I recently saw a discussion on LinkedIn about older workers, job search, and ageism. Sadly, I wish I could say that ageism doesn’t exist. I believe it does. But as I’ve said before, I also think there are times when we might not be doing ourselves any favors and, as a result we may be contributing to our own ageism.
Back to the discussion on LinkedIn. A colleague of mine, Lisa Rangel, weighed in on this conversation with a similar comment about contributing to your own ageism and that the key was making sure your resume was positioned for success. So, I asked Lisa if she would be willing to share her expertise here and thankfully, she said yes.
Lisa Rangel is an expert resume writer and job landing consultant with Chameleon Resumes in New York City. In her role, she works with clients to help them successfully navigate the job search process. She’s been featured in CNBC, TIME, Forbes, and Fox News talking about how to position your resume for success and get hired.
Lisa, thanks so much for being here. In terms of the hiring process, can you give us an example where a candidate might be contributing to their own ageism?
[Rangel] Where candidates may be contributing to their own ageism is labeling behaviors as ageism that are better categorized as ‘outdated’. This is important to distinguish since we can’t change how old we are, but we can change an outdated behavior.
For example, some senior-level candidates don’t have a LinkedIn profile, or if they do, they don’t put value in keeping it updated or using the platform. This is a mistake. Companies will look up a candidate on LinkedIn after seeing their resume. If the profile doesn’t exist or isn’t updated, it sends a subliminal message to the hiring manager that the candidate is not up to date on personal marketing practices. So what else may they not be updated on?
Additionally, if the role being pursued involves attracting top talent, or developing sales, or courting suppliers, and one’s LinkedIn profile or network isn’t current, the prospective employer can doubt how effective that candidate will be in their job if they are still doing their work in a traditional manner only. The prospective employer may also be concerned how this job seeker will gain credibility with their new team if their personal marketing is outdated.
In addition to LinkedIn, another place that a candidate might contribute to their own ageism is in their resume. For example, AARP has said that individuals should consider only sharing the last 15 years of work experience on their resume. Are there any tips that you would give someone who has a lot of work experience and is trying to update their resume?
[Rangel] One main way to reduce or eliminate ageism from a resume is to focus on recent, relevant achievements only. Do not emphasize seniority. Don’t start your resume (or LinkedIn profile) with something like ‘senior professional with over 30 years of experience’. That’s called leading with the chin. You can’t lead with age and then be upset if a hiring manager (wrongly) factors in the age that you led with in your documents. Remember your age or seniority doesn’t qualify you for a job—your recent, relevant achievements and skills do, so focus on leading with those points.
Technology is regularly mentioned in the same sentence as ageism, as in “older people don’t know how to use it well.” If you could offer one suggestion to older candidates when it comes to tech and their job search, what would it be?
[Rangel] Whatever technology you need that you are most afraid of learning, jump on a class or hire someone to help you learn it (or both!). Don’t hide behind the fear or discomfort—face it head on and commit to learning it! This is unfair, but it’s true: there is a stereotype that older employees aren’t tech savvy. And while some of us in the senior demographic may embody this stereotype, not all of us do.
No matter what, the key is to do all you can to buck the stereotypical assumption and educate yourself on what you need to stay relevant.
During the pandemic, many people have decided to retire early. Honestly, I could see them trying to “unretire” at some point. Is there a way to position unretirement without getting too deep into the age conversation?
[Rangel] I agree that many who retired during the pandemic could start to resurface to re-enter the workforce in the next couple of years. I would suggest focusing on the ‘gap’ the way one would focus on other types of gaps: what did you do during the gap? (i.e., education, hobbies, personal projects, part-time work, volunteer experiences, etc.). Employers are looking for intrinsically motivated people so demonstrate how you did this in your activities during the retirement gap.
Last question. I’m a big fan of utilizing the services of career coaches and resume writing professionals. How can someone who provides these services help an older candidate right now?
[Rangel] Resume writers and career coaches can help the senior job seeker focus on their recent, relevant achievements and promote themselves in this direct, factual manner. Many senior-level job seekers have been brought up to promote loyalty and seniority, as we are a product of our parents from The Greatest Generation who valued these traits.
The problem is these traits aren’t valued as much by today’s hiring manager as much as nimble accomplishment and effective pivoting in chaos are valued. So, the writer/coach can help the senior level job seeker reposition their incredible backgrounds in the way hiring managers evaluate candidate backgrounds’ today, so the interviews start rolling in again.
I want to extend a huge thanks to Lisa for sharing her knowledge with us. If you want to learn more from Lisa – and I know you do – check out her websites Chameleon Resumes and the Job Landing Academy.
Lisa made a valuable point at the beginning of our conversation together about “ageism” versus “outdated”. No one is saying that we have to act like we’re in our 20s again. But we do need to show that we are able to be successful in today’s modern business world. If you are actively looking for a new job or just considering getting back into the workforce, think about how you would do that and if there are any gaps you need to address.