Q. Please provide advice for connecting with current employers who are afraid of my age (55), or the name of the large global company where I worked for 27 years. Loyalty and dedication to one company seems to be more of a burden than a jewel for prospective employers in the market of today. What can a mature worker do?
A. You are in a challenging position, and while there is great value in your experience, and the wisdom you would bring to a new employer, you need to conduct an amazing job search to make that happen. And it is possible, so let’s start from a positive view of all you have to offer. You are in the enviable position of having “the age advantage”. Working with your resume, your presence, and your network, you can influence hiring managers and organizations to see that the advantages of hiring a mature worker far outweigh any negative stereotypes they may have.
With many years at one company, the fear is that you are stagnant and have not grown professionally and competitively, developed new skills, or stayed current technologically. To combat these erroneous assumptions, your resume must be crisp, quantifiable, show progression and increased responsibility, and highlight all technology you utilized.
The “how to’s” in these suggestions range from the simple – do you have a professional email address which is your name, with no extraneous numbers added on? Do you have your mobile number and your LinkedIn profile listed? Review who and how many people you have on your LinkedIn profile. Do not look like a novice with under 150 connections. When you have been in one organization for many years you are apt to have a very tight circle of connections. Make sure the breadth of your professional world is well represented. Include former colleagues, vendors, speakers, and thought leaders in your area of expertise. Ensure you have a wide age and title range as well. Make sure the range is from junior to senior people in all categories from administrative people, technology experts, service providers and consultants. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn to support all areas you think might be concerns. Have an IT person support how great it was to partner on a technology driven innovation where your support was instrumental to success. Ask a gen X’er to discuss the value you provided as a mentor. Look for reference statements you want to be known by, and initiate the opportunity for people to discover these strengths.
Your resume also needs to show promotions, challenges, and what might even look like a new job at a new company. Show stretch assignments, and how different the organization or group you worked with within the larger organization actually was. You need to develop a significant comfort level speaking of the many cultural changes which occurred in that environment, including working in areas where you were a specialist to other areas where you demonstrated an ability to roll up your sleeves. Hiring managers need to see that you have the broadest capability possible based on the opportunity and challenges you took within a large company.
Be excited to network. Revisit the people you worked with in each of these roles, and include them in your active network. Make sure you are exhibiting executive presence in every interaction, because you can be an old or young 55, genuine or insincere, and live on a one way or two way street. How you choose to show up is in your control. Attire including accessories need to be current, as does your language, examples, and casual references. Initiate reciprocal support for all networking meetings. Anticipate the support or help someone may need. Offer to help and ask what else you can do. Be direct with the names of people you would like to meet, organizations you are interested in exploring, and the kinds of roles you will consider. Help your network help you. Prepare paragraphs for them on how they can discuss your background, or to use in emails.
There are organizations and hiring managers looking for loyal, committed, 55-year-olds who worked for demanding large global organizations. Do everything you can to help them find you.