I have become a woman of a certain age. I am coming up on a “significant” birthday. Of course “significant” is relative right? 21 was significant, 30, 40, etc. all for different reasons and accompanied with different levels of excitement or dread associated with those numbers. I am going to be 60. Significant. I am the oldest person in my office. When did that happen?! I am suddenly interviewing the children of past consultants.
Remember a time when you were in the market for a new car you wanted to buy and everywhere you went you saw that car. For me, now, all I see and hear is age related. Every ad seems to be speaking to me. Every client seems to want someone with growth potential. Everyone asks me when I plan to retire. We just elected a president that is 70! I still have a lot of runway left.
In the consulting world, and in the recruiting profession, age can’t be ignored. Yes, it is illegal and unethical to discriminate based on age, old OR young, but hiring manager’s perceptions, bias and stereotypes do influence hiring decisions. However, it is a tight IT market and there just aren’t enough talented workers in this space so we can’t afford to ignore an entire generation. Besides, someone has to grow that young professional with potential! Since I have a heightened sensitivity, for personal reasons on this topic, I wanted to share some simple tips for the seasoned job seeker in the consultant space.
Be proud of your accomplishments and the wisdom gained with the hard knocks, bruises and scars only a rich career can give you. Be clear in your resume and when you interview the best ways to use that experience. Too many seasoned candidates present themselves too broadly. Narrow down what you want to do to make it easy for the interviewer to know how you fit.
First impressions matter
Bring your “A” Game. You may have interviewed many times, but too many candidates lose the interview but appearing to take it too casually. Think hard about how you want to be seen and viewed? Be intentional about what you wear to the interview. Are your clothing choices in the current style i.e. shirt length, lapel or tie width? Is it flattering or distracting to the interviewer? Are my shoes polished and professional? When in doubt go to a store and ask a professional to help you.
When was the last time you changed your hair style? Look at some older pictures to help you remember. If it has been more than 5 years, you might consider seeking advice on updating your look. Gray roots or graying beard can distract as well.
Review your notebook, satchel, or purse. It may be your favorite but if tattered or dated update for the interview.
Remember you want the focus to be on your abilities not your age.
Prepare and practice
You have decades of experience and stories. Review your resume and narrow down each experience to a couple of sentences that are relevant to the role you are interviewing for. When asked for examples or specific experiences share experience within the last 5 years to highlight. You don’t want the interviewer to hear that your favorite or best years of your career were 25 years ago.
If you love working, if you love project work say so. Avoid negativity and impatience or the urge to say been there done that. No one wants to add a curmudgeon to the team.
Highlight new skills, tools, and approaches you have learned recently
Learning agility is a term we hear frequently. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Or can you? Dispel the stereotype that more senior candidates are no longer interested in learning or are change adverse or don’t bring any new ideas to the table. Be seen as someone curious, eager and quick to learn new things. If you haven’t upgraded your skills recently do so. You may not want to be a Scrum Master but you should know and understand Agile if you want to be relevant in the IT delivery space today. There are numerous on-line courses on Lynda.com for example.
With age comes wisdom
Do play on the stereotype that with age comes wisdom. Think of a concise and relevant example of how you have applied your wisdom and thought leadership to help a client avoid a problem or save time or come up with a better solution.
The best is yet to come
Do not reference age yourself. It will be obvious by your years of experience, no need to say you are old. Avoid comments like “I’m old school”. If someone asks when you plan to retire talk about what you love about the work you do. Let them hear and see the best is yet to come!