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How To Beat Ageism In Your Job Search

Did you know that right now, it’ possible for you to land your ideal job at the salary you deserve even if you’re 58+?

I’ll explain how in just a second.

But first, let’s talk about why so many people think this is impossible.

The truth is that you’ve been told it’s tough to find a job if you’re over the age of 50, heck we’ll even go over the age of 40.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say what you’ve been told is a lie. Doesn’t matter who told you – peers, experts or even yourself (that’s the worst when you tell yourself that).

Now before you say, “Michelle, you don’t understand, I’ve been told…

  • I’m overqualified…
  • I don’t have the right experience…
  • The company decided to move in another direction…”

Look, I get it. Ageism in job search exists, I won’t tell you it doesn’t. However, you can conquer it, regardless of your age. Yes, ageism is not just for the older crowd. Millennials suffer too.

Overcome Ageism on Paper

Whether it’s your LinkedIn profile, cover letter or resume, chances are hiring managers or recruiters will first meet you on paper (or online). A Millennial, GenXer or Baby Boomer “star” will either sizzle or fizzle with how they present themselves in writing.

Star Millennials will pounce on the opportunity to showcase their writing ability in their cover letter. It makes an impact because, unfortunately, most people don’t even bother writing one. It’s also a good way to debunk the myth that Millennials are only able to text and cannot write in complete sentences.

A star Millennial’s resume WILL NOT include the following:

  • Lists of tasks: Just because you’re a doer by the nature of a lower-level role, doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impact on your employer. What results did you help achieve?
  • Smugness: No jokes, irony, Millennial buzzwords or exaggerations. Just professional in tone and presentation.
  • Language errors and typos: “Your” and “you’re,” “there” and “their.” You get the point. No mistakes!
  • GPAs: Anyone that’s been out of school more than three years needs to scrap it from their resume.
  • Self-centered summaries: You need to focus on what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.

Gen Xers are in the middle of their careers — and in the middle of the workforce, so one strategy to take in your cover letter is to indicate how you serve as a bridge between Millennials and Baby Boomers. It can appeal to a hiring manager who may be older or younger than you.

When it comes to your resume, Gen Xers should quantify achievements with numbers and results. Many members of this generation have had managerial experience, so it’s great to highlight any organizational results here as well. A star Gen Xer’s resume WILL NOT include:

  • Overdone, meaningless cliché’s: “Results-oriented,” “passionate” and “guru” should be deleted.
  • Basic technical skills: Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are assumed skills and should be left off the resume.
  • References: “References Available Upon Request” should be left off because it’s assumed and having it there, just dates you.

When it comes to a star Baby Boomer’s cover letter, clearly illustrate how you’re willing to embrace new things and how you can help mentor younger employees. Highlight your unique qualifications and recent accomplishments (not from 10+ years ago). You might even tackle difficult issues here — things like resume gaps or why you’re coming back to a corporate environment after running your own business.

A star Baby Boomer’s resume WILL NOT include:

  • Volumes of your life story: Keep it under two pages at the most, focusing on your most recent 10 to 15 years. Anything prior to this can be included in a summary paragraph with dates left out.
  • TMI: Every single job you’ve had does not need to be clearly described and listed. Only relevant ones to the position you’re offering.
  • Descriptions of outdated skills: Outdated technology and skills should be simply documented as part of a job.

Avoid Appearing Your Age in Person

Now that we’ve got you looking good on paper, the next step is to look good in person – the interview. According to a survey of 2000 bosses, 33 percent claimed that they know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone. That means first impressions really count.
For Millennials, you don’t want to appear young and inexperienced. A star Millennial WILL:

  • Dress to impress: According to a survey by recruiting firm Adecco, 75 percent of hiring managers believe the top interview mistake Millennials make is wearing inappropriate attire.
  • Bring hard copies of their resume: If you show up for an interview with your resume on your tablet, it’s not easy to show multiple people.
  • Ask the right questions: If you don’t ask smart questions, you’ll come off as uninterested or unprepared. Questions like “Why did you choose to work here?” or “How would I exceed your expectations in my first few months on the job?” show interest and drive.
  • Sell yourself, but don’t brag: Accomplishments are important to highlight, but be careful of sounding overconfident.

Sandwiched in the middle, Generation X can take advantage of all these tips. In addition, star Gen Xers WILL:

  • Let their personality shine: Smile and lean slightly forward to demonstrate you’re truly interested in the job.
  • Go above and beyond typical research: Arm yourself with the latest press releases about the company so you can ask intelligent questions.
  • Show passion: Don’t just go through the motions of talking about your achievements. Talk about how what you did made an even larger impact to customers and people’s lives.
  • Not assume everyone knows what they did: Prepare stories around your accomplishments so the interviewer can understand exactly how you got from point A to point B.

Just the opposite of Millennials, Boomers don’t want to appear old and stodgy. Star Baby Boomers WILL:

  • Be willing to learn: Show how you’ve recently picked up new skills by taking a class.
  • Show how this role will challenge you: Put your interviewer at ease by ensuring them you are not overqualified. Demonstrate how you can advance the team or company by sharing your knowledge.
  • Know the current trends: Be comfortable with social media. Make sure you’re knowledgeable about terms such as cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things.
  • Demonstrate your energy: Did you just complete a marathon? Enjoy Zumba? Slide in a mention of your interests outside of work that can show you are not slowing down.
  • Update their wardrobe: Is your last interview suit 10 years old? Clothing can make you look hip instead of dowdy. Make sure you have a few updated pieces to modernize your look.

Stress Your Strengths and Keep a Positive Attitude

Every generation has its negative stereotypes but there are plenty of positives about each generation, too. Millennials can also be viewed as innovative, technologically savvy and self-expressive! Gen Xers are self-reliant and practical! And, how about those Baby Boomers that are invaluable to their employers because of their experience, skills and loyalty.

When you concentrate on your positive attributes and view ageism as just one of the obstacles you can overcome, you’re going to land the job you want.