As I evaluate the demographics of the audiences during keynote speeches I deliver on job search and career management techniques, one thing is clear: workers in their 40s, 50s and 60s have been impacted by the recession. These potential employees have much to offer: depth and breadth of experience, wisdom and usually a calm resolve to handle pressures of every day work. Yet, as I peer at these folks from the stage and as I answer their job search questions, it is clear to me that they could be doing much, much more to combat the job-related rejections they hear every day:
- “You have great experience but we are looking for someone more junior…”
- “Your salary is too high…”
- “This job isn’t the right fit for you…”
- “We’re looking for someone with only 5-7 years of experience…”
Rather than whine about the ageism that surely exists in today’s employment market, I recommend you consider these suggestions.
Take a good long look in the mirror
I was sitting next to a complete stranger in a job search networking group. He was middle-aged, dressed nicely for a Saturday morning and sported a rather bushy silvery-black beard. With an over-the-top brashness, I blurted out, “Have you considered shaving off your beard?” Squinting, the man pursed his lips and responded, “I’ve thought about it, but I have worn it for many years and my wife likes it.” I explained that I felt his beard made him look much older and not as approachable. The beard masked his smile.
When I saw him about a month later, he was clean-shaven and looked great. He had not only shaved his beard, but also shaved 5-10 years from his resume. He told me he received numerous compliments about his new look. The man’s story has a happy ending. He secured a great job a few months later and remains clean-shaven to this day.
Shaving is only one component related to your physical image. Here are other questions to ask yourself, or better yet to ask of a close friend or confidante who you know to be brutally honest. You need that sort of feedback for this exercise!
- Is my hair style current – as in 2011 current? Is it the right length for what is considered “in?” How about your eyebrows? Are they neat and trim?
- Are my eyeglasses stylish and current? Glasses go in and out of style. I’m not a style expert but it seems that for prescription eyewear, big frames are out. If you are wearing glasses from the 70s, it’s time to change.
- How about switching to contact lenses?
- Are your suits in style? Lapels, ties and skirt lengths change with the season. Are you current?
- Are your shoes polished or are they worn, discolored and nicked up?
- How about make-up? Do you wear it? Do you wear in the right way?
- Can you stand to lose a few pounds?
Now that you have spruced up your physical image, make sure you always look good when you are participating in networking meetings, job search support groups and professional organization meetings. When you are in job search mode you should always look the part of an employee: dressed in a business casual way – yes, even on Saturdays and Sundays – because you never know when you are going to meet a hiring manager, recruiter or referral who can help you. It is important that you look the part of a potential employee, not the part of a weekend “handyman.”
Sticking with the same theme, now is the perfect time to start or enhance your exercise routine, to eat well and to get plenty of rest. Job search can be a marathon and you need to train like a marathoner. You may also want to consider hiring a coach to help you, too. As Eric Schmidt, President of Google, says in this short video, “everyone can benefit from a coach.”
Embrace social media
Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress and Linkedin are synonymous with Generation Y, which is also referred to as the Millenial generation. These are people born in the mid- 1970s andafter. Social media savvy will enable you to relate to and communicate with Generation Y stakeholders in the job search process such as interviewers, recruiters and hiring managers. Your social media know-how willposition you as technologically sound, up to date and current with the times.
Therefore, it is critical for mature job seeker and career managers to embrace what is becoming the norm: social media. It is doubly important: not only must you “talk the language” of younger generations, but you must stand out from your competition. Social media for job search provides a great opportunity to do both.
If you stay in the dark by resisting change and new technologies, the Millenials (who are interviewing you, recruiting you and referring you) might typecast you as “behind the times” and “set in your ways.” I created this presentation to help job seekers learn how to use social media to enhance their job search and manage their careers.
Botox for your resume
It is not a new suggestion to turn to your resume to help you look younger just as Botox injections are becoming the norm to reduce wrinkles. Yet, I review many, many resumes that put a spotlight on the age of the job seeker.
Here are several ideas to rejuvenate your resume:
- Remove graduation dates from your education. The year you graduated is no longer relevant and allows the resume reviewer to calculate your age by adding 18-22 years to the date.
- The same concept applies to the first position(s) you held in your career. Why list that early job on your resume? After 20+ years of experience I doubt that job is relevant any longer. Also, junior jobs, early in your career devalue the brand that you have likely created over the years.
- Consider using fonts such as Georgia and Verdana and steering away from overused fonts like Arial and Times New Roman.
- An “objective” heading is out; a “summary” heading is in.
- “References available upon request” is no longer used on resumes.
- It’s not necessary for experienced job seekers to cram down to a one-page resume. Multiple pages are fine. After all, most resumes are read on a computer with a flick of the mouse.
It’s all in the packaging
You have probably heard the phrase, “it’s all in the packaging.” Distinctive and innovative packaging sells products. In this case, you are the product. So, give yourself an image makeover, a social media makeover and a resume makeover to combat job search ageism!
Please leave a comment below and/or send me an email .
About the Author
Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional, career coach, keynote speaker and author with fifteen years of broad experience in both specialist (e.g., recruiting) and generalist (e.g., HR business partner) roles at blue-chip companies, including Merck, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson.
Matt is founder and President of a career coaching practice, Corner Office Career Coaching. Matt works one-on-one with professionals, executives and students providing them with customized solutions to their career challenges. As a 20-year corporate HR professional with a large network who has also successfully conducted his own effective, cutting-edge job search, he is well qualified to help others reach their career goals. His job seeker blog has received 30,000 visitors and his articles have been run by nationally recognized job search and career management websites and guides. He also regularly gives speeches on career management and job search.
Matt works full time as a Senior HR Generalist for Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Prior to J&J, Matt relocated his family to Southern California to take a position with Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, where he led the talent acquisition function for Amgen’s commercial operations and corporate staff groups. Before Amgen, Matt spent several years at Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. There, Matt held a variety of positions in both recruiting and generalist capacities.
Matt graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Business Management from Ithaca College. He is an actively engaged member of several professional organizations including the Philadelphia HR Planning Society where he is on the Board of Directors and the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group.
Matt lives in Doylestown, PA with his wife, daughter and son. He jogs through the Bucks County countryside to stay fit.