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June 27, 2017

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Using Age to Your Advantage

Do you think you’re having difficulties finding a job because of your age, that employers—and maybe even you—think you’re “over the hill?"

What particular age-related challenges do you think you face as a job seeker? Do you find yourself saying things such as “I haven’t gotten a job yet; I know it’s because of my age.” “I guess I can’t keep up the pace anymore.” “I’m too old to go back to school.” Do you project those beliefs about yourself onto other people when you meet them? These attitudes are clearly visible to prospective employers; according to one study, nonverbal behavior, such as body language, accounts for 93% of communication.

Stereotypes—both your own and others’—can make your job search longer and more difficult. They affect the way you present yourself in your résumé, cover letter, and interviews. Negative perceptions can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies—“See, I told you no one was going to hire me.”

What you focus on expands. In other words, watering those “weeds”—your beliefs about your age—will only exacerbate the situation. Now is the time to dispel the myths you may have about mature workers, and to learn about the strengths you bring to the next phase of your career.

It is true that some employers may discriminate on the basis of age; they may assume you’ll want a higher salary and somewhere to “park” until retirement. Some may think you’re overqualified, will get bored, and want to move on.

Yet a five-year study looked at mature workers in three major companies and found that mature workers have a much lower rate of turnover, absenteeism, and on-the-job accidents. They are better sales people and learn to use computer systems as quickly and as easily as younger workers. Because mature workers bring many assets to the table that younger workers have not yet acquired, they often serve as role models and mentors. They have fewer dependents on their insurance coverage, and after age 65, Medicare can provide the basics. All this adds up to mature workers costing about the same as younger workers.

Although your age is a convenient hook to hang your disappointment on, you need to look beyond it. Are you current in your profession? Do you need to update your skills? Are you making the most of your job search? Are you targeting companies and networking, or just responding to ads on job boards?

Additional tips: Don’t go back more than 10–15 years on your résumé. Be prepared to be interviewed by someone younger. Focus on your skills and experience rather than your age, and convey energy and enthusiasm when interviewing. Think about joining a gym—you’ll have more energy and feel better about yourself. Practice interviewing and talking about your professional accomplishments. Think about joining Toastmasters to brush up on your public speaking skills. Read Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain and What Color is your Parachute, 2009, by Richard Nelson Bolles.

Remember, what you focus on expands. When you know in your heart your value as a mature worker, you will communicate it, both verbally and nonverbally, to your prospective employer.

- Deborah Barnes

Deborah Barnes is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) and Graphic Artist; active member of The Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches; Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) qualified; and published in the 2009 release of Cover Letters for Dummies, 3rd Edition, by Joyce Lain Kennedy (Wiley Publishing), winner of the "Benjamin Franklin Awards—Best Career Book of the Year." She can be reached at debnahant@comcast.net or 781-598-1127.

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