Guest Blog – Beating the Gray Ceiling: Tips for Getting Hired at 50+

I don’t remember where I heard or read this story, but it sets the stage for this blog.  It seems that a man was going to see a career coach about his difficulty finding a job.  He was over 50 and felt the gray ceiling hovering over him.  As the man sat down in a chair, he groaned audibly and grimaced.   No sooner had the man sat down, the career coach told the man to go home and don’t come back until he could sit in a chair without groaning.

The man left and returned a few weeks later, this time he sat down in the chair without a sound or grimace.  Now they could work on his job search strategy.   He had removed the biggest deterrent from getting hired; acting his age.
If you are over 50 and are looking for a job but feel like your age is working against you, you‘re not alone.  There is a subtle or not so subtle gray ceiling that prevents you from getting hired.  You experienced the gray ceiling if you have been told you are “overqualified” or not the “right fit”.  Those two terms are used to inform a candidate they didn’t get hired.  Both are vague and in this litigious time can’t be quantified. 

If you are discriminated against by a company for your age, do you truly want to fight it?  Even if you could fight it successfully, the company culture would be hostile toward you. Rather than go through that and then find yourself in a job search with a stigma against you, concentrate on companies that welcome older workers.  Every year AARPpublishes a list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50.   
Here are five tips will help you compete in today’s job market.

Network – it is the most effective way to a new job.  Regardless of your age, networking is responsible for over 80% of all obtained jobs.  Network with friends, relatives, former colleagues, former managers, customers, suppliers, competitors, and people you come in contact with every day.  Manage your network with LinkedIn.

Stay informed and current.  Keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date. Take relevant courses, watch how-to-videos, search out and join professional groups in LinkedIn and participate in the discussions.  Know about current technology in your industry and in what is used today, such as iPhones, iPod’s, tablets, eBooks, Wi-Fi, etc.  Talk to teens about what’s in.  Nothing says old like a typewritten resume on soft pastel resume paper.  There have been numerous changes in the job search process in recent years.   Use state-of-the-art job search strategies.  Learn the age bias red flags and what you can do about them.
Age proof your résumé and cover letter. Stand out for what you offer them not your age. Limit your relevant experience to 10 to 15 years.  Don’t include anything past 15 years.  Don’t lie.  Focus skills and experience relevant to the position. Highlight your achievements based on percentages and dollar figures rather provide a simple list duties.  Use keywords throughout.  Consider using a functional or combination resume instead of a chronological.  Avoid terms, like mature, experienced, seasoned, etc.

Prove yourself at the interview.  Prepare for the inevitable age questions. One effective way is to point out your up-to-date skills. Be able to back up your skills and achievements with PAR (problem, action, results) stories.  Emphasize how well you work in teams and alone.  Express you interest in the position and not their job.  Show enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Keep the salary issue out of the conversation as much as possible.  If it does come up, concentrate on the opportunity not the dollar amount. Use examples of how you made money, saved money or saved time in your previous positions.  Avoid the following: over selling, you run the risk of overwhelming or intimidating the interviewer; saying things like “back in my day” and using outdated jargon and terms; appearing desperate or depressed.

Update your appearance and stay healthy.  This doesn’t mean you need to dye your hair to its original color.  It means you need a flattering style that suits your face and a trendy hair style.  Gray isn’t terrible.  Think Jamie Lee Curtis with her short, gray hair. When it comes to makeup, less is more.  Your wardrobe should be age appropriate but current, as well as your glasses.  Shoes need to be comfortable but stylish.  Today there are many such styles to choose from at different price points.  Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising are the best ways to maintaining a natural healthy glow.  If you have health issues, monitor and take care of them.

You can break the gray ceiling.  It’s been done, and you can do it.  I know you can!

Arleen Bradley
Putting the care in career because the job searcher is just as important as the job search.

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