As we celebrate the dads in our lives this Father’s Day, we acknowledge that today’s men need more than a new set of golf clubs or a steak dinner. The same men who are our listeners, fixers, providers, worriers, coaches, and comedians are still wading through the economic downtown. NPR reports that some men just want a job for Father’s Day.
Hiring is steadily rising as the economy crawls back to health. But salaries are lower than pre-recession levels, and close to 10 million people are still looking for work. One in five of those are men over 45 who must not only compete in a saturated market but also overcome misconceptions that older workers are overqualified, over priced, and over the hill.
It may be hard to believe, but whether you’re out of work or looking for a better job, you are smarter than the obstacles to getting hired. You can’t control the market or ageism, but you can craft a personal brand that is too good for employers to ignore.
1. Learn new stuff and show it off.
Show that you are agile enough to learn new things by doing it. While you’re looking for a job, update your skills by taking a free online class or getting a certificate. Would it benefit you to learn HTML or to brush up on Finance for Managers?
Top universities around the world have made college-level courses available, most often for free, on the web. Most online classes are self paced, so you can learn at your convenience. You can search databases such as LearningAdvisor.com to find courses that directly relate to the kind of job you’re looking for.
2. Get hip to social media.
First, a vibrant and up-to-date LinkedIn account is essential to your job search. Include a new photo of you in a stylish suit. Also, be active on LinkedIn. Follow groups and organizations that match your professional criteria and share interesting articles you read. These 5 LinkedIn Groups to Kickstart Your Career may be a good place to start. Through your online activity, potential employers will see you as engaged in your industry and socially interactive.
Most people use Facebook for personal reasons, so you may want to look into Twitter. The social networking site works in real time, so it is a quick way to build an online reputation. With some instruction for beginners, you can easily learn to tweet and follow brands related to your profession.
What’s important is that you develop a professional presence online that potential employers can see. The first thing a hiring manager may do when reviewing a good résumé is find out more about the potential employee. If a hiring manager can’t find any online profiles about you, he may become hesitant about your candidacy. Create the image you want them to see before you step in the door for an interview through your activity on social media.
3. Make your résumé relevant.
You are experienced, yes. But it’s your accomplishments that will woo recruiters. Relevant experience and recent achievements will make your résumé shine more than a chronological walk-through of your employment history.
To strategically present the breadth of your experience on your résumé, consider piecing it into more sections. Add a section before your employment history that lists your key skills and accomplishments. Here, you can pick and choose the capabilities you want to highlight that directly prove your qualifications for the specific position you are applying for.
Tailor your work history to the job you’re seeking. You can find a lot of advice that suggests only listing the last ten years of your employment and withholding the year you earned your college degree so that you don’t seem immediately dated. While the logic makes some sense, it may not be the best across-the-board strategy, depending on your career trajectory.
Instead, emphasize directly relevant responsibilities, accomplishments, and positions. Prioritize recent experience, and be sure that each job and descriptive bullet correlates to the position you’re seeking. Use keywords from the job description. If you have extensive budgeting experience but it is not required for your target position, don’t list it. If you don’t want to show gaps in your employment history, list older or unrelated experience in a Prior History section, summarized in a brief paragraph or each as a single line item.
Lastly, keep your résumé to one or two pages and no more. Recruiters and hiring managers scan hundreds of résumés looking for specific keywords. Don’t let length undermine your qualifications.
4. Think like a salesman.
The fact is that an employer can use any reason not to hire someone. Judgments are made quickly, often unconsciously, and candidates may be declined because their hair is messy, they are into astrology, or other trivial justifications such as they just “aren’t a good fit” (whatever that means). Age is just one of the many convenient excuses an unconvinced hiring manager can use; it just happens to be illegal.
The trick is to convince your hiring manager before he gets to the excuses. Give your potential employer a reason to ignore your age by selling him on how you can solve his problem. The position you’re going for is open for a reason. The company needs something from it to reach a larger goal. Pinpoint what that problem is, and show them through your application and interview how you will solve it.
Shy away from enumerating your impressive list of skills and abilities. The company doesn’t really want to know about you. They want to know how you will benefit them. Tell them how hiring you will alleviate their pain points because of your experience and abilities. You will instantly stand out and give yourself an edge on your competition.
5. Do things you care about.
The drive and positive energy you bring to your job search is key to successfully landing a job. Prolonged unemployment or residual feelings about parting from your last job can leave a fog around your attitude that can carry into your job search communications.
Take time away from your efforts. Do something you enjoy every day. Get out of the house so you’re not compelled to spend your time ticking off your home projects. Keep up your routines of working out, seeing friends, and doing things that you’ve always liked. You may find it helpful to start a new hobby to keep you inspired and energized.
Rest assured that many people value your experience and work ethic that younger generations may not have. The right connection is out there.