What everyone should be clear about is that although I believe that “been there and done that” is more respected now than in most previous time periods in our great nation, you still have to “prove the null hypothesis” that you can do the job better than anyone else. The reduced lack of age discrimination only means you will have a chance at being considered. It doesn’t mean you will have a leg up on the competition.
The primary prejudice against “old” people is that they aren’t up to date on the latest technology and that if they are hired for a job that is “beneath their dignity” that they will leave the moment the market picks up.
To tackle the technology issue first, your email cover letter and attached resume must be perfect, and I don’t mean close to perfect, I mean perfect. While a younger person might be excused and assumed to be in a rush, an older worker will be assumed to not know how to do things.
I’ll only mention a few of the things that make me roll my eyes. Starting with your email, the “From” box should have your name properly uppercased and lowercased. While I am not familiar will all email systems, in Outlook there actually is a place where you can fix this minor problem.
Sharing an email address with your significant other is not a good idea and looks unprofessional. I’ll appeal to your inner accountant – email addresses are generally free. If you are on AOL, may I suggest you get another address? Their email system needs a major upgrade, and they have never done it. I assume almost everyone is on broadband. If you don’t want to use the accounts provided by your ISP, Gmail or Yahoo are good alternatives. Get a Corporate looking address, by which I mean it should be your name without numbers. An appropriate presentation of your email address is: MattBud@yahoo.com. (Use YOUR name, of course.) Yahoo isn’t capitalized because it isn’t important. If you have your own URL, please uppercase and lowercase it for readability.
The body of the email should look professional. For my business email, I make it look like business correspondence by making it appear as follows:
Mr. Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Consulting Group, LLC
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883-3003
Yes, I am again going to mention the importance of an outgoing signature. (Sorry, but I can’t contain myself. I honestly have no self-control or I wouldn’t beat on this issue week after week.)
I have heard all the lame excuses about why most people don’t have one, including the dog ate my homework. If you want to appear available for a job or for networking, make it possible for others to reach you. This means including all your available phone numbers (and I have been known to call all of them when I need to reach you) and a physical address. I know it is unlikely that someone will want to send you a present (which they can’t send to an email address), but they might want to know what time zone you are in so they know when to call.
Mine appears on my new emails AND on my replies as:
Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Consulting Group, LLC
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
Write all of your important emails in Word so you will have available the many text editing and spell checking capabilities you probably need to avoid obvious mistakes. If the formatting from Word doesn’t come out correctly in your email system, simply paste your Word document into Notepad and then cut and paste from there. Notepad washes out all unnecessary formatting. Let me say again that you should have no typos. Even one can put you out of the game.
I cover resumes from time to time, so let me mention just a few important issues. While you may have dyed your hair and taken off a few pounds to look younger, taking more than a few years off your resume or trying to disguise your age on your resume simply doesn’t work. Almost none of you are so good at this game that anyone who reads resumes for a living is fooled and most people are just plain offended. (I can assure you that I am. I’m 73 and proud of it.)
Taking off your graduation dates is one of the first pieces of advice most of you get and it is beyond dumb. I have heard all the arguments on this issue too. If you take off your graduation dates, you may as well put “TOO OLD” right at the top of your resume. If you have a compelling resume for the job in question, you would be surprised how many readers don’t connect the dots on your graduation dates. Missing information is what catches their attention.
Apparently in the last few years some genius wrote a masterpiece on how to hide your age and one of their sterling pieces of advice was to bunch all of your old jobs into the last paragraph. I have seen as many as 10 jobs squeezed into this paragraph and I can’t help but wonder HOW old this person must be. Do they need an oxygen tank at work? Are they accompanied by a full time nurse?
Friends, your early work history is the foundation of your career. If I can’t gain an understanding of where you came from, you are eliminating one of your primary product advantages. Your college education may have made it possible to get your first job, but where you worked early in your career can be even MORE impressive. Some companies are known for hiring only the best people and training them extensively. Don’t let these “brands” get away from you.
Assuming you are over qualified and previously more highly compensated you have a major hurdle to overcome when being considered for jobs you could do blindfolded with one arm tied behind your back.
One of the things that most of the folks on the other side of the desk don’t understand is that it is always better to be working. The job in question may appear to them to be “beneath your dignity,” but so is not working. Not working is also MAJOR boring. Doing a bank reconciliation or an account analysis is much better than sitting at home with nothing to do any day of the week.
There are many reasons why you might consider a lateral or lesser job. If you are honest with yourself about the reasons, you should be in good shape to explain them to someone else. Just keep in mind that you will need to be powerfully persuasive to carry the day. No one can make you come to work, so promises you won’t leave aren’t credible.
Another poorly understood issue is that many of us reach stages in our lives where what was important before isn’t important now, like climbing the ladder of success. Working is important, but at certain times there are other priorities such as a spouse that is ill and needs your time and attention, or aging parents. Again, be honest without being melodramatic.
This should get everyone started. If any of you have comments that you would like to share that build on these themes, please send them to Leads@TheFENG.org and Leslie will publish them in a future newsletter.