EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Every once in a while The Wall Street Journal publishes a cartoon worthy of discussion.

Several years ago, the “Pepper … And Salt” cartoon showed a job seeker, obviously older, explaining his credentials to the interviewer with the following words: “Don’t think of me as a 54-year-old job applicant. Think of it as getting two 27-year-olds for the price of one.”

This is not quite as good as the Jos. A. Bank buy one, get two free sales, but close enough.

I’ve been sent several articles recently about age discrimination. Great topic and one that I think we should spend a lot of time beating a dead horse about. I’m thinking in terms of a belief system where we can totally change human behavior through legislation, or in sailor terms “spit into the wind.”

Honest, you can no more legislate human behavior than fly (without an airplane). Keep in mind that Congress hasn’t been able to do much with immigration, healthcare or infrastructure lately. I don’t think us well experienced financial types are going to get a priority on their agenda any time soon.

However, what you can do is adjust your OWN belief systems to understand and communicate the great value you bring to the party with your wealth of experience.

In purchasing any big ticket item, and each of us is that if nothing else, you often have the opportunity to choose between new and used. If you can get a new Kia and a used Lexus for the same price, a rational person might easily choose the used Lexus, if the alternative is presented properly.

Are you a better product and/or right for a particular position? Well, it depends on the particular position and where it resides in the career ladder of the company in question. If it is a training position where large companies place people to grow them for future opportunities at the firm, it is likely that you are not a good fit.

However, if it is a Chief Financial Officer or Controller position for a middle market firm and the job just doesn’t pay as much as your former job, you need to consider the fact that it COULD be filled at a lower “price” and the company might or might not be worse off. My belief system is that someone with a wealth of experience, (such as each of you) not just fills the job, but makes one plus one equal three.

(The accounting joke, of course, is when asked what profits are by the boss, you respond with “What do you want them to be?”)

To those of you who have experienced age discrimination, I would suggest that you can write it off to anything you want. However, to a degree you are either “looking for love in all the wrong places,” or you are not selling the product that is you convincingly enough.

We could argue the merits of removing your graduation dates from now until the cows come home. (I thought I would add an Indiana farm boy expression tonight for those of you who have tired of my sailing analogies.) But what those who recommend you do this don’t quite get is that only “old people” do this. You might just as well put “TOO OLD” at the top of your resume, because everyone who reads resumes for a living knows why you are doing it.

A similar line of reasoning affects removing your early work history. Very few folks become Chief Financial Officer (or hold other senior level titles) right out of college. If you are so good at writing resumes that you “fool” someone into interviewing you, I am curious how you are going to overcome making them feel stupid when you walk in the door and they realize they have been duped.

The key to getting interviews when you are “well experienced” is to have a compelling resume. Early in your career, you may be able to get by with a less than stellar one, but then you don’t have much of a track record to present anyway at that stage of your career.

You have now arrived. You have a history of achievements that any employer could easily see are applicable to his/her business.

All you have to do is believe that this is true. You are a bargain by any measure.

You may even be a Jos. A. Bank 3 for one sale.

Regards, Matt

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