Career Stories

Do Your Career Stories Have Flair?


Dear J.T. & Dale: My hospital administrative job was eliminated by an electronic medical records program. At 55, I went back to school and got a nursing license, making top grades and passing the boards with ease. Now I’m getting the brush off in interviews. Why aren’t my skills, reliability and experience appreciated? My 30 years in the field prior to nursing don’t seem to count. - Renata

J.T.: Reliable, experienced, skilled – that’s a familiar story. And, ironically, that’s part of the problem. These days, career stories need to be told with a bit of flair, conveying your value in an original fashion. Step back and ask yourself, “When it comes to the work I do, what do I believe in?” and “What does my approach to the work represent?”

DALE: Flair, eh? That means you have to get beyond cliches like “I believe in doing it right the first time.”

J.T.: Exactly. An example: A family friend who’d been an RN left the field to raise children, then found herself having to go back to work at age 55. Her initial attempts to find work resulted in rejection after rejection that felt like age discrimination.

Eventually, she was referred into a job at a geriatric facility. When asked why she wanted the job, something inside her came alive, and she boldly stated: “I believe in patient advocacy.

My job is to serve patients and to help the families that have put them in the facility feel good about the decision. These people deserve good care, and I believe it’s my job to ensure that it happens.” That answer got her the job. After that, she built her reputation on that principle.

DALE: Beautiful. In that example we see the paradox of sharpening your focus: You increase your odds by decreasing your options. A good boss wants to hire employees who will love the job; therefore, knowing what you love is a prerequisite to a successful job search.

J.T.: The tougher the job market, the stronger the reason to clarify your beliefs and share them with employers.

DALE: And one more thing: One of your beliefs, Renata, should be that your prior 30 years of experience are not just relevant but an added bonus to the employer.

While you might think that’s obvious, it’ll be up to you to make that case. You can not only sell your passion, but make your experience relevant by saying something like, “Given my background, I can assure you that I will master your record-keeping system and I will work to be an asset to the entire team on improving our administrative compliance.”

Believe this: You aren’t just older than most of the other applicants, you’re better.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.


  1. I am 51; it was interesting and confidence boosting. But most managers don’t understand these facts until they themselves have put in 20 or 30 years and reach 50 or 55.

  2. Excellent, guys…from soup to nuts. Particularly your closing advice: “Believe this: You aren’t just older than most of the other applicants, you’re better.” It’s crucial to believe in yourself, and communicate your passion for what you do.

  3. Baloney. It’s the age, pure and simple. Fact is, age now appears to be the initial and primary disqualifier for employers on job applications, when they can calculate it out, or when they see you during an interview. And yet all the recruitment advice is about being a Shakespearean actor with a “story to tell,” and how to use your body language, and so on. Utter nonsense if you are over 50 and can’t find work. It’s the age, whether anyone wants to hear it or not, and unless large numbers of age-discrimination lawsuits are filed, with large penalties to the employers, nothing will change.

    • Age or physical fitness. I have seen many people who are 5 or 10 years younger than me are not as fit as me at 51 but they cannot see my physical fitness in the CV hence not called for interview. So there must be more info in the CV to prove physical fitness because end of the day it will decide the efficiency of a person and not age.

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