Looking for work after 40 is a real tricky bitch. Sorry, this is the best way to phrase it. If you have been out here job hunting recently, and if you’re anything like me, you are overwhelmed and frustrated with how impersonal the online-only application process is. And even after pecking your way through all of those online application pages, and bunch of confusing questions, you never hear ANYTHING from anyone, even for jobs that your background and experience is perfect for. So what happened? How does anyone get anywhere with this online recruitment process? How does anyone even get anyone to read their resume and actually talk to them about the possibility of a job?
I am a middle aged PR professional who has been job-hunting off and on for a few years hoping to land the perfect executive-level PR position in the New York City area. It’s tough out here. The jobs often go to younger candidates and I try not to be discouraged. Someone must need a seasoned PR professional. (Oh, and just for kicks, check out a show in TV Land called “Younger.” You may get some ideas.)
But let me just start out here by saying, I do have freelance work, so when my frustration with millennials, recruiters, HR people and online applications gets the best of me, I just say: “forget it. I’m better off freelancing!” And then I focus on getting more freelance work. Then, at the first sign of a late client payment, I’m back to “Freelancing sucks,” and I whip out my job hunting file again and reload my indeed and LinkedIn phone apps.
So, I’m sort of a yo-yo job hunter. And, since I haven’t landed a job yet, maybe I’m not even a person you should take advice from. It’s kind of like taking dating advice from a single serial dater. But here it is anyway. This is what I have discovered, noticed and realized about the job hunting process.
1. Update your skills. Don’t be the old lady who knows nothing about technology and can’t even confirm a meeting sent using a Microsoft outlook calendar program. Read up. Take classes. See what your local library offers. Get a smartphone if you don’t have one, upload LinkedIn, indeed and glass door apps for job hunting. Program the settings so that the apps notify you when jobs are posted that meet your criteria. Have you nephews, niece, grandchildren show you how to use your smartphone calendar programs, skype or facetime incase a recruiter wants to use these programs to meet with you. Or make an appointment at the Apple store, Samsung store or your phone service provider’s store to have someone walk you through those features, like how to use the calendars, reminders, notes and answer email on your phone so you don’t miss anything. Learn Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint if you don’t already know them. Find out what software is used in your industry and find a tutorial on YouTube on the basics of its use or take a class.
2. Yes. You do need to be on Linkedin.com. This is the network recruiters are on. And yes, you should be on Facebook and even twitter. Don’t be the old lady that can’t figure out LinkedIn, is afraid of the process and therefore missing out on these great opportunities to connect with recruiters as well as network with people.. Someone from one of your old jobs may be looking for you. They may want to see if you are still in the business. They may have work for you. Facebook and LinkedIn are the places they will find you. Also, while looking for work, watch what you are saying on social media. Potential employers are watching.
3. Have a professional-looking completely filled out LinkedIn page with a professional looking photo. It can be a selfie, just make sure it’s professional. No. You shouldn’t making those duck lips. No sunglasses. And no bathing suits (unless you a fitness professional) or other revealing clothing. You should also be looking at the camera and smile! Don’t look like a serial killer. Look like someone people want to interact with. Smile. You’ll look younger and we won’t see those droopy jowls!
4. Yes. You must have a photo on LinkedIn. Having a LinkedIn profile without a photo is just creepy. It says to recruiters: 1. Is this person hiding something? Or 2. Does this person not know how to upload a photo? Then you’ll be painted as the old lady who can’t figure out their way around technology.
5. Do tweak your resume for each job you are applying for. It takes a lot of time to do this, but this is the number one reason that I get interviews – I may not get the job, but I get interviews. You must tailor each resume to the job you are applying for for several reasons. One is that you want to appear to be the best-suited person for the position so a cookie cutter resume isn’t going to cut it. If you are applying online, your resume must include the keywords that you see in the posting. For example, if the posting says they are looking for a “media relations specialist with experience in entertainment marketing,” if you have this experience, those are the words you should be using in your resume. Your resume shouldn’t say you are a ‘communications professional with music marketing experience.” Use their words. Why? Because resumes are often scanned by computer systems called Applicant Tracking Systems. The resumes with the most key words, get to the recruiters desk. And that’s where you want to be. Try a program called Jobscan.com. It will give you an idea how the ATS’s work.
6. You DO need to do a cover letter when you are filling out an online application. Don’t skip this part. Here is another chance to use more key words and show them you can put together some decent sentences.
7. Leave off your old summer jobs. Don’t have jobs on your resume or LinkedIn profile or online application that go back to 1981. Why? Take those off. You are telling you age! We don’t need to know that you were a waiter at Applebee’s in 1981 if you are not looking for a job in the restaurant industry. And, a lot of recruiters are in their late 20’s and 30’s. They were born after 1981! Ageism is alive in well in the world. I have read that you should go back as far as 2000. 16 years is long enough, but, use your judgement. If the position is looking for someone with 20 years’ experience, then send them a resume with 20 years’ experience but otherwise ….leave it off. Or if you feel its sooooo important to mention a certain company, you can name them in an “Early Experience” section on LinkedIn page or on your resume, leaving out the years, or you can mention it in your cover letter (another reason to do a cover letter).
8. You don’t have to put down the year you graduated from college OR high school on your resume OR on your LinkedIn profile. These also tell your age! Most online applications don’t require you to put the year you graduated. Check and see if they are requiring you to put a date. If they aren’t requiring it, don’t’ put it down.
9. Do some research on the companies you want to work for and always watch their job posting sites for opportunities that fit your background. Use LinkedIn and find the names of the recruiters and HR people there. If you see a job that you are qualified for, send them an email directly with a cover letter indicating the job title and job # that you are interested in, why you are qualified, and ask for their help in getting your resume into the right hands. If you don’t hear back from them. Give them a follow up call. Sound professional, pronounce there name correctly and tell them you are following up on your email for job (title), job #. Have your resume in front of you in case they decide to ask you a few questions about your background. If you get voicemail, great. Leave a message saying you are following up on your email, indicate the job title and job # and tell them you will resend your email. Then resend it, with a friendly not saying that you just left you a voice mail.
10. Don’t take it personal. Don’t take it personal when you don’t hear anything back or when you do hear back and it’s a “We are moving forward with candidates that more closely fit our needs.” This means just that. It’s doesn’t mean you weren’t great. It just means they liked someone else better. There’s nothing wrong with you! It also means that job wasn’t for you! Don’t be discouraged. That job that’s for you is for you.
Written by Donna Torrence