment situation, and the Job Skills CheckUp will create a personalized plan to help you find job openings, build a professional network, prepare for job interviews, and more.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) also provides qualified older adults age 55+ with on-the-job training and job placement. You must be at least age 55 and have low income to take part in this program. To learn how to apply, find your local SCSEP office.


1. At least 70% of jobs are not even listed — here's how to up your chances of getting a great new gig, Business Insider. Found on the internet at