Most people don’t expect to be job-hunting at 50…or 60, or 65. But life has a way of dropping the unexpected on your doorstep. Whether you’re looking for work because you were laid off or just because your retirement savings have dropped in value, you’re probably worried about encountering age bias. It’s out there – there’s no point in denying that. But there are some things you can do to shift the focus away from your age and redirect it toward what you can bring to the table.
Writing Your Resume
Your first goal is to make sure recruiters don’t toss your resume in the “no” pile as soon as they add up the dates. Here are some things you can do to get past that first hurdle. A few may seem to contradict each other, but that’s because they won’t all work for everyone. You can choose the ones that will best meet your needs.
- Go with a functional resume. Traditional resumes list your jobs in chronological order. Functional resumes, on the other hand, are grouped by skill set. For example, someone looking for a job in Human Resources may choose categories like employee relations, benefits, compliance, etc. Then, under each category, they’d list the jobs that helped them develop those skills. The power in this format is that you can highlight the skills that are relevant to the job you want.
- Eliminate dates. Chronological resumes are still the norm, so it’s always okay to stick with that format. If you do, however, consider leaving off the dates. You don’t need to comunicate to potential employers that you graduated from college in 1980, or that you were with your last employer for 20 years.
- Don’t protest too much. Resist the urge to include adjectives like “vibrant” and “energetic.” They just make recruiters wonder why you feel the need to emphasise your vibrancy and energy.
- Don’t oversell. On the other hand, you can go too far in the other direction when it comes to choosing adjectives. Words like “seasoned,” “experienced,” and “veteran” are red flags when it comes to age bias.
- Don’t overshare: If you’re looking for a job in engineering, potential employers don’t need to know that you spent a summer stocking shelves 30 years ago. It’s fine to go back about 10-15 years, but, after that, include jobs only if they’re highly relevant.
- Include links to your social media profiles. One of the most damaging stereotypes about older workers is that they’re not tech savvy. You can make that concern a non-issue by including links to your LinkedIn profile, as well as to others like Facebook and Google+ (provided there’s nothing on there that will make you look like a risky hire).
The tips listed above help take the focus off of your age, but they don’t camouflage it completely. If you’re called for an interview, it’s likely that the employer has a pretty good idea you’re not a 20-something and is interested in you anyway. Here are some ways you can help alleviate any concerns over your age:
- Dress conservatively but stylishly. Nobody is impressed by a 50-year-old who dresses like she’s 30, but neither do you want to wear clothes that look like they belong on a 70-year-old. Your clothes should be modern and stylish, but not trendy.
- Be able to chat about pop culture. You may be able to rattle off all of the articles that were above the fold on the Wall Street Journal, but do you know what the fox says? Or what Minecraft is? Or House of Cards? If not, brush up on things before your interview (teenage relatives are a great resource). Nothing ages you faster than offering a blank stare when your interviewer makes a pop culture reference.
- Highlight your health and fitness. Another misguided stereotype about older workers is that they’re often sick and always slow. Put that one to bed by talking about any active hobbies you have. Do you run? Play tennis? Golf?
- Don’t be a know-it-all. It’s certainly reasonable to think that you know more than a 22-year-old “kid,” but your interviewer isn’t looking for a mentor. He’s looking for someone who can take direction from him. First, be respectful, and try hard not to come across as condescending. Second, if you don’t want to be judged on your age, don’t do it to someone else. Mark Zuckerberg changed the world from his college dorm room. (If you don’t know who Mark Zuckerberg is, stop and look it up right now.) Don't assume that a younger interviewer hasn't accomplished anything yet.
Finding a job when you’re older and more experienced than the people doing the hiring can be tough, but it’s doable. The key is to control when and how you reveal information, both in your resume itself and during interviews.
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