EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about the steps people are taking these days at work to conceal their age.

I understand where this comes from. Ageism, as with all forms of prejudice, comes from ignorance.

Across all of the ways of earning a living, it is true that SOME workers who are older are just not cost effective in the work they can do. Paying a lot more for a ditch digger who is well experienced may not make a whole lot of sense.

When you look at work content and how experience plays into that is key to deciding whether or not hiring a “well experienced” person makes sense.

There is, of course, the mean spirited put down of “he/she has 40 years of experience. One year of experience repeated 40 times.”

One must also ask how many years of experience are needed to be proficient. Would any of us want to be treated by any doctor if our treatment required 40 years of experience? Most conditions require diagnostic skills of only a few years, thank goodness.

On the other hand, who would have wanted to be on the plane that landed in the Hudson River in 2009 if it hadn’t been Chesley Sullenberger at the controls. He was not only “well experienced,” he was also a glider pilot.

In our work as “well experienced” financial folks, I would suggest to you, our wealth of experience is a significant “value add.” There are so many things that only happen once a year. Each of you has seen those things 20-40 times.

But to circle back to an earlier comment, this value is not needed in all situations. Customers for our services may not need all of our “value add.”

The approach to take is to seek out employers who do. It is also possible to sell our value add at a lower price. It is hard to get fired if you are providing high value at a low price.

I would encourage each of you not to fall into the traps set by those “experts” out in the outplacement business.

Here are a few of their “latest and greatest:

1. Leave off your home address. Their logic is that it ages you. “Back in the day” when resumes were sent by the post office, a physical address was needed. Now everything goes by email. I would at least put a city/state. If someone needs to ask a follow up question, they probably won’t. Local wins out. As you have heard about real estate: Location, location, location. If you leave it off, the assumption is you aren’t local.

2. Leave off your home phone number. I agree. Just make sure your cell phone announces your name and that your mailbox isn’t full.

3. Leaving off graduation dates. I believe including them works. First, they can ask. Secondly, if you got and MBA several years after your BA/BS, I think that is a positive statement about you.

4. Leave off your early work history. This is dumb. In most cases, your early work history is the foundation of your career. Whether this was a well-respected CPA firm or a well-respected Fortune 500 company, it is hard to understand who you are and what you can do as a person without this information. In addition, the only people who leave this information off are probably really old. That is the assumption.

5. Get a current email address. Here I agree. AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Prodigy are so 15 minutes ago. That said, find a service where your email address is your name, without numbers or extraneous letters.

6. Use only one space after periods. I agree.

There are two stupid suggestions on early work history. The older version of this advice was to close with a paragraph that said “and other firms such as …. I’ve seen as many as 6-8 firms listed. Can this person come to work without a nurse and oxygen tent? If you think this approach will fool someone into thinking you are younger, think again.

The newest approach is to say “early work history available upon request. Who exactly do you think will ask? You must be REALLY old to leave it off entirely.

My suggestion is that you need to have a compelling resume. Cute tricks such as the ones listed above will not substitute for your painting a complete and easy to read picture of who you are and why you should be hired, or at least interviewed.

Sell your value, not that you’re younger. They aren’t going to believe you anyway.

Regards, Matt

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