Career Success Strategy

Career Success Strategy For Professionals Over 40

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Less energy, high health and life insurance costs, higher salary expectations, and unwillingness to learn new technology. A study released by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College indicated many companies have reservations about hiring older workers because of these preconceived notions.

There was a time when age discrimination conjured visual images of men and women nearing the retirement age of 62 and older. However, with the increasing impact of technology advancement, the changing workplace, globalization, and economic instability, age discrimination has crept into the lives of working professionals as young as 40. These qualified candidates are finding their job search takes twice as long as their younger counterparts and they often have to settle for a salary decrease or a lower level position.

So, if you are over 40 and have been unexpectedly thrust into unemployment, how can you find success? Overcoming the barriers of age discrimination takes persistence, dedication, a positive attitude and employing this proven career success strategy.

Strategy: Develop An “Age Friendly” Resume

Your resume plays a vital role in your job search and is one of the primary tools potential employers will use to evaluate your qualifications. While you need to emphasize the breadth of your experience, as an older worker, you want to avoid including information that “ages” you. Here lies the proverbial “catch-22” because if you are targeting senior positions, you need to show an extensive career background, but too much information can make you appear outdated.

A.) Put Early Experience/Positions In Summary Paragraph Without Dates

EARLY CAREER: Commenced industry experience through positions in materials and inventory management for 84 Lumber Company. At pinnacle of early career, managed up to $8 million in materials and supervised staff of eight. Major achievement included the introduction of new shipping practice, which increased product delivery time 10% and simultaneously lowered shipping costs more than 25%.

Here’s another example.

EARLY MILITARY: Experience in technical positions requiring expertise and knowledge in systems engineering, broadband networking, and technology planning. Honorable discharge as Lieutenant Colonel from United States Air Force.

B.) Remove The Dates From Your Education Section

For degrees completed more than 20 years ago, remove all dates from the Education. Note: If you completed a college degree recently, (within 10 years) you can include the dates; if you have more than one degree completed at different periods of your life, you either exclude all the dates or include all of the dates for sake of consistency.

C.) Revise The Number Of Years Experience In Your Profile Summary

The following excerpts are from profile summaries for professionals with over 25 years work experience.

1. “Critical-thinking senior manager with true commitment and passion for programs that empower youth and families. Comprehensive leadership and managerial capabilities honed through 15-plus years’ experience in national education and social change organizations.”

2. “Offering 15-plus years’ executive-level leadership and program development expertise in a member-driven, non-profit organization.”

This technique allows you to let reader to know you are experienced without divulging what the “plus” represents.

D.) Bring Older Achievements To Forefront On Resume

If you have relevant career achievements that occurred earlier in your career, create a “Career Milestones” or “Career Achievements” section on the first page of your resume. The obvious benefit is you get to take credit for your past work without having to date the resume too far back. See example below:

CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS

Public Financing. Raised $50+ million from public investors for biotechnology company valued by aggressively marketing to investors nationwide.

Equity Research and Analysis. Devised and implemented financial models and valuation tools to assess biotechnology and healthcare companies.

Mergers and Acquisitions. Orchestrated successful merger of two start-up companies which maximized financial resources and secured lucrative partnership agreement with larger firm.

Cash/Debt Management. Sustained company operations during six-month period of declining cash resources and escalating debt which exceeding $5 million. Prevented imminent company failure by offering stock options and incentives to vendors and sourcing external financing.

E.) Include Volunteer, Community Outreach, And Extracurriculars

By showing you are active and have additional interests help to subtly diminish concerns about your vitality and energy level.

F.) Highlight Current Training And Technical Proficiency

As mentioned earlier, a common misconception about older workers is they are behind in their computer skills or lacking technical proficiency.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Abby Locke

Abby M. Locke is the founder of Premier Writing Solutions and Beyond Glass Ceilings. As a global résumé writer and brand expert, she has been quoted in various publications including Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and ABCnews.com.

5 comments

  1. Wonderful post about resume. It would also be great to have suggestions for 40 + on how to “cover up” age during interview questions.

  2. Patrick Perkins, CPC

    Age is a very sensitive subject. We must understand– The Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) clearly protects individuals who are 40 years of age and older from employment discrimination based on age. Applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
    I am 65 and own my own search firm, but as 30 year veteran to headhunting, I have experienced age issues for my candidates with companies of all sizes. A company, when they have an opening, for whatever reason, and decide to go outside, must have a very clear picture of what are the critical needs of skills and experience for the job in order to succeed. A job posing or description that says 7-15 years experience is illegal–cannot put the top years because it implies that anything over that is not qualified. Must leave it open ie 7+ years exp. At certain levels, age cannot matter due to the high level of specfic experience and skills needed. If the job description is shakey or poory written then the problem with maturity comes to play. Younger hiring managers, in most cases, have a problem with hiring an older subordinates. This is where the resume comes in—dates or no dates point out an older candidate. To hide does not work and the real point is why hide? It will be found out and then the problem starts. Why not be proud and passionate about your experience and use the successes to point out your ability to succeed. What do you bring to the company that can exceed expectations. Candidates with a lot of “runway” still have to gain and learn experiences in the job and this could take time which most companies don’t have the luxury to wait. Success breeds success and the best companies can separate the best, whether older, from the pack and deal with a more mature employee. Lastly, Human Resources along with the companies legal counsel must make all hiring managers understand that to discriminate due to age is illegal and could cost them their career and cost the company a lot of money in a lawsuit. As headhunters, we must not discriminate and to present to the company all qualified candidates no matter what race or age.

  3. Just an overall observation about the dates on the graduation. Employers want to know, they are going to ask.
    The problem is the resume may look “age-friendly”, but when you show up for the face-to-face it is game over.
    Another little trick that plays into the hands of the employer thanks to the US Federal government's Homeland Security department is when a company ask you to fly out for an interview and they arrange the trip, they are required to get your birthday!! Can you believe that??

    • I agree. Moreover, some companies (especially government agencies) ask you to fill out their application form, listing your date of birth and graduation date.

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