Only a few decades ago, it was the norm for a recent college grad to work his way up the corporate ladder or to stay with the same firm for 40 or 50 years. Nowadays, those concepts are charmingly old-fashioned, akin to keeping your contacts on a Rolodex or having a martini (or three) at lunch. Today’s workplace sees disruption as a benefit; today’s college graduate is more likely to freelance, test a risky job in a start-up or a food truck than follow in his father’s footsteps. Oh well, not all, but that’s what you might think.
If you’re a Gen X-er or even a Baby Boomer who is attempting to enter the workforce, you might feel a bit lost in this new landscape. Is it still appropriate to wear a suit to an interview? How do you craft a resume if you have been busy raising a family rather than working outside the home? What should you do after being laid off or made redundant? Is there any way to convince an HR rep that your experience and skills are worth your higher salary expectations when there are a dozen millennials willing to do the same job for half the money?
Take a deep breath and try to relax. With a few pointers and a little ingenuity, you’ll be back on your feet in no time. Start by reviewing our list of mistakes you might be making as you attempt to re-enter the job market.
Your Email Address Screams “I’m Old” (or “I’m Unprofessional”)
Are you still using a Hotmail or AOL email address? That’s the email equivalent of wearing a blazer and a pair of Mom jeans to work. Get thee to Gmail, pronto — or better yet, start a blog and use the associated email address.
It should go without saying, but make sure that your email address is professional. Ideally, it ought to be your first and last name, or first initial and last name.
You Have No Digital Presence
The popularity of any particular social media platform will wax and wane, so you don’t have to be front-and-center on the latest bandwagon. Similarly, it’s becoming increasingly common to reject social media altogether in the name of self-care.
For job-hunting purposes, however, consider having something of an online presence. That could be a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account that you pop into every few weeks or so — enough to make it look lived-in. Keep your resume on LinkedIn, or establish a blog if you’re dedicated enough to update it regularly.
The important part is to make sure you can be found online. You don’t have to be a Snapchat influencer or a YouTuber with a zillion followers, but if you’re completely absent, potential employers (who largely live and die by their social accounts) will wonder if you’re hiding something.
Your Resume Makes You Look Like A Dinosaur
If you’re job-searching in your 50s or 60s, consider giving your resume a makeover — even if you have impeccable credentials. Remove any info that will divulge your age, such as graduation dates and employment history that’s over 10 years old.
While this might seem sneaky — like going full-throttle with the filters on your dating-site profile photo — remember that you’re just trying to get a foot in the door. Once you land an interview, you’ll be able to wow ‘em with your qualifications, no deception necessary.
Remember that it’s illegal for an employer to ask your age (or other questions, including but not limited to marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, and religion) or to discriminate against you based on your age. If you feel that you have experienced such discrimination, contact an employment lawyer.
You’re Hung Up On Your Education and Experience
When you were a starry-eyed corporate ingenue, your degrees and your track record were all that mattered. In today’s brave new world, culture fit is equally (if not more) important. Sure, it’s still impressive to have your MBA, or demonstrated sales numbers from a previous position. However, many HR experts now say that while skills can be taught, culture fit can’t.
Play up qualities like values, social intelligence, passion, curiosity, creativity, flexibility, grit, and the ever-important good communication skills. If you can demonstrate that you’re the kind of employee who is desirable, you’ll go further than someone who has skills galore on paper, but a lackluster personality.
This is great news for women entering the job market after divorce or becoming an empty nester. Just because you don’t have professional experience in a certain industry doesn’t mean you can’t spin your skills to fit an employer’s needs. Homeschooling your kids, running a household, and volunteering have helped you hone all kinds of talents.
Job hunting is nerve wracking, no matter what your age. While it’s never acceptable to present yourself as someone you’re not, packaging and presenting yourself in the best possible way is just a smart move. The image you create — with your social media presence, your resume, even your contact info — could make or break your chances of even getting an interview.