Making a career or job change is somewhat challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Add to the mix a weak economy, many candidates competing for the same positions, and the fact that you are over 50, and you may begin thinking that the challenges are too difficult to overcome.
I won’t lie to you by telling you that there is no such thing as age discrimination, but taking a realistic look at what exactly this means is the first step to getting past it. The workforce of the 21st Century is unique in that, unlike previous decades, today’s workforce is made up of four generations working side-by-side: Senior Citizens, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.
This unique workforce model opens the doors to all kinds of potential “discrimination”: Too old, too young; over qualified, under qualified; resistant to change, never happy with the status quo; too stable, too ambitious. Before giving too much credence to any of these points, let me offer one bit of wisdom summed up by the ancient Law of Attraction: “It is done on to you as you believe.” In other words, if you perceive something as a barrier to landing a job, the potential employer will have the same perception.
Do employers really reject candidates simply because they are “old?” I find this unlikely, especially when you consider how many “seniors” are currently in the workforce. Employers do reject candidates (and often layoff employees) who possess the following traits: They are not flexible nor able to manage change; they do not embrace technology; they are not open to new ideas nor willing to accept challenges; they have quit learning and upgrading their knowledge and skills; they believe they deserve special consideration because of their status in life. All of this has little to do with age, but has a lot to do with how they present themselves on paper, during the interview, and in the job.
If you are over 50, looking for employment and wanting to head off any potential discrimination, you might want to start by “youthanizing” your resume by adhering to the following tips:
Pay attention to 21st Century standards for resume content and design:
• Avoid using the template that came with your computer- it’s outdated and ineffective.
• Don’t tell your life history. An effective resume is not an obituary of your career; it is a marketing brochure that sells your unique brand.
• Focus on the last 10-15 years of your career and eliminate age-revealing information, such as serving in the Vietnam War or graduating from college in 1969.
• Use words that portray energy and enthusiasm. Instead of “seasoned professional” (aka “Old Guy”), substitute “dynamic change agent” who “transformed operations, ignited sales, pushed through new initiatives…”
• Begin with a strong professional summary that gives the reader an overview of your experience and all you have to offer.
• Summarize your job responsibilities in two or three sentences and hit hard with bulleted achievement statements that illustrate how you saved companies time and money and positively impacted the bottom line.
• Show your reader that you are flexible, manage change, and accept challenges. Highlight projects you initiated, problems you tackled and resolved, cross-functional teams you collaborate with.
Show your reader that you embrace technology:
• Include your e-mail address (not your family’s or spouse’s) and don’t use silly account names such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com.”
• Include your cell phone number. Don’t have a cell phone? Get one!
• List your computer skills (at a minimum Microsoft Word, Excel and/or PowerPoint). Don’t have any computer skills? Learn some!
• Include the URL to your LinkedIn profile. Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Get one!
Prove that you are committed to continued learning:
• Include a section for professional training and development and list things that are current and relevant to your targeted job: credit and non-credit classes; company-sponsored training; conferences and workshops, e-learning modules—even industry journals to which you subscribe or industry recognized authors whose books you have read.
• List the professional associations of which you are a member. Don’t belong to any associations? Join some!
• Include links to articles you have published or to your professional blog. What, you don’t have any? It is never too late to start writing them.
These recommendations are not ploys to trick the employer into believing that you are someone you are not. I firmly believe that age IS an attitude and how you present yourself to the potential employer–on paper and in person–is something over which you have full control. Your resume is the first step: It can shout “I’m old and wanting to retire” or it can say “I’m alive, have a lot to offer and am ready to take on new challenges.” The decision is yours to make!
Norine Dagliano, of ekm Inspirations, is an independent and nationally certified professional resume writer and job search coach. Her work has been featured in numerous career books including “Expert Resumes for Baby Boomers,” (JIST Publications) and she was recently awarded an international TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) for “Best Resume for Re-Entry/Retiree.” With more than 20 years experience, Norine has crafted powerful, achievement-focused resumes and provided logical and straight-forward job seeking tips and advice that has helped literally thousands of professionals in overcoming the anxiety of looking for work…and finding their ideal jobs. Learn more at http://www.ekminspirations.com/