Hitting the open job market as an older candidate can be rough. There’s all sorts of inherent bias, as well as the challenge of finding jobs that aren’t entry- or low- level, with salaries geared toward new grads who live with seven roommates. But while you can’t necessarily change what’s out there, you can take steps by self-correcting on a number of common errors that could be costing you opportunities.
Mistake: Not having a digital presence
For younger job seekers, using digital tools for self-promotion and building a professional presence is second nature from the start. Routine social media like LinkedIn and Twitter are extremely powerful professional tools you should be using. Personal accounts (like Facebook) are better left private but don’t confuse old-school privacy with keeping a low profile. Separate, career-focused profiles can be a great asset to your job search, without you having to show your whole life to recruiters or potential employers.
Mistake: Holding on to dated tech
Unpleasant fact: Your contact information is typically going to be the first thing a person sees when they review your resume. If your resume kicks off with an outdated AOL address, or Hotmail, or some other email service that hasn’t been popular since Dancing with the Stars was that fun new show, the reader is likely to cringe a little. Fair or not, it makes you look like you’re not really up on the current state of things, and it could color how they read the rest of your application package. Gmail and Outlook are both good bets for creating a new, professional account for your job search.
Mistake: Not leveraging your network enough
As a job seeker with years of experience under your belt, you have a whole network of former colleagues, clients, acquaintances, etc., who could be a great help to your job search. Don’t be afraid to do an audit of your network and start reconnecting with people to see if they have any information or leads. So many jobs are filled by word-of-mouth referrals—you never know when someone in your circle has an opportunity for you or might be able to put you in touch with the right people.
Mistake: Writing a “kitchen sink” resume
One of the biggest assets you have is your experience. So every bit of that should go on your resume, right? Not so fast. Recruiters and hiring managers usually have very limited time to scan resumes (we’re talking seconds here), so you need to be able to sell your story very effectively in a small space.
Your resume should be no longer than two pages, and you don’t need to put every single thing in there. If you have a decades-long work history, include just the past ten years and list only the bullet points most relevant to the job you’re seeking. Because resumes are handled almost exclusively digitally these days, don’t be afraid to make it a living document. Tailor it to each job you’re applying for, with only the most relevant information included.
Mistake: Taking job descriptions literally
How many times have you read a job description, thought “I don’t have three out of these ten requirements, too bad,” and then not applied? Job descriptions are often a company’s wish list for the role. They may be flexible on certain aspects of the experience level or parts of the job itself. But you don’t have anything to lose by applying if you feel like you’re otherwise a good fit. Just be sure your resume reflects why you’re an especially good match for the job at hand.
Mistake: Waiting for the perfect job
As someone who’s put a lot of time and care into their career, you deserve a next job that works for your life and your goals. But (and this is true at any age) that “perfect” job might never come along. Be open to other opportunities that aren’t just moving up to the next seniority level, or making more money for more or less what you were doing before. After all, no matter how advanced you are in your career, you want a job that’s going to help you learn and grow. If a job sounds like a decent fit for your skills or experience, but it’s not quite what you had in mind, give it a second look.
Being flexible and keeping an open mind are assets in any job search, whether you’re a grizzled veteran of the corporate scene or an optimistic kid just starting out. If you’re aware of what you’re putting out there and working to keep that version of yourself updated and engaged, you’ll likely start to see opportunities and benefits where you weren’t seeing them before.
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