It’s both exciting and dizzying to stand on the edge of an unwritten future. Yet, when I meet a college graduate who is just diving into the opportunities awaiting them, I am excited for them!
Some days I would give anything to stand there again and make different decisions.
I would keep better track of my achievements from Day 1. I would start growing my network earlier.
But woulda, coulda, shoulda, right?
I have to chuckle, because you I know that careers involve a certain amount of discovery; a certain amount of improvisation. Industries change. Trends shift.
Personal priorities shift, too!
And those of us who have been working for a while (living for a while) realize that control is an illusion, and that the best we can do is draw upon experience (and some intuition) to make future decisions.
But here’s the thing: This insight is the Superpower of the More Experienced Worker.
And it leads me to shift the conversation here to the subject of Ageism.
I read about it all the time. See LinkedIn posts about it. Things like, “Ageism is real” followed by massive amounts of complaining about hiring managers that dismiss candidates once they reach 40. I saw a post suggesting that age 35 is already Past One’s Prime.
Ok. I’ve seen plenty of people well beyond their 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s move into new roles.
I mean, yeah. Sure. It’s true that rejection happens. It’s true that biases exist. Some younger managers do look at older people and automatically assume they are out of touch.
But then, it’s also true that some older managers look at younger people and think, “I’m going to have to babysit this person way too much because they have no social skills.”
So can we shift the mindset here?
We all have something about us that we could consider negative. New grads have very little experience. People who have been out of the work force raising families feel like they have lost precious professional development time.
But let’s look at this practically. Every era of life brings something to celebrate. Once we get into middle age, we have grown into our abilities. We have developed strong sensibilities about work and well, we just know more!
We know how to function in work environments, and how to think through problems.
We know how to get information when we need it, and how to deploy it.
And older workers bring other benefits:
- We’re generally past raising our kids, so we have fewer distractions.
- We are more confident about decisions.
- We know how to pick our battles and how to prioritize goals.
- We stick around. Hiring is expensive! We save money.
People who have been at the job longer also are great mentors and coaches for newer team members, passing along knowledge and encouraging growth.
So, if you’re a bit older and thinking, “Well, better make my hair color appointment and start praying,” it’s time to get real with yourself and realize:
It’s all about the marketing.
Which is to say, it’s about acknowledging people may have biases, doing what you can to mitigate those biases, and placing the emphasis on areas you want to showcase.
What are those areas? Your achievements and your skills; how you address the company’s needs and show you are a fit to help it reach its goals.
So, just as fashion is intended to highlight your physical assets, your resume and accompanying materials are intended to highlight professional assets and get you in the door to make your case.
And hair dye aside, there are many ways to present yourself that will take the emphasis OFF your age, and ON your abilities.
Here are some fundamentals:
#1. Decide what you are trying to communicate and align your material with it.
Are you intending to move into an executive role? Do you want to shift to a different role than the one you had before? A different industry? Then, your materials should feature the achievements and skills that fit the role and the level you are going after.
For instance, executives are all about top-level progress, so talking about your success with daily tasks is way too low-level. Move it up a notch. If you are in the middle somewhere, then demonstrate your success collaborating above and below.
Transitions require skill translation to fit a new area. Do some side-by-side comparing to rename what you have been doing already. Use the relevant industry language, and choose bullet points that are relevant to the role you’re seeking.
Use the language that fits the role, too. Managers speak differently about their achievements than subordinates.
NOTE: Be choosy. Your resume is not a dump of everything you’ve done during your entire career.
Special Note: If you’re a business owner who is pivoting to a “traditional” role, don’t fill your resume with your company history and brand yourself as an entrepreneur. You want to show up as member of the team, even if it’s in a leadership role.
#2. Get more sophisticated using your network.
Business is done through connections, right? So, find the leader who’s probably over the role you’re seeking. Send a note of interest to them. Ask if you can chat. Get the ball rolling, so to speak.
In other words, stop peeking in around edges of the job. Stop loitering on the job boards. Use your contacts to get in the door to the decision-maker’s office, or as close to it as you can get.
Ask yourself: “Do I want to be seen as confident?” Probably, yes! Because who wants a wimpy, indecisive leader in their company? Who wants a wallflower who won’t offer ideas?
#3. Don’t emphasize how many years you have in the industry.
Don’t say, “30 years of experience.” It’s a giant arrow pointing at your age.
Ditto with your career history. You don’t need to go back probably much farther than 15, years to make your point. (Though this isn’t a rule. Let relevance be your key.)
Guess what? You do not have to list every job you had since you had a paper route. This isn’t a dossier or an affidavit. It’s marketing!
#4. OMG. Get a new email address if you’re still using AOL.
People! I hate to break it you, but you are going to get judged. If you are not on a currently popular, well-known, well-used platform, you will look out of touch. (Still got a flip phone?) And for gosh sakes, use some form of your name as your email handle. Redsox101 could be anyone!
Ditto with social media. Get on LinkedIn and update your profile! It’s the first place an employer is likely to look to learn more about you. It’s time to put aside your opposition to being online and realize that the world is there already, and that includes hiring managers.
Side note: Freshen your photo with a shot that features an up-to-date hair style and clothing. Look like you “get” social media. (Not a bad idea to freshen your Facebook profile, either. And I’d limit access to or avoid posting those grandkid pics, memes about aging, or anything else that screams “getting older.”)
#5. Get current with technology immediately if you’ve been putting it off.
You probably know how to use software related to your current role. But you could have gaps. I am not kidding you that I have had clients who did not have Word on their computers. Yeah-huh.
But there are also things that might be specific to a new role. Need to know CRMs? (That’s Customer Relationship Management software- like Salesforce.) Take a quick course. Consult LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, or one of many other online education sites.
These 5 tips are the biggies, in my opinion. There are more things you can do. But the main thing is to remember that if you concentrate on how you can help the new employer at the role level you’re seeking then you will be able to move past your fear about your age and communicate your value.
Communicating your value is the same goal of any job seeker of any age.
Stop focusing on your age. Focus on what you’ve accomplished and how you can help the company meet its goals.
You will be surprised at how much more confident you feel, and at the positive reception you are more likely to receive.
And remember: There are a lot of employers! If one isn’t into you, another will be.
Just keep going.