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Job Search: Age-Proofing Your Resume
Older job hunters fear interviews where their age cannot be concealed and where an initial response of dismay on an interviewer's face, quickly hidden, confirms their anticipation of discrimination. The mature job seeker often prefers the anonymity of mailed resumes, e-mailed inquiries, internet applications, and telephone contacts.
Interviews, however, are the goal of everyone who wants to work. There is so much pre-selection and screening before an interview is granted that simply getting that far in the process provides at least some expectation of an offer being made. It is when interviews are not forthcoming that real concern is needed. Ask yourself if you may be inadvertently triggering screening filters by the documentation you submit.
Review the following three "red flags" and identify if your own presentation could be outdated and needlessly sabotaging your employment campaign.
1. Old Educational Data.
You may have obtained a degree or completed a vocational course many years ago. While you obviously cannot change the year of your graduation, you can concentrate on detailing other training received more recently. Any classes, workshops, or seminars attended over the past couple of years, even something in progress, stamps you as an individual who is continuing to learn and grow, someone aware of recent developments and open to new ideas and up-to-date approaches.
2. Job Titles.
The title of a job is designed to explain, in brief, your typical duties. Over the years, such titles change even when tasks and responsibilities remain similar. Review the titles on your resume that may reflect what your position was called at the time but no longer meshes with the current business environment. "Secretary," for example, is now rare. Similar job duties, flexed for innovations in technology, are now referred to as "Administrative Assistant," "Office Manager," "Office Analyst," or "Personal Assistant." Review your local classifieds and concentrate on the titles that seem to involve job tasks you have performed in the past. Then review your resume and applications and update job titles accordingly.
You probably have a resume which lists the duties and responsibilities of each of your prior positions. Re-read those descriptions, concentrating on the actual words you have used, especially the verbs (actions). Do those descriptions date you? Some obvious phrases are the old "variety duties" which is now generally called "multi-tasking," and "assisted with" now translates as "customer service." "Typing speed," so ubiquitous thirty years ago is now invariably "keyboarding skills." There are many other less obvious areas. A way to address them is to go to the newspaper or internet and review a number of job descriptions in your field. Any words or phrases that are unfamiliar to you need to be researched as they may describe a task you have previously performed under a different description. If you cannot find the information you seek, check with a library, an employment agency, or someone in the field. If the new phrase fits you, substitute it in your resume and all future applications. If it is important enough to be included in a job description, it deserves your attention and neglecting the required investigation may doom your job search efforts.
Your goal is to have a potential employer read your resume and be familiar with the terms you use. It is your responsibility to be adaptive, flexible, and avoid being screened out due to inappropriate vocabulary. Don't expect an employer to take the time to figure out whether you really have the skills being sought. Remember that resumes are used to screen OUT - to reduce the "possible interview" pile to a manageable size.
When your resume and written applications have been meticulously age-proofed, practice the same terminology verbally, with a friend, to be ready for a thoroughly up-to-date self-presentation when that inevitably soon-to-be-scheduled interview arrives.
Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.virginiabola.com
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10 Things to Do to Get the Job
10. Understand all of the opportunities available to you. Don't just assume that you can only work at the standard place of employment for your area of study. The key to finding a great career is to think outside of the box. Don't get caught being narrow-minded when considering where to apply your skills and energy. Every firm needs accountants, project managers, sales people, etc. 9. Get to know a successful person. Your dad's friend doesn't count if he doesn't know you. You must be able to find someone that has had decent success in any field and become their new friend. The tendency for those that are mentored to go much farther in their career is significant. You can take the world on all by yourself or you can benefit from the experience and wisdom of others. Mentors can make all the difference at every stage of your career. 8. Learn to sell yourself. You have a lot more to offer than you may think. Whether your history is full of experience or education, you are bringing unique qualities to a company. You must learn to express your skills in a succinct and convincing manner. It may feel like boasting at first, but your ability to sell yourself will help you tremendously. 7. Network in professional associations. If you really want to make an impression, meet people that already work in your industry. Volunteer with them for projects and get to know them. Building a relationship is the fastest way into a company. Learn what they do and what you should do to get ahead in the field or at a particular company. These people are there to make friends and network as well. Don't be shy about your professional ambitions and you will get very far. 6. Network inside the company. If you want to ensure your role at a company then you need to get to know several people in the company. No matter what you may be applying for, you will be competing with others to make an impression with people. The fact is that people love to work with those that they trust and like. If you can make a good impression with multiple people inside a company, you have a built-in competitive advantage when deciding to hire you or another qualified candidate. Use professional organizations to meet company employees if you can. For the more direct route, try contacting a manager in the department you want to work in to meet and ask questions. If you are personable, you will probably not have any problems getting to know a few people inside a company. 5. Bring something to your job. Just like JFK said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." If you have done your homework, you know what the company is doing now, where it is going, and what issues that your department is facing or will have to deal with in the future. Talk about what you can do in the interview and with as many managers as you can. Sure you are going to be told what to do, but never underestimate the impact of taking on extra responsibility. You may not be applying for a management position, but this could help you get there. 4. Get your résumé to the best people. There are several strategies for marketing yourself to the decision makers in a company. Whatever your method may be, it is crucial that you get your résumé to the highest-ranking managers possible. If you can impress an executive with a great résumé, you will find your path through the company door wide open. If an executive passes along your résumé or just mentions that they received your résumé to a hiring manager, you are going to get serious bonus points. The desire to please is prevalent at many larger companies, so any chance you can take advantage of to get your name dropped (or recognized) by top management is a great. 3. Do your homework. You have heard this all of your school career, but it is even more important in the your career search. You can easily blow a great job opportunity by not knowing enough information about the company. Be sure to read industry news and trends to have a better perspective on the challenges and opportunities the company is facing. Read the company's website thoroughly. There is so much information readily available, including key personnel's names, positions, and contact info. Take advantage of this information and any other knowledge you can attain from the multitude of sources available. 2. Hit the pavement. Don't be afraid to show up at the company you want to work for. Nobody can sell yourself like you can. Even if the company isn't advertising a position, they are almost always looking for great employees to hire. The information age has nearly eliminated the need for face-to-face contact, which is why it is so effective now. If you meet the people that you want to work for then you are demonstrating your commitment and confidence in yourself. The younger generation of job seekers have forgotten the importance of personal relationships in business, leaving many talented people wondering why they aren't being hired. Get out there and show that there is a person behind the résumé. 1. Ask for the job you want. If you bring quality skills and/or experience to the table, let it be known. If the open position won't challenge you enough, find ways to add responsibility. Tell interviewers that you want to make a difference at their company. Confidence in one's ability is key to landing great jobs. If the decision maker can see that you have a lot to offer and are willing to work harder than current employees, there is no decision; you are hired!
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