Are You Acting Your Age in Your Job Search?

In mid-November, I’ll turn 60 years old. People around me are having a lot of fun with that, at my expense of course.

My standard reply when someone asks, “How do you feel about turning sixty” is, “Sixty is the new thirty”. That usually results in at least a few smiles, but that is really how I feel and how I act. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll agree, because that is who I am – that is a part of my personal brand. It is not words that define me/my brand, but my actions.

At our October Ohio CareerConnect networking event for those in a job transition, I reviewed resumes for five people, all of whom had varying degrees of gray hair. I always put on my hiring manager’s “hat” when I’m assisting people with their resumes or overall job search strategies, thus my feedback is provided from that perspective. In regard to those five people, I saw their value–how they could potentially make me “look like a genius” for hiring them and how they had the potential to help a team go from good to great.

Perceived value of the candidate to my organization, my team and me always trumps his/her age. Here is the big problem: most older (50+) candidates don’t do a very good job of making me believe that hiring them might just be one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made. Many come across as “old and outdated” either because of the words they use to deliver their message, how they dress and/or their body language.

What can you do to not act your age?

Here are a few things to consider:

Email address: If you are still using an AOL or Hotmail email address, which pretty much puts you in the 50+ crowd, consider creating a Gmail account. Oh, and using something like, “m.perry1954@gmail.com” basically tells the reader that you were probably born in 1954, so don’t be so obvious.

Home phone: Yes, I still have a land line, along with a whole lot of other 50+ people. But, as we now live in a cell phone world, there is no real reason to list anything but your mobile number on a resume or business card. Listing a home phone can make you look behind the times.

Presence on social media: Everyone, at least everyone who is currently employed or seeking to be employed, should have some type of digital footprint. For most this should at least be a LinkedIn profile. Employers will check out a candidate’s online presence as part of their recruiting due diligence. Not having a LinkedIn profile can make you look technology “unfriendly”, which is often associated with being old and outdated. Although LinkedIn is considered a business tool, please remember that your Facebook page is for personal items, not communicating information about your career, skills inventory and key accomplishments.

Also, keep in mind that once you press “send,” what you’ve said is out there forever in the digital world for anyone to see by doing a simple Google search, no matter where you’ve posted it, even by a prospective employer.

Ensure the relevance of the skills and accomplishments included in your resume: Just because you won awards in the early ‘80’s does not mean that you are still performing at that level today. Including “MS-DOS” under your listing of technologies with which you’ve worked does nothing to make me believe you are tech-savvy. Don’t tell me everything you’ve ever done, as most of that may be irrelevant to the skills and competencies I’m seeking for the specific open position at my company. Do thorough research of the targeted employer and be relevant!

Dress for success: A sharp looking suit is pretty much always a good idea, and at a minimum, a sign of respect for those with whom you will be meeting for either an informational interview or actual job interview. If a suit is just not you, at least go visit the company prior to an interview to see how the employees are dressed…then dress one step above that. Just a reminder: a networking event should always be considered the same as a business meeting. Would you show up for an important business meeting in jeans (OK, if you work for a place such as Google, yes…I guess you would, but that is more the exception than the rule)? We’ve had several guest speakers at our monthly networking events and not one of them has shown up in jeans or anything less than professional business attire.

Do a good self-inventory: Take a good look at yourself in a (full length) mirror. Do so with a hiring manager’s hat on and consider this, if your job (as a
hiring manager) was dependent upon finding an enthusiastic game-changer, would you be eager to speak with the person looking back at you in the mirror? What is the first impression you get from that person in the mirror? Would you be proud to introduce this person to the CEO and tell him/her, “This is who I believe, out of the 300 applicants, is my ideal candidate”?

We’ve all heard some version of the following statement, “Price is only an issue in the perceived absence of value.” The word, “age” would easily be substituted in that saying for “Price” and be just as true. When I speak to job seekers groups, my message normally includes reasons why I feel my value as a member of an organization could far outweigh the difference in ages between myself and much younger candidates:

• I’ve had interaction with more clients in more different situations in my career
• I’ve learned from more mistakes (my own and by observing others)
• I’ve interacted with more people at different levels of organizations
• I’ve been on more special projects, more task forces and steering committees
• I’ve hired, trained, mentored and coached more employees
• I’ve earned more performance awards

Bottom line, many (not all) employees in their 50s and 60s, just by virtue of working longer than their much younger counterparts, have the opportunity to amass many more experiences and accumulate more accomplishments. Thus, there can be a lot of value associated with such longevity. So, as I get ready to add another year to my age, I do so feeling not older, but wiser and more valuable.

How about you, are you acting your age?