Overcome Ageism in Your Job Search: Be a solution for the future, not a relic from the past
In my coaching practice, I am frequently asked about ageism in today’s job market. My first response is that we are all what we are;we can’t change our age, our past, or what we bring to the table. A confident job seeker embraces who they are and makes the best possible presentation of it, capitalizing on the strengths that come with age and experience.
At the same time there are a number of ways you can present yourself to potential employers as current, forward leaning, and relevant. Here are a few ideas to make sure you are a solution for the future, not a relic from the past.
Check your social media brand and make sure it is grounded in current technology. If you are using an email provider such as @aol, @yahoo or even @hotmail, update it. Just create a @gmail.com account to use during your search. Create an address that is your name, or close to it. No nick names, or identifiers, such as Nana, or Grandpa. Do not use your name, plus your birth date, which a client of mine did. By using an email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, he revealed himself as a 60+ year old job applicant, thereby anchoring his employment brand on his age.
No need to mention a number of years of experience if it exceeds 10 or 15. On your resume summary or cover letter don’t write, “Mechanical Engineer with over 30 years of experience…” Just stick with, “Experienced Mechanical Engineer who brings expertise in….” No need to put a fine point on the number of years; let your experience and results speak for you.
During your interview, brand yourself as active and lively. Saying, “I spent the weekend hiking” gives a different mental picture than, “I spent the weekend hiking with my grandsons.” Create an honest picture of vitality that puts the emphasis on YOU. There is plenty of time to brag about your children and grandchildren after you are hired. Depict yourself as full of energy and engagement.
Resist the temptation to reminisce during your job interview. Never begin a sentence with, “I remember back when…” Recalling when email first started, when a computer first appeared at your desk, or when faxing was current technology will date you immediately. Remember that the person you are interviewing with has probably never known a time when computers, cell phones, Snapchat, and texting were not in full use. They could easily be 30 years your junior and will not relate to a world where interoffice memos were typed on paper and circulated in large manila envelopes. Do your walk down memory lane another time.
Check the mirror and update your look. Do you need new eyeglass frames? Or bleaching stripes on your teeth? A new hemline, a shoe shine, new accessories, hair style, well-fitting jacket? If you are not sure, ask someone you trust to point out ways you can update your style. First impressions count and they definitely count when it comes to clothing and grooming. Prepare an “interview outfit” that fits well and is a modern, flattering look.
Leave negativity at the door. Bitterness or resentment has no place in your job search. Handle any negative emotions with your job coach or counselor before you present yourself as a solution provider. While you might have perceived ageism in your former job, describing it as a situation where “they fired me to get two younger ones for the price of my salary” will poison your chances in your next role.
Social media is the message of today’s job market. You absolutely need to use social media as a tool to connect and uncover the hidden job market. LinkedIn, for example, is an ideal place to brand yourself; your ideas, your solutions and your expertise. LinkedIn, with over 400 million profiles, is where recruiters and hiring managers are finding qualified contributors. Some of my clients are concerned about posting a photograph on their profile that will reveal their age. While it is essential to have a photo on LinkedIn you can choose one that is flattering and updated. There are photographers now who specialize in social media photography and for a very reasonable fee, will take a flattering headshot for you. You can embrace your look while still projecting energy, forward thinking and leaning into solutions for your targeted company. Use LinkedIn as an ideal place to brand yourself; your ideas, your solutions and your expertise, photo and all.
Make sure your resume reflects your job aspirations for the future. You should focus on your resume on jobs you’ve had over the last 12 – 15 years;. Jobs positions previous to that can be mentioned, but chances are the technology you were using is no longer in play. So write your marketing brochure resume with the emphasis on your expertise for solving current challenges. You don’t need to go into detail and depth on outmoded methods. Chances are your interviewer has never heard of TQM – why bring it up?
Be as flexible as possible. There is a stereotype (often undeserved) that older workers are inflexible and stuck in “the way we always did it”. Be ready for new ideas and ways of doing business. If a technology or term is outside your experience, learn it as fast as possible and put it to use. In your interactions and interviews, find ways to depict yourself as someone who is adaptable. After all, don’t you bring the powerful combination of deep experience and wisdom, along with the adaptability to put it to use to grow today’s businesses?
Making updates to your brand can make a huge difference in being selected, and in making your next contribution.