Friday, June 26, 2009

Wash That Gray Right Out of Your Search: Tips for the More Experienced (Older) Job Seeker

When many of us started into the workforce, we expected the same experience our parents had. Many of our parents retired with the same company they worked with for years. They received a pension and a gold watch in appreciation of their hard work and dedication.

Fast forward to today. Companies don’t offer pensions and several are even eliminating the 401K match. Companies are “rightsizing” or “restructuring” and all too many of us are finding ourselves in an unexpected job search.

The New Job Market

First we need to realize that the job market has changed and we didn’t get a vote; it is what it is. We need to accept the fact that we are on the job market and that our next job will not be our last. There is no shame in being unemployed. We just have to learn how to be good at finding a job for now and in the future.


We need to deal with the loss of the job and the changes. It is like dealing with the loss of a close person; there are several steps in the grieving process. If we try to suppress the grieving, it will come out at the wrong time in our body language, our word choice, or the level of energy we need to do this full time job – finding a new job.

I require my clients to read Who Moved My Cheese and let me know what character they are most like. If you have not read the book in the past 3 months, read it now. Set a time limit on the grieving and then look for that next opportunity. Imagine: what wonderful opportunity can be behind that next door?


Read the article in this blog on “You Have to Know You to Sell You” . Employers will not know why they should hire you if you don’t know. You have to do an inventory of your skills, your abilities, and your previous accomplishments. It is your years of experience and accomplishments that make you more desirable than a younger person. Don’t forget to add in that you have a stronger work ethic and are more mature and professional in your dealings. Be able to recite clear examples that support those statements (see the article published on June1 “The Power of Your STAR Statements”).


There is nothing that screams to the employer that a person is out of date with their skills than a person who is not current with their appearance.

Start from the top of your head and work your way down asking if your appearance is contemporary yet age appropriate. Do you have the same hair style you did for the past 30 years? Hair styles change and your style should be updated if you have not updated it in the past 5-8 years. If you are starting to gray and it is aging you, consider having it professionally colored. Do not use a harsh color such as dark black as that will age you worse than gray. Ladies: although young ladies may wear their hair long, understand that too long of a style will draw your face down, making you look older not younger.

Eyeglasses: do you have the latest frames? Size and shape of frames also change over time Get a style that is contemporary but not too trendy.

Attire: The attire should be professional and conservative.

Ladies: watch hem length. I noticed a woman the other day whose dress hem was too long. It was a small detail but aged her. I suspect the lady just didn’t modify the hem after buying the outfit. When wearing a dress or skirt the hem should fall just below the knee not 3 inches below and not a great deal above even if you have the legs for it. Also do not wear large patterns blouses or a dress that does not have a jacket.

Men: watch the width of the tie and the shape of the collars. Ties are getting narrower again so don’t wear your widest width tie. Go with a contemporary pattern too. If you cannot find the same tie in a store today, it is out of date.
Shoes should be freshly shined. Ladies: wearing neutral color shoes elongates the leg.

If you want help with knowing what looks good, some retail stores offer free concierge service or you can watch the TV show “What Not to Wear”.


I have talked to other job search coaches who say that leaving the year of graduation off your resume sends up a red flag that you are old and trying to hide it. I on the other hand believe putting the date on the resume not only confirms it, it also lets them know exactly how old you are.

If you completed school in recent years, absolutely put the year on the resume as it will lead them to assume you are younger. Otherwise my personal opinion is to leave it off.

You also do not need to list your career history further back than 10 years unless that experience will help sell you. Example my extensive retail experience was 25 years ago so if I applied to a retail company, I would include it.


When you interview, you want to slip into the conversation new skills you have learned and if you are active in sports, such as tennis, mention that as well to show you are still learning and still active.
Do not mention irrelevant health issues or any other topic that would make the employer believe you are on your declining years.

Over Qualified

Don’t you hate it when an employer tells you that you are overqualified? A job search coach can help you tailor your resume and interview responses that will help you get around that obstacle.


You have years of experience and skills that are still desperately needed today. Washing the gray out of your job search will help you land the job of your choice.

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