With an American culture that reveres youth, the assumption could be made that the younger workers are somehow bringing more to the table. More good ideas, more excitement, more energy. So how can a more mature job seeker compete? It’s all about marketing the good and downplaying the bad.
Job hunting at any age can be a challenge, but starting a career over, or even picking up in the same field after a lay off, can be overwhelming. For those over 40 this can be even more difficult as they compete for jobs with those from the younger generation, who are often seen as more energetic and willing to work for less.
Mature Job Hunters Have Experience
The over 40 job seeker is going to have to fight the perception of youthful energy with mature confidence. Instead of thinking of himself as the laid-off father of four who was downsized after 15 years with the same company, today’s job applicant needs to think of himself as the one who has the experience and maturity to hit the ground running.
More mature job hunters have a wealth of assets to offer, but it will be up to them to help their potential employers see those assets, especially when the hiring person is younger than they are. The older employee, confident in her abilities, can start by pointing out how her years of life experience alone can benefit the company.
In his article Job Hunting After 40, on IM Diversity.com, Calvin Bruce encourages older employees that "Age has given you valuable life and work experiences that contribute to your becoming a seasoned professional who has 'been around the block a few times' and knows how to handle difficult people and challenges in the workplace." Showcasing these benefits will be crucial during the interview.
What Does a Job Hunter Need for the Job Search?
A professional, current, resume is critical. One word of caution, however, is to be aware of the impression the dates listed in the past jobs section may leave with the hiring person. If the date of the job history is before the date of birth of the reader, it may be filed in the round basket. Why? The reader may be less than inclined to interview a person who brings up memories of weekends with grandpa. The web is filled with excellent examples of resumes with terms and styles that are considered current.
Professional portfolios, once the trademark of artists and teachers, are becoming prevalent in the hiring process and are an excellent way to showcase specific skills or samples of work. Again, the web is filled with samples of how to create an inexpensive portfolio from the ground up that can be used both on-line and in a hard copy to be handed out at the interview.
While job hunting, it is important to stay current in the trends, computer skills, even lexicon of the industry. The just out of college crowd has all the most up to date information, so older job seekers must be able to hold their own in the conversation. Being able to discuss up and coming companies, software and trends shows the hiring person that maturity can come with both experience and current knowledge.
Develop confidence in interviewing skills by researching current hiring practices, including learning the questions that may be asked at an interview. Behavioral Based Interviewing style questions are becoming the norm in many industries and can be a shock for those who have not interviewed in many years. Practice interviewing skills with friends or family to create answers that are engaging and interesting, while still showcasing individual skills.
Finally, take advantage of networking. Older workers who were downsized or laid off have one huge advantage over the younger crowd. They have spent years getting to know people in the industry. Over 40 jobseekers who use those contacts to find new opportunities may find that little Billy from next door is now grown up Bill, who is doing hiring for the company just down the street.
Job hunters of any age must show confidence to the prospective employer, but this is even more important for those who are competing against the fresh-faced, excited youth of today. However, be careful of drifting into the realm of the know it all. No hiring person wants to be left with the impression that she is the least qualified person in the room. Finding a balance between showing skills and showing off is imperative.
The over 40 job seeker may seem to be at a disadvantage, but by taking the time to carefully prepare and showcase the skills that education and experience have brought, the entire interview process can be approached with confidence.