Ageism is alive and well.
In theory, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older, during the hiring process and while employed. Discrimination at the young age of 40 exists but is small in comparison to that which exists at 50. If you are 60 or more, your perception may be that winning the lottery has better odds!
Claims filed with the EEOC have risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Your chance of winning in court is abysmal, especially if the claim is related to hiring practices. Companies are very astute at building a smoke-screen that masks the age bias that exists.
It should come as no surprise but the older job seeker faces an uphill battle as they seek to reenter the workforce at levels previously held. The length of time required to become re-employed is somewhat dependent upon the “title” but it is fair to say that 70+ days for most experienced professionals, i.e., those over 50, is a good starting point. Realistically the range is 6 months to two years.
After reading the above paragraphs, you may feel even more discouraged. The content evokes feeling of frustration and despair. Unemployment not only impacts the tangible aspect of income loss but plays a role in your emotional well-being. Moving your belief system from the negative to positive is not easy but doing so plays a critical role in any success you will see in the future.
As a professional that specializes in digital and social media marketing, I do not fit the typical mold of the practitioner. I am not a millennial yet I am fully engaged in their world and the technology that fuels their lifestyle. I have and continue to achieve career goals that many my age feel are impossible to attain.
Thoughts on overcoming the age bias
As mentioned above, I would not be viewed as a typical fit for the roles that I have held and the work that I do now. So let me share some of the process that continues to supply me with challenges and opportunities in the workforce.
Where you see this icon, I have made some suggestions for action steps that have proven to be worthwhile to both myself and my clients.
Advancements in technology over the past few years have been both a blessing and a curse for anyone in the workforce. Not only must you acquire additional skills but you must have an understanding of how technology plays a role in the recruiting and staffing industry. In the past, seeking employment was a personal endeavor. And a human one as well. Not so any longer.
The dreaded Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is widely used by large organizations. It not only simplifies the applicant intake process but also does the initial filtering previously completed by staff members. While a benefit to the organization, it puts the unprepared job seeker at a disadvantage.
Preparing a resume and cover letter for entry into the ATS requires that you evaluate keywords found in the posted job description for the role. If the content does not result in a sufficient number of “matches”, your application is disqualified. You may have been a strong candidate but automation removed you from consideration.
Your resume and cover letter must not only look professional, it must read well while having keywords inserted into the content. Loading up on keywords just to get past the ATS will be detrimental when your resume is finally read by a recruiter or hiring manager.
Create a resume template that can be edited for title and keywords. There is no reason to rewrite the entire resume. At the same time, you want some specificity that triggers the ATS system keyword filter.
If you are seeking a VP level or above, I suggest using a professional resume service at least for the initial structure, copy, and layout. Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Resumes would be someone I would recommend. http://chameleonresumes.com/.
Job Board Profiles require the same attention as the resume and cover letter. As organizations search for candidates, keyword filtering will be used. The advantage here is that most profiles allow keyword insertion or tagging. Thus, you earn a free pass on grammar, but not spelling! You must be aware of which job boards are utilized by companies within your industry. You will gain little by participating in boards that are not frequented by your desired industry recruiters.
Place your resume on applicable websites and update as necessary, but at least every 90 days. While I am personally not a fan of placing my resume EVERYWHERE, vendors such as Resume Rabbit will upload to over 85 job boards at one time. (https://www.resumerabbit.com/job_banks.jsp)
Social Media is playing a more important role than ever before. Where and how you participate is obviously a choice but caution is strongly recommended. Prospective employers will view your social pages and posts. Keeping social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat limited to family and friends is good practice.
If you want or need to have a public profile, create one. Leave the personal profile private. As an example, I have a public profile on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
While sometimes grouped into the social media bucket, LinkedIn is a business networking site. Some treat it as a professional form of Facebook. You should not. LinkedIn can and will play a valuable role in generating networking opportunities but also in shining a positive light on your profile. More than ever recruiters are using LinkedIn to source senior level and above candidates. Your profile must not only tell a compelling story but also be searchable. The proper use of keywords, structure, and settings is as important here as with the resume and the ATS. In addition to that, a professional business portrait is a required “must” when you develop a LinkedIn profile.
Build a profile that results in search hits and views. Take the time to learn and understand the entire LinkedIn process, including proper settings, the importance of activity, and the role your efforts in LinkedIn play in your overall career strategy.
If you are not getting the results you need, seek out professional assistance. Retail Consultants of Tampa Bay has helped over 1000 professionals improve their profiles and can help you too.
Networking is more of a traditional way of finding employment. The number of openings not posted far exceed those that are and the only way to learn of the “hidden” opportunity is through someone “in-the-know.”
Begin by using technology to identify groups and other networking events that fit into your career objectives. Some may be online, such as LinkedIn groups, forums, and such. The requirement here is participation. Silence is NOT golden.
Participation in local networking events should also be a part of your reemployment strategy. People do business with those that they “know, like, and trust.” They also hire them or give them leads. Many companies offer referral bonuses to their employees. You will get a foot in the door from a referral at times when others are left waiting.
Lifelong learning plays a role too. Keep up to date on industry practices and information. Free classes are available from many sources, including library systems, reemployment offices, and the like so that you can continue to develop skills that are beneficial to your next employer.
Identify an opportunity area within your skill sets and take a class to improve that area.
The above touches on some of the process related to technology. Next? What are some of the behaviors necessary in order to succeed in the competitive job market?
The Intangibles – Behavioral Characteristics
You are the only one who can choose. What will it be?
Self-Confidence must be something that you demonstrate with every interaction, with every person.Your actions and words must exude self-confidence. If you unsure of yourself, why would someone else believe in you? Do not de-emphasize your experience and skills. They are assets that you bring to the table. At the same time, ensure that your self-confidence is not coming across as being cocky or conceited.
Having the resolve to achieve your career objective can never be understated. You must make the commitment to follow a course of action that will lead to success. Having a “Refuse to Lose” attitude will overcome the frustration and disappointments that will come along the way.
Tenacity should never be downplayed. If you demonstrate the persistence and unyielding desire to reach a goal, it will not only benefit you short-term, but also demonstrate to your potential employer the behavioral characteristics that are desirable to them.
Evaluating Your Situation
To have a better chance of success, one must evaluate not only themselves but the current job market. It is constantly evolving and adaptation requires that you consider the following:
Experience and Salary Expectations – from the employer’s perspective, your experience comes with a perceived salary requirement. In spite of the fact that you will take less or that compensation is negotiable, no one believes you. The higher the compensation, the fewer jobs there will be. Over six figures? The number of jobs in most job markets sharply decreases.
Research the compensation for the position level you seek in your area. The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases an annual overview of “Wage Data by Area and Occupation.” http://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm
Skill set needs vary by locale and it comes down to supply and demand. Certifications carry weight only if valued in the local market or are an essential requirement for the role.
Hiring Cycles vary by business. Most will find a decline or stop from November through January (holidays) and in the summer (late June through late August) when many are on vacation. It only takes one person in the hiring process to be on vacation for everything to stop.
Locate your local your state’s employment database and review the trends pertaining to your occupation, the unemployment rates, desired skills, average salaries, and such. An example from the State of Florida can be viewed here. http://freida.labormarketinfo.com/
Networking was previously touched upon but it bears repeating. Most senior, director, and executive level positions are not advertised. If there was ever a time to believe that “it’s not what you know but who you know”, this is it. Access to some level of inside information is extremely beneficial.
Ultimately there are no guarantees that you will find the role sought but by starting each day with the belief that you are one day closer to landing the position sought.
My personal experience AFTER the age of 50 has been rewarding. Every role included six figure compensation. If I can do it, so can you.
Mike McCormick is founder and CEO of Retail Consultants of Tampa Bay. He is well-known within the LinkedIn community for his participation in numerous marketing and job seeker groups. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Disclaimer: There is no affiliation with any vendor above with the exception of Retail Consultants of Tampa Bay. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and not of the vendors.