Ask the Coach #3: I’m 57, need another 10 years, how do I prepare and what do I do?

August 25th, 2017

Okay, that is a feeble attempt at the real question, which is excellent.  David asks the coaches:

How do I best position myself for the last 10 years or so of my working life? I’m 56 in software product management and financially would like to work full-time if possible until at least 67 if my health holds.

I’ve been with my current company for 6 years now and like the work, but recognize there is a real risk that I will be cut in budget cycles in the coming years. Job search at around 60 is not something I’m excited about.

Should I be pushing myself into independent contracting on the side now (I’ve done this in the past – cost of sales is a real challenge) or are there areas of technology that make sense for older workers? (e.g. security, audit)

I don’t have the ability to reduce my expenses significantly. I have some retirement set aside, but not enough to retire early. I stay current with technology (cloud, mobile, etc.), but recognize there is a bias against older technology workers unless you’re a Cobol programmer….

This is a great, wise, and even scary question. But it’s real, and many people are facing it. I was anxious to see what my coaches would send back, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Here are the responses I received:


atc_3_headshot_jeri_hird_dutcher_125Jeri Hird Dutcher, Certified professional and international resume writer

Positioning yourself for the last 10 years of your career means making yourself as indispensable as possible​. What is your superpower? What do you do better than anyone? Is there a task or project no one else wants to do that is valuable to the company AND involves your superpower? Can you become the SME for one or more issues? Can you make yourself the go-to-guy for certain types of technology, specific problems, or training? Those activities will augment your value to the company and brand you as the guy everyone thinks of to solve a certain problem.

As an older worker, you can do a few things to work against the stereotypes you mentioned:

  • Be a maven: Do you have the newest smartphone, a fun wearable, or a new VR device? You’re in a technical field. Get out ahead of the pack. My husband and I were the oldest employees at the last place we worked. We were also the first to have mp3 players and cell phones back then. Our boss asked his team at a meeting why our basement had better computer equipment than his newsroom. We were known as the gadget people, and others looked to us for technical trends.
  • Look the part: You don’t have to dye your hair, wear the latest trends, or get a facelift, but you can make sure you aren’t stuck in another era when it comes to your dress and grooming.
  • Energy: Are you doing what you need to do to maintain the energy required for your position? The surest way to be perceived as old is to act like it. However, if you’re running marathons, kayaking the river, or even flying kites with your grandkids, you can turn that perception around.

atc_3_headshot_saundra_loffredo_125Saundra Loffredo, Career to Retirement Coach

Greetings, David! Your question has several parts to it. I’ll address each one separately:

Start by being positive. Don’t focus on whatever bias may or may not exist for older workers. You have a unique set of strengths and you need to capitalize on those. Perhaps it’s your work ethic, your ability to train 100 people effectively on a webinar and your knowledge of database management. Whatever makes you unique and valuable to an organization should be where you place your focus.

To position yourself for the next 10 years of your career, I suggest you seriously consider starting a part-time consulting business. At minimum, it should provide you with an additional income stream which you can funnel into either emergency savings (for a possible term of unemployment) or toward retirement. Part-time consulting could also be your back-up income source if you do end up out of work.

Be sure to consider the cost to market your services as part of your decision-making process.

It’s important today to be “job search ready” on a consistent basis. Begin to schedule and work on specific career tasks now. Analyze your value proposition.. Update your LinkedIn profile to leverage that value proposition. Request new recommendations on LinkedIn. Update your resume. Join one or two professional associations where you can network within your field and in your community. Stay active and engaged in social situations where you might meet make a strong networking connection.

If you decide to transition to a different specialty within information technology, be careful about the potential entry costs for that field. Taking on additional debt to make a career change is something I suggest you evaluate carefully. The payback may not be there for you if you opt to return to school.


atc_3_headshot_melvin_scales_125Melvin Scales, Senior Vice President, Meridian Resources

Here are some thoughts based on an article by Anish Majumda titled How to Make a Long Work History Work for You

Trying to play the same game as someone who’s twenty years younger than you is a recipe for failure. Instead, play the game they can’t.

Ask yourself the following, “What have I accrued during the course of my career that few others can bring to the table?”

What about that deep “bench” of industry connections which can be leveraged towards a new position?

What about the insights that come from having grown both start-ups in need of structure, AS WELL as established operations in need of a steady hand?

Or successfully riding out all manner of crises over the years, and being the calm voice of reason when things inevitably go south in the future?

Think about specific stories that highlight your value adds, and be sure to highlight them within your Resume, LinkedIn Profile and during face-to-face interviews. They can make a huge difference!


atc_3_headshot_craig_toadtman_125Craig B Toedtman, Job Search Consultant, Career Adviser, Coach, Executive Search Consultant

If you continue to like your current position, it is in your best interest to do all that you can to make it last for another ten years. You are successfully employed, and, if you keep your programming skills up with current technology, it is my opinion that you’re better off staying where you are. Improving your skills to stand out against the competition will ensure that your age will not stand in the way of your employment.

Pursue classes and workshops that will keep you abreast of technological changes, and put them to use as you help your employer maintain its competitive and efficient operations. Go the extra mile to demonstrate that you are the go-to person for problem solving. Make certain that you continue to develop your programming knowledge and techniques, so that a major vacuum will be created in the event they consider letting you go. Keep your sharpness and curiosity in full gear to demonstrate the importance of you as a team-oriented pier.

And, if they do sever you from their employ, your demonstrated use of up-to-date technology will put you in line for future employment for a company that recognizes that when it comes to selecting candidates, skills outweigh age.


atc_3_headshot_lorraine_rise_125Lorraine RiseCareer Coach, Resume Writer and Columnist for Workforce50.com

This is a common concern for job seekers over the age of 50. You’re not a newcomer, but you’re not out of the game yet either! If consulting work appeals to you, that is certainly an option but many older job seekers continue to have meaningful employment well into their 60s. The area that will make the most sense for you to pursue is the one that you feel your skills are the strongest in. No matter how old you are, if you can demonstrate that you have relevant skills (especially in technical fields), you’ll have job prospects. Are there certifications you can pursue? Courses you can take? As you progress through the late career phase, demonstrating adaptability and up to date technical knowledge will be crucial!

Additionally, you’ll need to keep your network strong. Actively make new connections and nurture current ones while you are still employed and have the luxury of time. The ability to obtain a referral can make the difference for an older job seeker being chosen for a position.

Lastly, when you are interviewing be sure to emphasize to potential employers that you are committed to working 10 more years and you are excited about your next challenge. Lack of energy and enthusiasm are another bias that older workers face. The more you can get ahead of the conversation and demonstrate those qualities upfront, the better your prospects.


atc_3_cheryl_lynch_simpson_125Cheryl Lynch Simpson, Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach & Master Resume Writer

First, David, allow me to to applaud your willingness to see the handwriting on the wall. Your proactive stance will help you make your upcoming transition a good one.

Second, how you should best position yourself for the last 10 years of your working life depends on what you want from the rest of your working life. It sounds like you need the same or a higher salary, but what about challenges? Are there specific career goals you still want to achieve? Do you have specific skill sets you wish to make more use of? What about your career values — how do they factor into your vision for the rest of your working life? And what about your personal life — do you have any family goals that will impact your career decision-making over the next 10 years or so?

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about here. You may find it enormously helpful to speak with a career coach who can help you to sift through your preferences in an objective way.

Third, before you engage in any job search or networking activity, make sure you age-proof your resume AND your LinkedIn profile. By age-proof, I mean altering the amount of experience and specific dates included in either document so you can prevent Applicant Tracking Systems (of which LinkedIn is one) from screening you out based on the length of your experience. In short, you should:

  • Remove pre-2000 employment dates from your resume. You don’t have to remove the employment itself, but the dates must go. Do this by creating an “Early Career” section and listing your older jobs minus the dates.
  • Remove any education, training, or certification dates from your resume unless they fall in the last few years.
  • Removed any mention of the amount of experience you possess from your resume’s summary.

Why is this necessary? Because sometimes hiring executives are looking for a candidate with a specific amount of experience. When this happens, recruiters will use language like “12-15 years of experience” in their job postings and search queries. This, in turn, means that the computer (or the LinkedIn computer) will examine resumes/profiles for this amount of experience (among other features) and exclude any candidates with more or less.

For example, if the hiring executive wants a mid-manager with 12-15 years of experience, the ATS system or LinkedIn will ignore resumes or profiles with anything other than 12, 13, 14, or 15 years of experience. Given the length of your work history, this is likely to happen to you. Thus, in addition to the above recommendations, you should also:

  • Remove all education, training, or certification dates from your LinkedIn profile
  • Restructure how you present your experience on LinkedIn — do not list jobs prior to 2000
  • If you have older jobs that should be included based on your qualifications, consider listing then in the description of the last job you include

For example, if you worked at AT&T from 2000-2005, but also worked at Colgate-Palmolive from 1990-2000, instead of the listing the latter separately, include something like this in your AT&T description. After describing that role, drop down a couple of spaces and insert this:

ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE:
Title — Colgate-Palmolive
Brief description of your achievements here.

Alternatively, you can also reference older experience in your LinkedIn summary to make sure it’s visible without dates.

Fourth, as to whether you dive into consulting, it depends on the same factors listed above. Do you have the financial solidity to go without revenue every month? Do you have an exceptional network you can leverage to win new business? Are you skilled at the sales facets of a consulting role? Are there specific strategies you can use to lower your cost of sales? Will improved networking tools such as a marketing brief make it easier for you to land new business? Do you already know how to employ LinkedIn and other social media to build a reputation for thought leadership in your field?

I hope I’ve given you some things to think about.


atc_3_headshot_rich_grant_125Rich Grant, Online career course instructor for Peak-Careers

I’d recommend staying where you are, but yes, take on independent contracting on the side. While it’s a good idea to plan for any “what ifs” regarding your current job, I wouldn’t suggest making any changes based on speculation that the “what ifs” will come true. A couple of clichés come to mind: “don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” as you might find yourself “going from the frying pan into the fire.”

It is absolutely a challenge to find a job at age 60, but it’s almost as difficult at your current age, or even at age 50. However, with your fresh skills and knowledge, and a supportive network, it can be done!

I found a new job in my late 50s, and here are the proactive steps I took. You might consider applying similar actions to your unique situation now, to benefit you if needed in the future.

Blog. Whether you create your own blog website or post articles on LinkedIn, get your ideas out into the public domain and show your subject matter expertise. I wrote career advice on my own site, and it was beneficial in my job search.

Be active in your industry. Participate in industry associations, and seek leadership positions. At the time of my last job search, I was the president of two career services and internship associations, and I had volunteered on a couple of committees of the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers. It’s a great way to build your network!

Interact with your network. It’s one thing to build your network, but the bigger challenge is maintaining your network. The occasional email, tweet, LinkedIn message, comment, or “like” goes a long way, but better yet, pick up the phone. Every time I saw a job posted at a university, and if I had a first or second degree connection there, I reached out to have a conversation on the phone.

Be active on social media. I used LinkedIn all the time to research where I was planning to apply to see who was in my network (1st or 2nd degree). During my last job search, I participated in a lot of Twitter chats, and on a career services chat, #CareerServChat, I exchanged tweets with a career services director who would soon become my boss.

As a result of that interaction during the chat and in the days following, I applied for her job opening and had a job offer within 6 weeks. Since then, my best career advice has been, “Don’t search for jobs; search for people.”


atc_3_headshot_perry_newman_125Perry Newman, Certified Social Media Strategist, Certified Personnel Consultant, Resume Writer, and LinkedIn Transformation Specialist

David, without knowing your prior tech background, it is hard for me to say what areas of technology you may be capable of moving into down the road, and whether you would qualify for a good paying job in these roles.

That said, my experience shows that IT people who work in and around the periphery of the sales process, such as your current role as a product manager and roles in pre and post sales engineering, tend to have a better chance of avoiding budget cuts since they are part of the profit generation process.

As for independent contracting on the side, that is always worth exploring. What I have seen from some in the 50+ crowd is several professionals, often with some being younger, combining forces to seek out team oriented rather than individual contributor type projects and assignments. They are likely to be longer lasting, higher paying and have a greater chance for repeat business. This is a project you can spearhead on your own.


atc_3_headshot_ron_auerbach_125Ron Auerbach, Author of Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success

First of all, it is only natural to grow worried about our financial future as we age. And wonder how much longer we can perform our jobs or at what point we’ll be let go. So David is not alone with his questions. It’s something each generation will ask when they reach their 50s.

So what can David do? Well one thing is take an honest assessment of his physical and mental health right now to see what kind of shape he is in. And look at his family history to see what kinds of serious illnesses tend to run in the family. This way, he will have an idea what potential health issues he may be at risk for.  David should also look at what aspects of his job may become too physically and/or mentally challenging. Maybe certain parts of his job could be farmed out to others. Or he could rely upon the assistance of younger people to help out. Many are glad to do it!

Another thing David can do is look at other jobs within the company that he would be able to do. And when, and if the time comes, take a proactive step of requesting to be moved into that role. There are many areas of tech were older people in their 50s can still be of value. For example, software and product testing. With an aging population, there are more and more products and apps designed to help them. Somebody who’s very tech-literate and knowledgeable, and in this age group, would be extremely valuable for testing and evaluation.

Another possible area within tech that David might consider is tech support (helpdesk). In the past, these jobs were solely in the office. But these days, a lot of it is being done remotely. And the physical demands here are pretty minimal. Plus, having been on the sales end helps because you understand why customers purchased it. And know the importance of providing great service and follow-up. So with sales being on the front-end and tech support being on the back-end, they complement each other perfectly.

Doing side work as an independent consultant or contractor is another option. And with David’s having done this before, it will be easier for him because he has experience and past clients. So this is always something that could be done at any time. And something that could be used in conjunction with other strategies. In addition, being older is a good thing! So people in their 50s and 60s have been around. And have tremendous expertise that lots of clients will be very happy to pay for. Plus, they’ll have younger people to do a lot of the physically-demanding work. So the contractor/consultant route has a lot of advantages.

The last thing I will mention is David’s possible move into training and/or mentoring. These are areas where being older is a good thing. Having greater wisdom and experience lead to better educating and mentoring the younger crowd. And having them learn from those who’ve been there for a long time. And with remote connections, like Skype for instance, people in their 50s and 60s can more easily handle the physical and mental demands.

So David should take comfort in knowing that there’s a place for older people in tech and other industries. And know there are several options available to him. It’s also good that he’s looking ahead. A big mistake is not planning ahead!  David should keep a close eye on what’s happening within his company and the tech sector. And use this to help plan his strategy and prove his continuing value. So keeping up with the industry is very important. First, it keeps your mind very active. And second, it helps you identify where things are heading so you can capitalize and seize opportunities.


atc_3_headshot_elvabankinsbaxter_125Elva Bankins Baxter, Certified Master Coach

Hi David, first,  Congratulations to you for thinking ahead about your next career moves. You are correct in your thinking that you may be laid off, downsized, terminated especially at this age and, you want to prepare yourself for what may happen to you in the near future.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Absolutely consider part-time consulting or project/contract assignments and get connected to recruiters who recruit people with your experience and qualifications to learn more.  You will quickly learn the hiring trends i.e., 1099’s, part-time W-2 with or without benefits and which positions are “in-demand” in your field.
  • Consider achieving or increasing your credentials and get the necessary certifications that will keep you a “sought after” candidate.  So, if a Project Management Professional (PMP) is appropriate for your software product management expertise…Go for it!
  • Research whether your current employer will pay or reimburse you if you obtain additional certifications…Attaining additional certifications indicates to decision-makers that you are a life-long learner and that you’ve kept yourself up-to-date in your field.
  • Your resume can be updated with any certification or credential as you begin the process of earning it.  Simply state that you are in the process of completing your credential and the target date for completion.  If you need to keep a credential up-to-date because it expired, then bring it up to date as soon as possible.
  • If there is a way to get involved in any security and audit projects at your company, now is the time to volunteer to get involved with any of those projects…by the way, you can get certifications in these areas as well.
  • Stay as healthy as possible, exercise regularly and get fit and stay as fit as possible.  Fight the urge to become a couch potato.
  • My last piece of advice: Don’t listen to those who will tell you that it’s over after age 55+.  I recently coached two clients who are well over 50 and they landed in full-time positions that paid very well and yes in the summer months. It’s not easy, however, it can be done.

Good luck to you!!!


atc_3_headshot_gavan_ambrosini_125Gavan Ambrosini, Executive Coach, Career Consultant

Good for you for taking proactive steps into planning this next phase of your career.  Positioning yourself as an independent contractor is an excellent way to prepare for the unexpected.  You might even find that you enjoy project work more than your full-time gig and you can make the transition easily.

As for thinking about what areas of technology to focus on, it might be wise to explore trends you speak of as well as in AI and to explore how that will affect how we all live and work.  Your skills and experience can always transfer into something else that is in demand no matter what age you are.  The only thing between you and your age is your mindset. If you think your age is getting in the way to opportunities, then you are right.  If you think that you will be hired because of your skills and experience and value, then you are also right.  The key to getting hired is to position yourself in front of the right people and the right environment where people like, know and trust you.  Branding yourself as a consultant or a contractor is a great way to offer your expertise while giving you the flexibility to pick and choose the jobs that you want to do, not have to do.

I might also suggest you take this time to explore what you really want to do if money were no object instead of “shoulding” all over yourself. What are your values?  What gets you jazzed about the work that you do?  What are you naturally good at?  You can do an inventory on what your strengths are and preferences are and design an ideal job around what you love to do and what you are naturally good at. You could look at this next potential chapter as heading into your encore career.  Perhaps this is the time to do what you really want to do instead of what you have been doing because of the paycheck.  Now might be the time to learn and grow into this new arena, to expand your network and to get some needed education, experience or contacts.  You can move into a whole new direction that aligns with who you are–and not necessarily with what the market trends are.


Another great roundup!  You can see previous questions and answers here.

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Planned Surgery Without Obamacare

February 1st, 2017

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I broke my ankle on the 2nd of January. I thought it was sprained so I put off having it checked for two full weeks.  My bad.

I didn’t want to go to an urgent care only to spend a couple hundred bucks to tell me it was sprained, and to just R.I.C.E.  So I just did R.I.C.E. at home, for free.

But then, after two weeks, it was time. It wasn’t getting better at all.  The pain and symptoms were too much, so I may have conceded to defeat, shed a tear or two, and got packed into the van to go to an urgent care.

I’m not here to give you any medical advice, but I want to share things I’ve learned in this latest medical “crisis.”  I have found information very difficult to find, and I believe that no matter what your insurance is, it’s powerful to be informed.

One of my biggest fears/annoyances is paying for a doctor only to have them refer you to someone else.  And that’s exactly what happened. I went to the urgent care where they took xrays. The nurse who took care of me 80% of the time (the other 20% was a P.A.) said “do you want to see the xrays?”  Of course we (my wife was with me) did.  “See that?  That’s obviously a break.”  Ugh… it didn’t look very small :(  “Let’s go talk to the P.A.”

The P.A. basically said “you have to talk to an orthopedic doctor.  We have one in our network…”

That cost $119.

45 minutes later we were checking into another urgent care to meet with the ortho.  He basically said “You have to have surgery.  If it were 2 millimeters separated I like to avoid surgery, but you are almost 10 millimeters.”  I asked “how much do you think this will set me back?” He responded “I don’t know, but I’m guessing between $7,000 and $12,000.”  He gave us a few surgeon referrals to call.

My goodness.

Because we didn’t have the first urgent care put a splint on (because they said we would just have to do xrays at the next place, and I thought they’d just do it there), they charged us an extra $80 to make a splint.  That was a bad choice on our part.

That cost $119 for the ortho to get surgery and $80 to make a splint (that would have been included in the first urgent care trip).

I spent a couple of days calling surgeon offices… that was not fun at all.  But one office stood out, night and day, from the others.  The office staff sold me on using their surgeon, not because they were in sales mode, but because they were very nice (even after knowing I was self-pay, or “pay in cash, before the service”). Learn more about those phone calls, and what I learned for job seekers, here.

On that Tuesday I had made an appointment for the following Monday (which was the earliest they could get me in), and possibly surgery that afternoon, but then I got a call asking if I could come in on Thursday. I was elated to get in earlier.

With the 20% self-pay discount, that appointment cost $200.

The purpose of this post isn’t to be a surgery-log… I want to give you an idea of how I got to a surgeon I liked, and how much it cost.  So far we are up to about $520… just to get referred to the right person, and for him to say “okay, I’ll cut you.” Aside from a splint, so far there’s be no medical care (but hey, the xray and diagnostics is worth something).

$520.

In my experience, a surgery will generate at least three bills: the surgeon, the hospital (or surgery center), and the anesthesiologist.  What do you figure each of those cost?

Four years ago I had emergency gall bladder surgery.  I went into the emergency room at 2:30 am and had surgery a few hours later.  No shopping around.  I was pretty much doped up from 3am until I came out of my anesthetics, with some big nurse over me telling me to “BREATHE!!”

I wrote about the costs here… can you believe that the surgeon, after his 50% off cash pay discount, cost only about $800?  The guy in charge, the guy calling the shots, the guy doing the cutting and repairing… $800.  That seems awfully low to me, especially when the total cost of surgery and ER was over $20,000.  The surgeon’s got less than 5% of the total payments.

Well, here’s how ankle repair surgery came out, for me.  Mind you, this was a “pretty simple” surgery, with two screws and no plates.

Surgery center: $1,305 (after a 75% discount!!)

Surgeon’s office: about $1,400 (I can’t find the exact number, but it was after a 40% discount)

Anesthesiologist: $600 (apparently this was only a discount of $40. I’ve never gotten a good discount from the anesthesiologist)

90 days followup visits with the surgeon are included, although I’ll have to pay for xrays and extras. And I’ll have to have physical therapy, which I’m hoping isn’t more than $500.  Altogether, this misplaced kick-resulting-in-broken-ankle is costing a little less than $3,000.

Not fun, but definitely better than the guess of $7,000 to $12,000.

How might you get an expensive medical procedure for such a low (or “reasonable,” or “affordable”) cost?

  1. You shop around. Let them know you are self-pay and ask if they have a discount.  Don’t argue, just ask. You aren’t negotiating, you are simply gathering information.
  2. Don’t go to a hospital for a planned surgery (if you can help it).  Check out “surgery centers” in your area. This is a MUST READ regarding surgery centers.

Now here’s the interesting thing: After the first frustrating day of calling surgeons the doctor recommended, I called the surgery center and asked them who they work with, or recommend.  That was my short list for calling the second day.

I’m not saying that not having insurance is awesome.  Not at all.  But for those of you who can’t get insurance, you need to know that not all hope is lost.

Oh yeah, for those of you wanting to do the math… assuming I paid $1,000 a month in insurance, with a $10,000 deductible, I still would have had to pay for this entire surgery out of pocket.  Just saying.

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Myths and Realities of Old Person Job Search #AgeDiscrimination

December 15th, 2016

My good friend Norm from NYC sent me this Wall Street Journal article titled Five Myths About Landing a Good Job Later in Life. The author, Anne Tergersen, “writes about retirement” for the WSJ.

It’s a pretty optimistic, encouraging, happy article.  The five myths, which she busts, are:

Myth 1: I’m not going to find a good job.

Myth 2: You can’t take time off, or you’ll never get back into the workforce

Myth 3: I’m not going to make as big of a contribution as I did in the past.

Myth 4: The only type of work available to older applicants is part time.

Myth 5: The chance to be an entrepreneur has passed me by.

It is encouraging to read her article, and see the stats she presents to prove that those are all myths. The hope is abundant.

That is… until you read the comments.  The 125+ comments tell a different story. The story from the trenches is that age discrimination is alive and well.

I’ve been going over some of my old Ask The Expert interviews and age discrimination has come up. I’m a firm believer that it exists.  Recruiters and career coaches caution you to not let age discrimination become THE excuse for you not finding a job.

I agree that we shouldn’t fixate on age… I’ve seen the results of fixating like that.  EVERYTHING happens wrong because “I’m too old, no one wants to hire someone my age.”

Depression sets in, you lose any speck of confidence you used to have, and you know have a convenient scapegoat for all of your job search failures.

I have seen it. I have even had my own scapegoats.  It is a waste of time and energy.

I’m not saying it’s not real. What I’m suggesting is to not let it (your age) be the excuse for not making progress.

When your age becomes your brand, you have a branding problem. And, as CEO of Me, Inc… as VP of Marketing for Me, Inc, you have a task: to rebrand yourself.

Instead of being “that old guy/gal,” you need to be “the person with expertise that we haven’t seen, but we need!”

Instead of being the person who is “too expensive,” you need to be the person they “need to hire, and it’s a bargain to get you.”

Think of the old adage: turn your (perceived) weaknesses into (perceived) strengths.

I know, I know, this is much easier said than done. But I’ll tell you, you aren’t the only one with a problem in your job search. Be creative, be purposeful, be strategic, be smart, and attack the problem head on.  The goal is to get your next great job, not to try to change how discrimination works.

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Age Discrimination: Old is Obsolete

August 14th, 2015

Age discrimination. I hate it.

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.

What do you think?  Is that too brash?

Here’s a BlueSteps article that includes a bunch of phrases you can use to communicate, or at least rethink, the value you bring, when you might otherwise be focusing on your age: Brains, Brawn and Bravado: Employing Your Endurance and Experience to Overcome Ageism

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Should You Dye Your Hair Black, and Other Discrimination Issues #JobSearch

November 10th, 2014

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:

“…on one hand, everybody’s peddled the mantra of constant personal upgrade and new ever evolving skills, to fit the market requirements. You know, physically as well. Those people dye hair, trying to look younger.”

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.

So, what do you think?

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How to Explain a Sabbatical If You Were Taking Care of an Ailing Parent or Loved One

October 16th, 2014

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:

don_goodman_headshotDon Goodman, Certified Resume Writer, GotTheJob.com, and reseller of my video course: LinkedIn for Job Seekers

I would say,

Sabbatical (Date) – Attended to urgent family matters now fully resolved,

or

Sabbatical (Date) – Attended to needs of ailing parent now fully resolved,

It is perfectly OK to help family members in need and all the employer needs to know is that it is completed.

mary_schumacher_headshotMary Schumacher, Writer and Coach, CareerFrames.com 

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.

irene_marshall_headshotIrene Marshall, Executive Resume Writer and LinkedIn Profile Writer, ToolsForTransition.com

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.

christine_robinson_headshotChristine Robinson, CPRW, ChristineRobinsonCPRW.com

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!

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I Judge Based On Your Appearance

September 8th, 2014

jason_alba_beardYesterday 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.

So where do we go from here?

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JibberJobber for veterans: why?

March 10th, 2014

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.

erik-wittreich-veteran

It was a touching story.  But this part disturbed me (Bell is the 95 year old veteran):

“They showed a lot of love to me, and they recognized me,” Bell told ABC News. “I liked that.”

Bell was a former Army corporal who trained paratroopers all over the world for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that preceded the CIA.

“I never got recognition in my life,” he told Sulek on Tuesday. “I was a jumper in the OSS. That’s all.”

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.

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Friction and Communication in the Job Search

January 7th, 2014

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?

 

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Understanding the ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems)

November 7th, 2013

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!

So here’s a great article on ATS systems: Ensuring Your Résumé Avoids Applicant Tracking System Pitfalls

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.

Check out Arnie’s article:)

 

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