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Archive for the ‘Employing Older Workers’ Category

Resumes for 50+ Job Seekers

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Some resume advice given to those of us over 50 is misguided-and wrong.

At an AARP job fair I volunteered at yesterday, several job seekers told me stories of situations where they had ideal qualifications for work they were applying for, but they didn’t include it, because it was more than ten years in the past. They were under the impression that hiring supervisors were death on seeing anything but their most recent experience.

This is ridiculous. The strongest thing someone over 50 has to offer an employer is the breadth and depth of their experience. It means they know how to show up for work on time, solve a problem without creating a new one, soothe an irate customer, and so on. Negating that by limiting what you can talk about to the last ten years is lunacy.

This suggested strategy is probably stemming from a misunderstanding of advice that you include only the last ten years of experience on your resume to reduce the chances of ageism. There is some legitimacy to that. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention relevant experience at all. It just means you don’t need to list every job you ever had. (Remember when we didn’t have experience and we were desperate to list anything that looked like a job?)

If you are looking for work and have been in the workforce for a while, you need to be both creative and attentive in what you tell a prospective employer about what you can do. A key piece of a good resume writing strategy is to separate your achievements and strengths from the chronology of your work experience in how your format your information. That way, you can mention that you successfully owned and operated a car repair shop, even if it was twenty years ago, for example.

The most important thing to do with your resume is to give the person to whom you are sending it a clear idea of your experience at solving the problems they are trying to address. When you learned that skill isn’t anywhere near as important as that you have learned it.

Experience is GOOD. But knowing what part of the vast amount you have applies to the job you’re seeking is critical. Telling everybody everything won’t work. But neither does not telling the person who needs to know, simply because you did it more than ten years ago.  Use your head on this and stop  following arbitrary rules that well-meaning but misguided unemployment counselors offer.

 

Top 10 Reasons to Ditch Ageist Thinking

Monday, May 18th, 2009

By Mary Lloyd, CEO, Mining Silver

As a culture, we are doing an amazingly stupid thing.So with a nod of appreciation to David Letterman here are the Top 10 Reasons to Stop Thinking “Old” is a Problem.His “top ten” lists go from the last to the first so here, in ascending order, are ten reasons to ditch the idea that advancing age means inevitable decline.

10.IT’S NOT FAIR TO ASSUME PEOPLE WHO ARE “OLD” ARE WORN OUT AND USELESS.Or, to put it more bluntly, it’s not legal—at least if you live a developed country.Inthe United States, denying someone over 40 fair treatment on “any aspect of employment” because of the year he was born might put you on the losing side of a federal lawsuit that involves both compensatory AND punitive damages.

9.AGE = DECLINE IS A LIE.There are no scientific studies that confirm people automatically lose their ability to think and learn as they age.Studies reporting such findings were done on compromised groups who do not represent the general population of this age range.

8.ASSUMING OLDER WORKERS NEED TO “GET OUT OF THE WAY” SO THAT YOUNGER WORKERS CAN HAVE THOSE JOBS IS SHORT-SIGHTED.Isn’t that a bit like expecting Dad to throw the checkers game when you were 10?Asking competent people to step aside so someone else who can’t do the job as well can step up is like throwing away the candy and eating the wrapper.

7.WE NEED THESE WORKERS.Yes, we are currently dealing with the mother of all recessions, but when it ends, this need will be glaring.There are 78 million baby boomers.Gen X, which follows them, only has 40 million.We are going to need some of those 78 million to stick around longer than “average retirement age” to get the same work done, even with the 70 million Gen Y’ers moving into the workforce.

6.WE NEED OLDER WORKERS’ EXPERIENCE.To compete in a global economy, developed nations need to do more than put bodies at machines.We need people with well-developed problem solving skills.Book knowledge helps, but practical knowledge trumps it.Employees who have “been there and done that” knowhow to avoid the pitfalls and get the job done right—the first time.

5.WE NEED THEIR WISDOM.Come on, folks. There is no way the wunderkind grad from the most prestigious tech mecca is going to get the people parts and contextual stuff right from the get-go.We need both tech savvy and experienced leadership, leading-edge conceptualizing and seasoned veteran decision-making prowess to get this right.When we choose only “new,” we have nothing to anchor it to.

4.THINKING OLD PEOPLE ARE INEPT IS SOOOONINETEENTH CENTURY.Yes.Nineteenth century.This nonsense of refusing to marry innovation WITH wisdom began in the 1790’s.Employers from then until the 1950’s used the philosophy as justification for requiring workers to retire at a specific age.Brawn was more of an issue then.Thinking that way was wrongheaded in the Industrial Age.But now we’re in the Information Age, where KNOWLEDGE is critical. It’s corporate suicide.In a knowledge-intensive economy, it makes zero sense to send 40 years’ worth of it out the door so you can bring in someone with none.

3.THEY CAN LEAD THE WAY TO WHAT WE ALL WANT. When people old enough to retire choose not to, they pursue work arrangements the rest of us would love to have as well.Let them craft the new shapes for work that would give us all much needed flexibility so we can live the rest of our lives and work, too.

2.AGEIST THINKING IS EXPENSIVE.We want to pretend that if we don’t see them, those millions of older people we’ve marginalized aren’t there.But they ARE there…tapping the healthcare system far more than they would be with meaningful challenges in their lives, collecting Social Security,and relying on society and the government for things they could be doing for themselves given the chance and the encouragement.

1.WE ARE ALL GOING THERE.The weirdest thing about this form of discrimination is that we are all going to live it—short of dying young.But we think of OTHER people getting old and are blind to what we’re setting up for ourselves.Life expectancy right now is about 80.As knowledge workers, we are very likely to beat that.Do we really want to be invisible and irrelevant for twenty or more years of our lives just because some preacher back in 1790 decided youth and progress was better than age and wisdom?

It’s time to git rid of ageism.  It’s wrong, costs money, and sets us all up for a hard time when we get that far.

Why We Need to Recalibrate Our Sense of “Old”

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

On his 80th birthday, Hugh Hefner said “80 is the new 40.”   In an article last summer, Sunset magazine proclaimed “100 is the new 70.”   Author and CEO Bill Byham titled a 2007 business book  70: The New 50. The numbers are fun, but so far, it seems in terms of the way we see it as a culture, 50 is still “old.”  We need to revisit that.  We are shooting ourselves in the collective foot big time.

The dictionary lists nine different definitions of the word “old.”  When we talk about “old” people, are we talking about “worn” or “experienced?”   Our continued success as a society hinges on which we choose.  Because 50 is not “worn” so much as polished.   We are throwing away really good stuff–and then paying to keep it somewhere else.

Seventy percent of the physical problems we blame on aging are actually the result of lifestyle choices.  It’s not your age that’s keeping you from doing that bike ride.  It’s that you haven’t walked farther than from the couch to the refrigerator in the last five years.  Excusing our bad habits with our birthdays is a downpayment on a long gloomy death spiral.   Most of us are going to live to 80.  Thirty years of assuming we can’t do what we want because we’re “old” is pretty tragic.

Businesses who assume 50 is “old” are squandering some of their best talent, too.  Instead of helping  the experienced workforce get comfortable with new technology, they look for ways to usher them out the door.  Instead of building multi-generational teams that capitalize on the full range of talents and skills available, they shove the experience in some corner where the younger workers can’t learn from it.  They literally watch needed expertise walk out the door into retirement without ever asking, “Any way we can get you to work for us on a more flexible basis?”

A recent issue of Wired magazine included an article about taking your job on the road–in your RV.  It wasn’t written for “old” people.    But it sure looks like a good marriage of “retirement” and staunching the experience drain.  The irony of the current business mindset is that while companies continue to assume that experienced workers want traditional retirement, they are creating flexible work arrangements to attract Gen Y workers as their replacements.  The “new kids” want  to work when they want wherever they want, responsible only for the end result rather than showing up every day.  It’s called ROWE–results only work environment.    To offer such options to new, inexperienced workers–who probably won’t reach the level of productivity the older workers have for ten years or maybe much longer–and NOT offer it as an alternative to retirement is painfully short-sighted.

As a business, there may also be room to retain the experience you already paid to develop in creative ways that take less than a full time salary to accomplish.   This is a tight labor market, yes.   But it’s also the perfect opportunity to try some things while the pace is a little slower.    How can you marry new technology with old savvy to get the best bang for your labor buck?

And then there is the little matter of government entitlements.  When someone retires, they go on everybody else’s payroll, via FICA taxes.  Social Security comes out of our collective wallets, not “the government’s.”   So when we expect people to be “old” and to retire around 62,  we buy in on taking care of them, in terms of Social Security checks, for an average of about 18 years.

Most  people retire in good health.  They are still capable of doing great work on something in which they believe, particularly if it’s a customized arrangement.  Instead, the invisible wall of ageism goes up around them.  The culture assumes they are washed up, worn out, and useless.   We pay them to “get out of the way” when they weren’t in the way in the first place.  And once they’ve retired, we make re-entry into the labor market, even if highly qualified, damn near impossible.  It’s like we are afraid “old” is contagious.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Once people start being “old,” they buy in on the stereotype.  They need more medical attention.  Much of it wouldn’t be necessary if these capable people could remain engaged.  But when the only person who’ll talk to you is your doctor, you talk to your doctor.  Once Medicare is part of that person’s setup, we are all pay the bill.

We need to revisit when “old” starts.  I’m voting for somewhere around 95 or maybe 98.  Many of us can keep going all the way to the day we die if we just have the opportunity.  People over 50 have a lot left to offer and a lot left to do. As a culture, we need to give them the chance.