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Proving your age is an asset in a job search

Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder

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Worried that age might be a strike against you when applying for a job? Present yourself the right way and experts agree that you can turn that potential negative into one of your selling points.

"The key for older job seekers is to embrace rather than hide from what they have to offer future employers," says Tamryn Hennessy, national director of career development for Rasmussen College. "A lifetime of a variety of employments, household and family obligations and volunteer accomplishments can be assembled into a résumé and interview that a younger job seeker simply cannot offer."

So get set to put your experience to good use by doing these three things:

1. Concentrate on the job

If you spend your time demonstrating how you are the right candidate for the position, age need not
even enter into the equation. "Never be defensive about your age or even focus on it at all," states Martha Finney, a Santa Fe-based employee engagement and career management consultant and co-author of "Unlock the Hidden Job Market." "Focus on who you are and how what you bring to the table would meet the company's strategic objectives."

Hennessy suggests highlighting your suitability right from the start by looking at the key action words from the job description (such as "analyze," "design," "inspect," etc.) and matching them to your history. "Focus on your past experiences -- including non-industry, volunteer and family obligations -- where you have demonstrated accomplishments under these action word categories. Use the exact same action word and apply it to your experience, always being sure to offer quantifiable results."

2. Have confidence in your past

Lavie Margolin, author of "Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers," advises mature job seekers to get in the mindset that age is a strength. "As opposed to a recent college graduate filled only with potential, the mature worker can demonstrate a track record of accomplishment throughout his career."

Let your years of real-life experience shine by presenting evidence of qualities employers value. These may include:

- The ability to meet deadlines
- Loyalty to a company, industry or cause
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Problem-solving skills
- A strong work ethic
- Leadership
- Teamwork

To generate ideas, look at past performance reviews. Not only will this help provide concrete examples, but select words of praise can be incorporated into your application or interview to add credibility (as in, "My direct supervisor at company X noted in my evaluation that my thorough research on our three main competitors was instrumental to selecting the launch date of our newest product.").

3. Have equal confidence in your future

If worries over new methods or technologies are putting a dent in your confidence, take a class or two to get up to speed. Since one of the greatest fears about hiring older workers is that they are too set in their ways and unwilling to learn new things, this action also can show employers your enthusiasm for continual growth.

By law, age should not be a consideration for employment, yet many job seekers receive subtle (and not so subtle) clues that it may be an issue. If concerns about age do come up, try to tactfully redirect the conversation back to your abilities. Another tactic is to show that you are comfortable and happy with where you are. "Stress the great stage of life you are entering, one with fewer family distractions that will allow you to be the most reliable and dedicated employee possible," Hennessy suggests. Also worth pointing out: "Younger workers may have less understanding of what they want to do exactly in their career," Margolin notes. "An older worker has a better understanding of his interests and how they fit best into the market."

Watch, too, that you aren't blaming age when there is actually a different problem. "Don't assume you're increasing your chances of landing a job by applying for jobs that are beneath your experience level," Finney notes. "Overqualified for the position' isn't always code for 'too old.' Hiring managers wisely want candidates who are appropriate for the job level, so if you're experiencing a long string of application rejections, don't lower your sights, raise them. Only go after jobs that appropriate for your skill sets and experiences."

Finally, remember that employers want to hire likeable people who fit into company culture and can do their job. Treating interviewers as friendly equals and relating to them with relaxed confidence never goes out of style.

Beth Braccio Hering researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.


Last Updated: 22/10/2013 - 4:58 PM

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