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VOL. 35 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 4, 2011

Don’t let age be a distraction

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In some occupations, it’s hard for someone with 15 or more years experience to find another job. Sometimes it’s because employers discriminate against older job seekers. Some managers fear a mature person is more qualified than they. Some older job seekers assume they will be discriminated against, and it shows in the interview.

It could be a combination of all three.

There are legal remedies available if you are discriminated against because of your age. Unfortunately, the litigation route is not always possible or feasible. Proving discrimination is not easy.

If the reason is because of your own misconception or even one listed above, you might need to look within yourself for motivation.

North Carolina’s Roy Williams, one of the most successful active basketball coaches in men’s Division I-A basketball, said it best. When talking to his freshman point guard during a game, who was complaining that he turned the ball over only because he was fouled, Williams said: “You can be a conscientious objector and sit on the bench or you can get back in the game and be a player.”

Hiring managers are sometimes the problem. They might think you will be unhappy in the job or that you are expecting more money than they can offer. They may believe you are not up on the latest technology. It could be they believe you would not fit in with the younger staff or that you would not relate to their client base. They might think you would take the job then leave when you find the one you really want.

How do you get around these issues? Determine your strengths by projecting a positive and focused image.

The biggest advantage you may have over younger employees is your network of contacts and friends. Many may be in management and aware of opportunities upcoming opportunities. Use them to locate potential positions and to further expand your network. Most positions are found through networking.

Next, update your resume. Examine job publications and websites for the latest trends in your field. Incorporate new formats, action words and key words related to your occupation. Set up an e-resume for Web use.

If you are concerned about your older employment record or dates, set up a format to de-emphasize them. Consider using a functional or combination resume format. Consider listing only your most recent jobs and concentrate on your overall skills and accomplishments. Provide schools and degrees received, but don’t provide dates.

If you have a target company, research their current and future hiring needs. Set up your background, skills and education to fit those needs.

Consider using a summary at the beginning of your resume. Determine a focus and stick to it. This way you can highlight your strengths and persuade the recruiter why you’re the right person for the job. Use a cover letter to complement your resume.

Not all human resource managers agree with the strategy of not providing all of your job history. So just in case, have a chronological resume available for those occasions.

If you cannot find the job you want, consider placing yourself in a strategic position in your targeted company or agency. The experience you receive in the new job might put you in a situation to get the job you really want.

Being a little older can have advantages when looking for employment. Many employers prefer seasoned employees. Make sure you consider your strengths and use them to your advantage. There are lots of opportunities.

M.B. Owens is a Nashville-based columnist and journalist with a decade of experience writing on employment topics and business.

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