According to George Bernard Shaw, “Youth is wasted on the young.” That may be true, but some observers have put a new twist on this statement and are now saying that “The job market is wasted on the young.” That’s because one-third (32 percent) of unemployed people are age 45 and older according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which calculates the unemployment rate as 7.6 percent for those in the 45-to-54 age bracket.
Judging by my own e-mail, the frustration level is high among the 40-plus set. Employers typically praise the work ethic of this age group while simultaneously rejecting them due to perceptions about their reluctance to change or learn new technologies. It’s a unique conundrum, but there is some solid advice on the horizon. Best-selling author and career guru Robin Ryan has written a new book focused entirely on the 40-and-over job seeker. Titled Over 40 & You’re Hired! Secrets to Landing a Great Job, the book has just been published by Penguin. It’s an easy 234-page read chockfull of great tips and a bonus section referencing custom Web pages available only to book buyers. Readers can download exclusive tools, forms, templates, charts and more that will be useful in their quest for employment.
According to Ryan, “Hiring is different now—for everyone. Baby boomers can definitely land a great job, but they have to approach the entire job search process—resumes, cover letters, interviews, and how you look for openings—differently from how they have before.” Ryan goes on to name 12 possible hiring roadblocks that her research shows impacts the opportunity for a job offer for the mature worker, among them the possibility of a good culture fit, an old-fashioned management style and expectations for special considerations relating to compensation or time off. More importantly, the reader learns how to deal with these objections and how to ace the interview using what she terms as “the age advantage.”
I asked Ryan for her top three Do’s and Don’ts for the 40-plus job seeker and she responded with these tips:
• Look OLD! That means keep your resume focused on the last decade, update your skill set and know the challenges your industry faces, plus revamp your image to be contemporary, vivacious and energetic.
• Appear desperate, like any job will do. Prepare and be ready for tough interview questions, particularly if you might be overqualified for the job. Have a legitimate reason why you are a good fit and sell the skills you’d bring to the position, but don’t oversell yourself.
• Send a generic cover letter. Always take the time to write a customized cover letter, opening with a powerful first paragraph that sums up your experience, key strengths, and the accomplishments that you’d bring to performing the job.
• Sell your accomplishments and results. Resumes get glanced at and rejected in 15 seconds or less. Generic job descriptions, vague and unfocused resumes don’t work.
• Spend the majority of your time networking and working on the hidden job market. Around 80 percent of all jobs are unadvertised.
• Ask intelligent questions. Most employers listen intently to the questions you ask as a sign of how you’d think and act, on the job. Impress the employer with good probing questions about duties and management styles.
Use your life experiences to put you at the top of the resume pile. I remember reading something by “Dear Abby” columnist Abigail Van Buren before I was ever old enough and smart enough to appreciate it. She wrote this: “Maturity is the ability to stick with a job until it’s finished; the ability to do a job without being supervised; the ability to carry money without spending it; and the ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.”
Nancy Schuman is a vice president at Lloyd Staffing, headquartered in Melville, and is the author of eight how-to books on career guidance and job-search techniques. Lloyd Staffing offers temporary, contract and full-time employment services on a regional and national basis. Send your career-related questions to email@example.com.