When I speak, it is the number one issue that every audience is concerned about.
When I was in my job search, nine years ago, I was too old to be a young person who would take a lower salary, and too young to be experienced enough. I was in the middle of two age discrimination points. I learned that no matter how good I thought I was, and how awesome my credentials and potential were, age was going to keep me out of opportunities.
In a job search seminar, the speaker said that the best way to address age discrimination in an interview was to address specific issues head on. Like: “Just so you know, I don’t need to be on the company health care plan because … ” Or, “Usually someone with my experience and accomplishments would make around $xx,xxx, but I am at a point in my career, and with my personal finances where I am looking for a job where I can really contribute to the company, and I am looking for compensation in the $yy,yyyy to $zz,zzz range” (where that range is lower than what the interviewer is assuming). I’m sure those phrases need finessing, but the speaker’s point was, instead of letting the interviewer ASSUME things, based on your age, address the issues head on and move on to more important things, like how you can excel at the role and bring value to the company.
This weekend I had an interesting dialog on the Execunet LinkedIn Group about what you can or can’t say to job seekers. At one point in the dialog this comment was made:
I’m not going to go into any of the conversation, but this line struck me as interesting. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say most guys don’t color their hair. So, when they are at “that age,” and in a job search, and the hair is going to give it away… doesn’t it make sense to color the hair?
So, this is not a blog post where I’m going to tell you what to do. I think YOU need to make your own decision. Here are two of my opinions, and then I want to hear what you think in the comments.
Jason Alba Opinion 1: Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you have always wanted to do it, or if you are doing it for reasons other than the impression during a job search. In other words, if you are doing it to hide your age, usually in preparation for an interview, then do not do it. I think it’s like when you look at someone’s LinkedIn Profile, then when you meet them they are twenty years older… there’s just something weird there.
Jason Alba Opinion 2: If you choose to color your hair, for whatever reason, have it done professionally. Especially if you’ve never done it before. It’s really easy to do this wrong, and have it look horrible.
So… that’s my opinion. I’m keeping it short because I want YOU to add your comments.
Last week I was doing a LinkedIn consultation with a professional who had taken time (a couple of years?) off to care for her father. She has had a fantastic, awesome career, but didn’t know how to explain her years off. She asked me how to explain this, and I reached out to career professionals in the Career Directors LinkedIn Group for advice. The experience these professionals have is broad and deep, which is why I like getting input from different professionals. Below is what I learned. I hope this can help you if you are in this situation:
Hi Jason – I would also use a sabbatical statement such as the ones Don provided. I also might just insert a statement such as:
“Took two-year leave to serve as caretaker for parent. Stayed current on industry trends and learning to remain fully prepared for next corporate challenge.”
Employers want to know that your knowledge is up-to-date as far as their needs, and that your skills aren’t rusty. There are plenty of free online courses to help even those very immersed in their caretaker roles.
Jason — I don’t think it requires a big explanation. I would either put “Family sabbatical,” “Personal Sabbatical” or “Professional Sabbatical” without adding anything else in either resume or cover letter. It just accounts for the time. And I only use years, not months/years.
There are millions and millions of Baby Boomers taking care of parents (myself included). And over the past several years I have worked with many people who have relocated, quit their jobs or took part-time work to handle what their parents need.
It is very common now and nothing your client should be nervous about. You never know that maybe the person reading would have given their eye teeth to be able to take time off work rather than feeling guilty that their job was keeping them from doing it..
I moved my mother with Alzheimer’s into assisted living in January. I was at part-time work until about the end of July because none of her affairs were in order. And I’m still dealing with two attorneys, etc. even though I’m close to full time work now. I would have had to quit a corporate job.
But in the first half of the year there was absolutely no way I could have been doing anything related to my work for keeping up with my industry or anything else. I was up to 3 am, 5 am and more trying to sell my mother’s home and everything else. I would not have been able to even think about online coursework because it frankly was not my top priority and I was exhausted.
And I wouldn’t include “fully resolved” because I think it then puts the reader in a slightly awkward position of assuming that mom or dad actually died.
Jason, I try to be as straightforward as possible, composing a quote based on the client’s circumstance. Also, I usually refer to it as a “professional leave” or “career break” because I feel the word “sabbatical” has some nuances that don’t necessarily apply to every situation.
I place the quote under the Professional Experience heading.
2012 to Oct. 2014: “I took a professional leave to attend to my terminally ill brother; following his passing, I engaged in a variety of professional development opportunities to maintain credentials and volunteer roles to keep abreast of industry trends.”
You get the gist. It may be wordy and it may be slightly shocking, but on the other hand, it leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. Plus, the dates will (ideally) be captured by ATS.
Thanks to Don, Mary, Irene and Christine for sharing their thoughts – if you have a different idea, please share it in the comments below!
Yesterday I shaved. It wasn’t a normal shave, it was an EPIC shave.
You see, for the first time in my life, I grew a beard. It was a five or six month beard. I’ve never gone longer than two weeks before.
But this time I did it for a youth educational simulation where I played a role, back in early June. And then, what the heck, I might as well save it for the youth simulation in early September, right?
I’m not really a beard guy. I won’t lie and say I “enjoyed it,” but it was for a good cause, and I could handle it for a few months.
Yesterday morning, less than 12 hours after we got home from our Saturday event where I played “wicked King Jason” with about 230 boys and over 200 adult volunteers, in a two-day training program, I shaved the whole thing. I shaved in stages, first with lamb chops and various styles of goatees, all the way down to a tiny ridiculous-looking mustache. My wife, a cosmetologist, helped me, and took pictures until she couldn’t hold the camera anymore (she was laughing/crying too hard to take a good picture by the end), made a very interesting comment:
“Stereotypes are really powerful!”
She said this around the time I had lamb chops and mustache that kind of dripped down my chin (imagine a goatee without the middle part). This has never been my style. My wife’s unspoken message was that I looked [ridiculous, scary, stupid, uneducated]… you fill in the blank here.
She knows me, and my heart. But that facial hair stuff gets in the way T the stereotypes that comes along with that style gets in the way of 20+ years of knowing one another.
There are things we choose to do that stereotype us – from our dress to our language to how we move our body. We don’t think it’s fair that people look at our ‘stache, and judge us for living how we want to live. Why don’t they just judge us by our hearts, intentions, and who we really are?
Are people really that shallow?
Yes. They are. We are. We all are.
We have all judged people by an outward appearance. It might be something that person chose, like their color coordination, or something they didn’t choose, like their skin color or accent.
But we judge. It isn’t right.
I wonder if it’s our fault for how we choose to express ourselves, or is it our fault for how we care so much about how others are, really, not like us?
Either way, discrimination is bad, wrong and ugly.
Last week I talked to a veteran. The call was exciting and rewarding, and I was again reminded why I give a year of premium to veterans at no cost.
I do this as a thank you.
I was reminded, during the call, of a call I had with a veteran a few years ago. When he understood that I was offering a year of JibberJobber premium as a “thank you,” he got quiet for a while, then expressed heartfelt gratitude. He said: “a lot of companies say they support the troops, and put a sticker or flag in their window, and that’s great. But what you are doing really, really helps us.”
I had goosebumps and found it hard to respond.
After our call I saw this neat story in the news about the race in San Jose where one runner (Erik Wittreich, a former Green Beret) went out of his way during the race to shake the hand of a veteran… a 95 year old veteran, who was cheering on the racers.
It was a touching story. But this part disturbed me (Bell is the 95 year old veteran):
I think it’s kind of sad that Bell didn’t feel like anyone recognized him. Maybe he humbly didn’t recognize the Nov 11, July 4, etc. holidays that recognized servicemen and servicewomen. I’m glad that he had that once-in-a-lifetime experience… what a choice opportunity.
Now let me tell you something special about all of this recognition stuff. I have been around military, in one way or another, since I was eleven. I know people that serve, their spouses, their kids, and even their grandkids. There is something I have learned, over the years, and recently as I talk to veterans who use JibberJobber.
Veterans, in general, do not feel entitled to handouts, help, etc. They do not feel like we (people, stores, companies, restaurants, the government) needs to give them everything. This is NOT about entitlement.
They do, however, want a chance to show who they are, and to be respected. Not respected because they are veterans necessarily, but respected as human beings.
How can we, you and me, give them that chance?
When you see special deals and offers for veterans, please do not think that it is an entitlement thing. What I’ve found is that they are sincerely gracious, but never expecting or demanding.
We can do our veterans a better service by giving them humane respect, and a chance.
I’ve been working with a young graphics artist to clean up JibberJobber. We’ve been working on “cleaning up” JibberJobber for the last almost-eight years, since we went live.
The problem we have at JibberJobber is the same problem I see on LinkedIn profiles, and company websites. It’s what I call distraction, or noise. I have said that every single word, even every character, either adds to or takes away from the message.
Can you imagine if Nike made a mistake and spelled their name Nikee on a few pieces of marketing material?
That would be a huge distraction. Of course, Nike is well-branded and we are going to forgive them. We already know who they are, and we trust them (to make shoes that are pretty good). They’ll probably get some awesome PR (like they really need it… not).
You, my friend, are probably NOT well-enough branded to get the same goodness that a spelling error like that gives to a company like that. I’m not well-enough branded, and neither is JibberJobber. Distractions and noise for regular people and small companies cause what I call friction.
Marketing friction causes discomfort, confusion and pain right away. The trust level plummets. The thought is “if they can’t spell a word right, can I trust them with my information, especially my credit card?” One little typo, or a grammar mistake, can cause this friction.
You’ve heard that your resume should have no spelling errors, right? Any little spelling error can make an OCD reviewer gag and want to switch careers. They can’t fathom anyone being so classless as to have an error on their resume. They take that one little error and disqualify you. The more OCD reviewers might disqualify you for life :p. Regular, kind and even forgiving people might not disqualify you right away. They might be able to read past a typo or two and understand what your career has been, and what they might get from you if they hire you.
I wouldn’t gamble my future on which type of reviewer is going to see my resume.
The resume error is one example of creating friction in our communication. Friction also comes from the way we look, the way we dress, our accent, our punctuality, our body language, the grammar or words we choose, etc. Friction can also come from anything the person we’re talking to might use to discriminate – race, age, religion, etc.
I’m not saying you have to become a vanilla, boring, mainstream person. What I’m saying is that mistakes in communication can be “the problem.”
I used to work with a software developer who is brilliant. He was the go-to guy that all of the other developers would get help from when they were stuck. He understood computer stuff, whether it was hardware, software, networking, PCs, servers, etc. like no one else I have known. But the guy couldn’t spell very well. If he didn’t have someone proof his resume I’m sure it would have ended up in the trash bin, because there would be multiple spelling errors.
Isn’t it sad that people can’t get past certain criteria to see the brilliance of who we are? It’s the world we live in.
Here is the take-away from this post: What can YOU do to decrease the friction you may be introducing in your communication with others?
There is a lot of buzz about how to get your resume through an ATS (aka: applicant tracking system). An ATS is to a recruiter what JibberJobber is to a job seeker. It is a tracking system.
Before I go on, if you don’t think you need JibberJobber to keep track of your job search, realize that HR and recruiters are using some kind of ATS or tracking system to keep track of you. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – get on JibberJobber!
In yesterday’s Ask The Expert call with The Recruiting Animal, Animal said he doesn’t use an ATS, and that is really something that internal recruiters are going to use. In other words, getting your resume through an ATS is not going to be an issue for ALL recruiters.
I saw this article on my local news website a while back. It tells a little about a keynote speaker, Leah Harris, at a conference of professionals that was sponsored by the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
The article is short and interesting. But this one paragraph JUMPED out at me:
I absolutely loved this. She has titles that easily categorize and group and define her: borderline, OCD, suicidal (or, having been suicidal). But her empowerment came when “she realized there was tremendous power in redefining herself as someone who had dreams and ambitions.”
I love, love, love this!
In 2008 I wrote a blog post titled I Lost More Than My Job 2 Years Ago, where I talk about losing my identity, which I had encapsulated in my little professional job title, printed on my business card.
Losing a job title makes you a nobody, kind of. At least, if you’ve been using a title to define yourself for many years, like Leah talks about, losing that title, or switching it to “unemployed,” can be very debilitating.
I tell people that I eventually lost hope, but one day I got my hope back. It was when I came up with the idea for JibberJobber. It was when I found dreams and ambitions!
When you lose sight of who you are because you listen to titles and stereotypes that try and define who you are (that’s profound, reread that), step back and REDEFINEYOURSELF as someone who has DREAMS and AMBITIONS!
This is so empowering! Please share this with someone who needs to hear it!
Last week I went to a writing conference to expand my skills as a writer. The conference was full of aspiring novel authors. I was easily twice the age of everyone else in the room. The first session (which was fabulous) was all about THE VILLAIN! What makes a good villain, what kinds of villains are there (there are a bunch!), how do villains act, how does the author resolve the villain, what is the purpose of the villain, etc.
As the instructor was talking about villains I began to wonder who the villains were in my job search. Who were the people, and what were the things, that kept me from getting out of my status as “unemployed.” I would love to know who YOU think your villains are… here were some of mine:
Myself. Not going to hide this one. I was not prepared for a real job search. I had been working and preparing to be a professional manager, strategist, technologist, not a networking, interviewing, job seeker. I treated my job search like a wound that should be healed instead of thinking about career management as a way of life for the future. I got in my way many times.
Job Boards. They stole time from me. I felt productive and felt like I was playing the numbers game. There is no numbers game. You don’t have to get through 1,000 applications to get a yes. You have to get the right info to the right people to get an interview.
Recruiters. All but one lied to me. They took my resume, smiled (or replied “thank you,”) and planned to do NOTHING with the resume. They didn’t tell me I shouldn’t even approach recruiters hoping they would find me a job. Finally, one recruiter said “you’ll find a job for yourself before I find a job for you.” And that helped me understand the role of recruiters in my job search, which was dramatically different than what I thought the role was.
HR. How can you make a list of job search villains without including HR? I find HR to be distracted, unempowered, unknowledgeable (especially with indepth job openings, like programmers), and not fun to talk to at all. They are gatekeepers and their job is to keep you out. Everyone, including HR professionals, tell you to AVOID HR in your job search.
Interviewers. I found interviewers to be highly unsophisticated (read: not trained in interviewing), or apathetic, or rude and pompous. The worst interview I had was buy an ex-microsoft guy who was working at a startup who acted like he owned the entire world. I needed the job, thought it would be great to get mentored under someone of his experience, but he led me on through various lies and finally emailed me that they had hired someone else (which was a lie). This guy was a creep and I was too wounded to know that I should have run away. Instead, I let it hurt me more and I went to a dark place for a while after that experience.
Alright, enough about my problems… WHO or WHAT are the villains in your job search today? And how will you resolve them?
Go read it. If age is your problem, read the post carefully.
Age discrimination is real. It is out there. BUT, someone who will discriminate based on age will also discriminate on other things, including height, weight, color, religion, race, number of teeth, how you smile, etc. You just can’t win with everyone.
Maybe you need to focus more on strategies and tactics, and mastering those, rather than blaming your age.
I know Tim and Dick and Nick and many other job seeker advocates would agree. Don’t throw in the towel and admit defeat because you are old (whether that is 40 or 60 or 70 or 80). Focus on what you CAN influence and change!