I read an interesting article today where a 63-year old was charging that age discrimination was deterring his job search but he had no proof that this occurred. Seems that he has applied for “hundreds” of positions and only got two phone interviews, both of which led to nowhere. This 63-year old has advanced degrees, 30 years of experience and an excuse. I know that may sound harsh but I wonder how he has translated those accomplishments into words that an employer would value and into hiring him. He has changed his resume to take years and other information off that might lead an employer to guess his age but with no success. So age discrimination must be the reason. I wonder…
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to provide career coaching services at the National Convention of AARP’s 50+. In speaking with numerous members, it became apparent to me that several factor were going on with older workers:
- a lack of confidence
- a lack of knowledge on their skills and how they translate to current workplace needs
- letting their age define them and determine their outcome (not getting hired)
- wanting things to be done “the way we used to”
I heard these themes over and over and during my time at the convention and I’m sure it is resonating across the larger realm among mid-career workers. This type of thinking will definitely keep you down and lead nowhere. We know the workforce has changed, and it’s not just for the older population. Younger workers, who are the next to move-up in succession planning, are having just as much difficulty in finding a job. The workplace is ‘fickle’ these days; I am unsure what employers want, or if they know, either.
One thing that is apparent is that, due to the changing force of the economy and adjustments that had to be made due to this phenomena, employers want workers who can hit the ground running; they want employees who have specific knowledge and experience and are highly-skilled in their performance. Now to me, and older worker – who has years of knowledge, education, and experience would be the perfect fit. But, as I seem to reinforce (preach?), if you are not conveying how those accumulated SKA’s will benefit the organization, you will be dead in the water. Also, someone with 30 years of work experience has been a loyal and dedicated employee and that needs to be translated as well to a potential employer, who right now are hesitant to bring on someone if they feel they will be leaving the workforce, either for retirement or for a more lucrative opportunity.
Changing one’s attitude, stopping living in the past and conveying how you will benefit an organization are musts for all, not just older workers. I would suggest that this 63-year old embrace these recommendations and revamp his job search with renewed attitude and spirit. Or, my other suggestion would be to take those 30-years of business experience and go help other business to succeed – but as his own boss.
I recently worked a career fair that involved the 50+ population. I met with attendees to help them develop and refine a job search strategy, discuss options for where to look for a job, and review their resumes. I met with individuals who had very impressive work histories and credentials and some who had not worked in several years. Now, I was only given 10-15 minutes with each, so I could not get too deep but there were some issues that I take to task. As a professor of career management, I feel very passionately that people take the steps to be in charge of their career paths but find that the majority don’t. I felt I was back in a time-warp with very old-school thinking.
Here are some lessons that older workers should pay attention to and they are also applicable to all job seekers:
1. Get Current – study and learn the ways of the new workplace. The way that companies recruit and hire is not the way it was 20 or 30 years ago, or even the way it was 2 years ago. Good career management requires one to keep up their skills and be current on the industry one wants to work in. Read career-related blogs or articles to learn what the lates trends and hiring practices are.
2. Learn Networking – it is common knowledge that the majority of jobs are unadvertised and that networking is the key way to gain employment. Networking means you have to get out to meet people and to tell them you are lookng for work. Networking can occur at meetings, by phone or email, or through social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Connections Group.
3. Be Open – since the workplace is changing, it takes persistence and creativity to seek and obtain employment; this equates to change and moving out of one’s comfort zone. I met some people who were very resistent to utilizing new technologies and ways of thinking that exist. Resistence can make you seem stand-offish and unwilling to be a team player. It could deter your hiring.
4. Update Your Resume – make sure that your resume is current, formatted correctly, and free of typing and language errors. Chronological resumes should list your most current job, not your first job. It should go back no more than 10 years and showcase your skills and accomplishments – it should not read like a job description. Watch the font – 12 point is standard, not 8- or 10-point. Ditch the colored paper and fancy lines. Think numbers – quantify your results, i.e. did you save time or money, make money, create a system, manage a team, etc.
5. Watch Your Attitude – looking for a job takes confidence and persistence. It also takes a good attitude. If you have a lot of experience, an impressive title, or an advanced degree you should be proud but not indignant with a potential employer. The onus is on prospective employees to show that you have the skills and acumen they are looking for – and you may only get 10 – 15 minutes to do so. You need to show up to impress – don’t forget to dress the part and put on a smile.
Getting hired is tough for anyone, but more so if you are up there in age. There is no excuse for not managing your career, especially with access to information and resources on the internet. If you don’t have access, there are agencies and career coaches and counselors who are ready to help. It takes action – so get out there and get to with the program!