It’s safe to say that in our modern world, more and more people approaching later middle age are exuding as much vibrancy and savvy as their younger counterparts in the workforce. However, while ageism does still exist to a certain degree, job seekers over 50 can certainly circumnavigate this unfortunate job market reality by steering clear of a few common pitfalls.
Kerry Hannon, award winning author and noted AARP jobs expert, points out a few practices that job seekers in the 50+ bracket should avoid.
Ignoring social media
While nowadays, it seems as if those without some type of social media presence are in the minority, those who are still sustaining resistance to a digital profile tend to be in the 50+ demographic. However, individuals who do choose to maintain one or more social media account are often not considering the importance or usefulness of online professional networking. Consider a job seeker who worked for one employer for 25+ years and is now just entering the job market. It’s likely they will approach their new job search similarly to the way they performed their last one, which of course, was sans LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Old habits may be hard to break, but any job seeker over 50, who has not at least created a compelling and active LinkedIn account, should do so before sending out their next résumé. Moreover, Hannon suggests reevaluating the privacy settings for any of your other social media accounts, and deleting/hiding anything that may portray you in an outdated or negative light to employers. As far as LinkedIn is concerned, Hannon proposes approaching previous employers, ex-colleagues, and past clients in varying age groups to endorse and recommend you. She continues, “It’s best if they stress your up-to-date tech skills, creativity, experience and work ethic. [When] another colleague backs you, it subliminally shows that you work well with someone younger [which is] often a concern for employers hiring an older worker”.
Using an offbeat email address
If you’ve been using the same private email address for years, it’s recommended that you create a new one solely for the purpose of your job search. However, keep in mind that human resource representatives and hiring managers are going to be viewing whatever moniker you choose, so remember to keep it professional, steering away from anything too “cutesy” or quirky. Also, avoid usernames with numbers that may convey birth years, just to be on the safe side. Furthermore, be sure to create and include a streamlined email signature with links to any applicable social media pages (LinkedIn) or professional websites that you would want an employer to see.
Creating an antiquated résumé
As years progress, so do résumé trends. What was considered traditional 10-15 years ago, may look passé in today’s world. Hannon reminds job seekers, “Avoid a splashy layout or special effects. Choose a traditional font, such as Times New Roman, in 9- to 12-point size, and use black type on white paper. Other highly readable fonts to consider are Arial, Calibri, Cambria, and Tahoma”. Among the ones to avoid are Courier new, Lucinda console, Comic sans, Chalkduster, and any other font that may appear too “thematic” or distracting to the reader.
Composing an overly-detailed résumé
Another faux pas to sidestep is turning your résumé into a virtual “autobiography”. Chances are you have gleaned a wealth of knowledge and expertise over the span of your career; however, it’s important to thwart off the temptation to appear long-winded when create your résumé. Remember that most recruiters and HR reps will scan your résumé in less than 20 or 30 seconds, so anything beyond two pages will be unbeneficial to your chances of landing an interview. Hannon recommends including your most recent 10 to 15 years of job experience. Author of “Résumé Magic: Trade Secrets of a Professional Résumé Writer”, Susan Whitcomb, recommends condensing your earliest experience into “one nice, tidy paragraph at the end of your résumé’s ‘experience’ section, and omit dates”. Hannon continues, “Avoid giving dates when it comes to decades-old experience, and only include those ‘ancient’ jobs if they’re pertinent to the work you’re currently seeking. There’s no need for college graduation dates… [your] résumé should provide employers with a narrative about how you’ve been successful in earlier jobs”. In other words, focus on your achievements and successful accomplishments, rather than simply creating a timeline of events; and of course, don’t forget to thoroughly proofread every bit of correspondence before you send it.
Passively waiting for responses
If you are currently unemployed, it’s easy to fall into a furrow of either stressful anticipation or a complacent pause in your daily schedule; and unfortunately, neither will offer you much benefit. It’s best to play the waiting game proactively, and volunteering may just be the answer. Hannon recommends volunteering during your free time for two important reasons, “Volunteering for a nonprofit provides an opportunity to network and potentially get your foot in the door with a future employer. It also fills in gaps in your résumé; [and] you never know, you just might meet someone who will lead you to a job opening elsewhere”. She suggests that non-working 50+ job seekers “…search for prospects at VolunteerMatch.org, HandOnNetwork.org, and AARP’s Create the Good. Seek out nonprofits that need your particular professional expertise”. Another option is to connect with an employer who you may be interested in working for, or one in a field you would like to move toward, and inquire if they offer any unpaid internship programs for experienced workers. If feasible, you may even want to consider available contract or part-time positions in your industry to keep your résumé alive and active while you wait for your permanent position to come through.
Disregarding your physical appearance
While in a perfect world, your knowledge and expertise would be enough to land you the job of your dreams, we live in a society where first impressions and appearances count. Do your best to remain active and healthy. A lively, energetic appearance will draw in employers during an interview, despite your age. Maintain a neat, updated hair style, and choose clothing that is age-appropriate, but current and fashionable. Also, don’t forget the details, such as new and/or shined shoes and neatly manicured nails.
What’s most important is that job seekers entering the market at any age don’t underestimate themselves. Fifty-plus candidates should maintain confidence in their extensive experience and not lose sight of their wide-ranging value in the workforce.
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