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There is nothing that screams to the employer that a person is out of date with their skills than a person who is not current with their appearance.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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Underutilized Job Search Tool: The Informational Interview - Part 2

As stated in part one of this two part series, an Informational Interview is an interview you schedule with a person currently working or previously worked in an industry, company, or career you are considering. The purpose is to gather critical information from an insider’s point of view. We also covered the goals of the informational interview.

In the second part, we will cover the essential rules of engagement, some sample questions, and share comments we received from Part 1.

Rules of Engagement

• Prepare: Develop a list of questions about the job or the industry you want to learn more about. Research to be sure the answers to the questions you have are not readily available.

• Find an expert & introduce yourself: When you contact the professionals you want to interview, let them know you want to find out more about a career in this field by asking them questions and by getting their opinions.

• Set the Appointment: Agree on the date, start time, and a set duration, usually 30 minutes.

• Be punctual: If the route is new to you, drive the route ahead of time so you are familiar it.

• Ending the Interview:
* Honor the agreed upon time commitment. Even if you have not asked all of your questions, end on time.
* Thank them for their time and all of the information they shared.

• Follow-up:
* Write-up and evaluate the information you received.
* Send thank you notes to everyone with whom you met and include specific to make your appreciation sound more sincere.

• Use the Information: Most important of all, leverage the information you received and the contacts you made.

Sample Questions

• Their Background: How did they get into the business?

• Education: What education, training, and certifications are required or suggested? Are any schools held in higher esteem than others? Where did they go to school?

• The Position: What are the daily duties of the position? What are the best and worst aspects of the position in their opinion? What other career areas do they feel are related to this work? What experience (volunteer, intern, other) would they recommend for someone entering this field? What are some employers who recruit people for this field? What are the most important requirements for this position? What else should you know when considering this position as a career?

• The Industry: What are some outside influences that could affect the company and industry? What do they believe will be the future of the industry (ex. technology, trends)?

• Things NOT to do: Do NOT ask for a job, do NOT ask if they are hiring, and do NOT ask for an interview. People who confuse an informational interview with a job interview make it less likely professionals will agree to another one, ruining it for other job seekers.

Comments from Readers on Part 1:

• I agree that it is an underutilized tool simply because most people don't know about it. In the resources I've read by the experts, the informational interview is essential.
• Very good networking tool. Instead of the pressures and formality of job interview, the informational interview allows the job applicant to pick the brain of someone in the industry. They, in turn, try to think how they could use an applicant within their own company. If they have a job, the informational interview quickly turns into a job interview. If they don't, they usually can think of a name or two of someone who might be hiring.
• I agree and have used this approach many times with good success.
• Not only is the informational interview useful in gathering info regarding an industry, but I have found it to be an indispensable tool in building my network.

Thank you for your comments.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

The Underutilized Job Search Tool: The Informational Interview - Part 1

An Informational Interview is an interview that you schedule and hold with a person who is currently working or has worked in an industry, company, or career you are considering. The purpose is to gather critical information from an insider’s point of view.

Goals of an Informational Interview

People are generally interested and open to talking about what they know and what they do. Most people also like to help others succeed.

Valuable information can be gathered through an informational interview regardless of what you are trying to determine.

• College to attend or major to declare
In some industries, degrees and training from specific colleges are held in higher esteem than from others colleges and some majors can translate into a multitude of industries and careers.

• Job to pursue
By getting inside information about the realities of a career, you are better able to determine if the job suits your interests, skills, abilities, interests, and personality.

• Industry and company to target
There are many industries and companies who can use your skills. Ask about the viability of an industry, recent trends, and company culture. Although you may qualify for a position and need a job, you do not want to go into a dysfunctional organization (at least not without knowing it ahead of time) or an industry that is about to become obsolete. You can also obtain information about a manager’s managerial style.

• Skills to highlight in your job interview and in your resume
When companies have open positions, it is because they have specific needs. Knowing what their needs are will help you target your resume and interview to their needs. An informational interview allows you access to this information. In addition, some professionals are open to critiquing your resume for the necessary skills and key words.

• Referrals to other people to interview
Informational interviews are beneficial in identifying various careers within an industry, getting job titles, job descriptions, list of skills and experience requirements, and the names of companies that hire that position. Side benefits of the informational interview are that you strengthen your interviewing skills by learning to identify contacts, requesting and setting appointments, interviewing, and following through. You will also increase your network of contacts.

Next Week:
You will not want to miss Part 2 of this two part series where you will discover the very important rules of engagement and see sample questions to ask.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Power of Your STAR Statements

The best way to predict future behavior is to look at past behavior. This is the concept behind Behavioral Interviews. Behavioral Interviews can be identified by the question format “Tell me about a time …..”.

The most powerful answers to behavioral interview questions take the form of STAR statements.

What is a STAR Statement?

STAR is an acronym for:
S/T = Situation or Task that you faced
A = Actions that you took
R = Results that you achieved

As stated in the previous article “Mandatory Requirements are Not Always Mandatory” I was able to secure a job with a healthcare company which had a practice of only hiring people who have five years of healthcare experience even though I had no healthcare experience.

Purpose of STAR Statements

In addition to anchoring your answers with examples in an interview, your accomplishment statements in the STAR format will be used as accomplishment statements on your resume. Create STAR statements for lessons you learned as well. These can be used to develop interview questions for you to ask to be sure you understand what you are getting into.

STARS to Include

In addition to your accomplishments, STAR statements should also be developed for the following:
• A time you took the initiative on an effort
• Something you failed at (the result will be what you learned and put into place so you never fail in that way again)
• Dealt with a difficult person
• Worked with a team
• Persuaded someone from a point of view or belief they held

How to Gather STARS

People tend to minimize accomplishments that came easy to them. In addition to documenting the accomplishments you remember, ask family, friends, teachers, and team mates to help you recall your accomplishments. Draw on your experiences from school, volunteer work, sports, as well as previous jobs held.