I’ve added one more reason why dwelling on your age will hurt your job search. As with anything you try to achieve, attitude is key.
One of my connections sent me part of an email he received in response to a job lead he shared with a networking group. The damning part of her email to him was when she wrote, “Most of their workers are under 30. So…that puts me out of the running.”
Some of you might be thinking this person is absolutely correct in writing this. You may have experienced some age discrimination and it pissed you off. I get this. But the point is that this woman already hurt her chances before even getting to any interview. She let her age hurt her job search.
Yes, it can be difficult landing a job the older you get, but your age can also be a selling point. Before you get to the interview to sell yourself on your job experience, maturity, dependability, and life experience, there are four distinct aspects of your job search that need attention.
Your attitude shouts angry
A successful job search will take a positive attitude and a projection of friendliness, or at least civility. One thing I’m acutely aware of in job seekers, as well as people currently working, is their anger.
Job seekers need to contain their anger, if not in public, certainly online. You must realize that the majority of people on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are currently employed, and don’t share your anger.
Even most job seekers do their best to contain their anger, and are careful of what they write. How do I know? I’m constantly trolling LinkedIn and checking out my connections.
When I see comments about how it’s the employer’s fault that a person didn’t get hired, two thoughts come to mind: maybe it’s true. Maybe said employer practiced ageism. The second thought is “Ooh, people are watching; they’re looking. And they’re not liking what they see.
As I said, most people on social media are employed and may be in a position of hiring employees. If you don’t think employers keep track of you on social media, think again.
One instance of releasing your anger can be all it takes. So all I’m asking is that you think twice before hitting “Send.” No, give it a night.
Your résumé is NOT your life story
He who retires with the longest work history doesn’t win. I’ve said this to my Résumé Writing workshop attendees after looking at their résumés, some of which show 30 plus years of work history.
Years ago a job seeker showed me his résumé, which went back to the time he graduated college…30 years or so. I told him, “Paul (that was his name), your résumé goes back too far in your work history. And it’s four pages long.”
“I know,” he told me. “I want people to know about my life.”
Paul’s résumé is not uncommon. I’ve had job seekers who hold the same belief, the more experience they show the better. Stop the record. First remember that what interests employers most are the most recent five to seven years of your experience.
Second, they want to see job-related accomplishments. I’ll repeat what many professional résumé writers spout, fewer duties and more accomplishments are what will impress employers.
Third, your résumé has to be easy to read and must be conventional in appearance. White space and shorter paragraphs (no more than four lines) improves readability. Today’s résumé is written in sans serif font, such as Arial. Stay up with the times.
Fourth, limit your work history to 10 or 15 years at most. Don’t show your age immediately and give an employer the opportunity to think you’re too old.
Marc Miller of Career Pivot offers other suggestions in a great article, 5 Things on Your Resume That Make You Sound Too Old.
Your LinkedIn profile lacks vitality
Does your LinkedIn profile present a poor first impression and turn people away? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen job seekers with photos that look like mug shots from the eighties. This alone is inviting age discrimination.
I know this sounds weird, but if you guys are concerned about being judged based on your photo, color your hair. I’ve seen plenty of fine color jobs. But if coloring your hair is not your style, at least smile.
Other ways to show vitality include using positive language in all sections of your profile. One line I show my workshop attendees is one from a LinkedIn member’s Summary, “I love what I do and I’ve been doing it successfully for 10+ years.”
What about you job seekers who feel compelled to explain your unemployment status? Don’t make this the gist of your Summary. Instead sound more upbeat with something akin to: “Currently I am enthusiastically searching for a career as a registered nurse. I am increasing my skills by taking courses at a accredited university.”
Use the media feature in the Summary, Experience, and Education sections. Show your vitality like my former customer who landed a job as a landscape architect. She shows off momentous work, both residential and commercial, that she produced. Think about producing a YouTube video the wind turbine you engineered just recently, including rocking music.
Take a look at a video produced by Al Jazeera America about one of my connections photographing models and homeless people. This is a great example of bringing a LinkedIn profile to life.
Update often with positive messages. Read articles and write supportive words about said articles. When you write about how employers are essentially the devil in disguise, employers take note of what you write.
Don’t turn people off at networking events
Most older workers I know can carry on an intelligent conversation because they’ve had years of practice. At our career center networking events, they carry on conversations far beyond the two hours allotted for the event. Much of what I over hear is positive talk about the progress of their job search, about their personal commercial, about their daily lives.
On the other hand, I will occasionally hear negativity seep through like black bile. This is when I hear one networker tell another that he can’t get an offer because of his age. “Not necessarily true,” I pipe in.
What I didn’t tell you about the email I mentioned at the beginning of this post is that my customer said this woman’s attitude seems rampant throughout the networking group.
If this attitude is rampant throughout the group, it may not be a healthy group to belong to. Networking groups should not provide a forum for commiserating with fellow networkers; they should offer positive support.
It is essential that you talk positively about your job search. Leave out of the conversation the fact that you experienced ageism at one of your interviews. Instead focus on the value you’ll deliver to potential employers.
Do this through a natural elevator pitch that doesn’t sound too rehearsed. Be a listener, as well as a talker, and be genuine. Most importantly, sound positive, even if you’re hurting emotionally. I always remind my workshop attendees that those who appear positive are more likely to receive help.
One of my connections, George Armes advises older workers to “Get out of the house. If there’s a certain industry you’re interested in, join an association connected with it and seek out volunteer openings. Attend industry and professional meetings and conferences. You never know who will know someone who is hiring….” Read the full article.
Your attitude sets the wrong tone at the interview
It begins when you enter the room. According to a study of 2,000 interviewers, a third of them will make a decision of whether to hire you based on your first impressions, which include your eye contact, smile, handshake, and how you enter the room.
Let that sink in.
If you walk into the room slowly, with your shoulders slumped, a frown on your face, eyes diverted, and offer a weak handshake; your chances of success are nil to none. You need to enter with a skip in your step. Stand erect. Smile to show your enthusiasm. First impressions matter.
Expect the obligatory question, “So why did you leave your last position?”
Do not answer with, “There was a conflict in personality. My new supervisor was a 30-year-old woman. She knew less than I did about managing an assembly process. We didn’t see things the same way.”
The interviewer who’s asking the questions is 40 and will be your direct supervisor. He’s thinking chances are you won’t do all that well when working together. So leave reference to age and gender out of your answer.
You’ll probably get the directive, “Tell me about yourself.”
Do not begin by telling the interviewer that you have 35-years of experience in project management in the telecommunications field. This comes across as your main selling point.
Instead focus on the fact that for the past four years you’ve consistently cut costs by applying agile techniques.
You may be asked why you’re willing to accept a position that offers less responsibilities and lower pay. Many of my older job seekers are fine with this, as they’re tired of managing others and the bills are paid.
One of my former customers accepted a job that will require him to be a mentor to younger technical writers. This is a valuable skill older workers can perform at their jobs, and a viable reason for accepting a position that offers less responsibility.
Practice makes perfect
So what’s the solution? I’m brought back to the statement the woman made in response to my customer reaching out to help the networking group: “Most of their workers are under 30. So…that puts me out of the running.”
This attitude has to be dropped. You may feel that you’ll experience ageism around every corner, but don’t give into these fears, or at least try to veil them when you’re conducting your job search. I don’t buy that people will instantly right themselves at the interview. I believe it’s a prevailing attitude that travels like a speeding train that can’t be stopped.
By the way, my customer Paul I told you about took his four-page resume and came back to me with a resume that was three and four quarters long. I guess he took some of what I said to heart.
Photo: Flickr, Oliver Nispel