Older job seekers can face some unique challenges. Our first Five on Friday question for the HR Expert advisory council asks:
What advice would you give older out of work people about overcoming any obstacles?
These are long, well thought out answers. Probably longer than most Five on Fridays will be (btw, there are only four answers….Are you, or do you know, an HR Expert that wants to join this council? If so, let us know!)
Julie: Older job-seekers come armed with knowledge and perspective that organizations absolutely need. Organizations are scrambling to capture this long-game knowledge from older workers so it can inform and shape future success. The trick is to combine this hard-earned expertise with skill traits valued in a modern workforce – idea generation, aptitude for learning, willingness to try new methods, and a learning mindset.
Avoid positioning yourself as being a “seasoned professional” or having “30+ years of experience” doing the same thing. Instead, focus on how just as you’ve built depth in your field/role/company, you’ve also done things to stay current in your industry, expand your network, and learn something new.
You can compete with candidates at all career stages when you communicate your unique combination of years of experience, idea generation and execution, and lifelong curiosity.
Laura: I would be open with employers about what type of work you’re looking for and why. For instance, you might be at a place where you have no interest in continuing to climb the ladder so-to-speak and thus share you’re interested in a manager role because you love developing future leaders. You are open and share that you have little interested in a Director role or VP role at this time and thus are open to a lower salary than they (employer) might find typical with your level (especially if you’ve held higher titles in the past)
Bottom line: share more information upfront. Do not let them make assumptions. Be the one to share your perspective and lead with honesty.
Michelle: If you believe that age discrimination is occurring, it is likely true. Instead of getting angry, use that information to your advantage. Do this with anything you think is holding you back, closing doors.
The best piece of advice that I can give is that the market today is not what it was the last time or first time you were looking for a role. Things are simply different today, and you will have to employ different tactics to be successful. Just be open to the change and you can navigate it.
Thinking you are being passed over because you are over qualified or simply because of your age? You may be right. Not getting interviews or second interviews because you are 5-10 years from retirement, stop giving people that information right out of the gate! Tell us what we need to know and what we ask only. Like dating, don’t give it all away at once. Take the graduation years off of your resume and social media profiles. We need to know you have the education, not when you earned it. Focus on your most recent and relevant career. Give 10 or so years of data on your resume and LinkedIn profile ONLY.
Think about other things you are doing that may be aging you to potential employers. Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If not, you better create one and it MUST have a photo. If you don’t know how to create one, look for an online tutorial, ask Google, or YouTube, ask your kids. Be open and at least comfortable with technology and trends. You do NOT need to be an expert, simply open to trying. Other potential “agers.” Make sure your resume has a phone number and an email address and only 1 of each. Things like listing a home phone and an AOL email address are aging you. That’s an easy fix, only list one phone number cell or landline and don’t label the type, and get a new Gmail, live, or other type of email address just for your job search. While you are at it, if you do use other forms of social media such as Facebook, make sure your accounts are secure and set to private to avoid the potential of your personal life affecting your professional search.
Tom: Let’s get something on the table to start with: I believe that age discrimination exists when it comes to employers making hiring decisions. I’ve heard too much from employers and candidates – that suggests it’s out there. Bear in mind – I’m now 48 – and am likely in the camp that would be affected by that type of thinking should I hit the market.
You’re going to encounter discrimination and assumptions about you because of your age or experience. Sometimes it will be obvious and other times, just a hunch or feeling. In my experience, the two broad approaches you can use to not let those situations bar your path are: telling your story and understanding your prospective employer’s pain – offering yourself as the solution.
Telling your story – it’s easy to fall into the trap of objectively laying out your years of experience, throwing out titles, headcount you managed etc. The problem with that is: no one cares and it doesn’t tell them why you can help solve their problems or what you bring to the table. In both your cover letter and resume, you need to communicate and engage the reader to quickly share what makes you valuable, the types of results you can deliver and how what you’re about, can help solve their problems.
Knowing yourself, and knowing your prospective employer is key to that. The first almost needs another set of eyes to give you feedback, while the second can be found through online research about the organization and industry.
My Answer: Ageism certainly exists. I like a lot of what was said above. Don’t give away your age. Make it clear what you want over the next 5-10 years. Answer every question with an example of how you have done what they are asking, and make it concrete. Show them you can solve their problems from day one.
What were your emotions like? Share your thoughts in the comments, or by emailing us. We hope to collect a lot of comments, and post them here for people to see.