The only good age for applying for a job is 35, according to a former Amazon recruiter. 'Otherwise you're too old and overqualified or you're too young and under-qualified'
- Research suggests older people have a tougher time finding a job compared with younger workers.
- Lindsay Mustain, a former Amazon recruiter, and other experts share advice for these jobseekers.
Landing a good job — one that excites you, challenges you, and that pays well — is not easy, even in today's tight labor market. It can be especially tricky when you're an, ahem, more seasoned, worker and it feels like every company under the sun craves Millennials and Gen Zers.
According to Lindsay Mustain, a former Amazon recruiter turned career coach, there's only one good age for job searching and that's 35. "Otherwise you're too old and overqualified or you're too young and under-qualified," she said.
The very idea stings. And while Mustain is half-joking, there's a germ of truth to her words. Research suggests older people have a tougher time finding a job. One study, which analyzed hundreds of papers by economists, sociologists, and psychologists, found that job seekers over the age of 50 were unemployed 5.8 weeks longer than those from the ages of 30 to 49, and 10.6 weeks longer when compared to people 20 to 29. No doubt age bias plays a role, and there are things you can do to prove it.
Ageism is harmful and discriminatory, but experts say there are things you can do to try and inoculate yourself from some of that bias as you go about your job search. Your goals, they say, are to capitalize on experience and contacts by burnishing your brand and maximizing your professional network.
Overhaul your resume and LinkedIn profile
Long before a job gets posted, recruiters are working behind the scenes to identify a pipeline of talent. The "gold standard of recruiting" is to source so-called passive candidates, who unlike traditional applicants, don't scour job boards or apply for available positions, according to Mustain. "We're never waiting around for the right candidate to come along," she said.
That's why you need to get a recruiter's attention earlier in the process. Start by overhauling your resume and LinkedIn profile to highlight your skills and specific achievements. "Recruiters are looking for solutions — people who can either make or save money for the business," she said. "You need to be really clear about the effect you've had at organizations in the past."
This is where you as a veteran worker have a leg up on your youthful counterparts. A lengthier job history should afford more opportunities to demonstrate impact, said Aditya Sharma, the cofounder of HiCounselor.com, a career-support company for tech and management job candidates.
"Your resume needs to show three things: What you did, how you did it, and the quantifiable results," he said.
For example, you might list functional, transferable skills like leadership and teamwork. In that case, one of your resume's bullet points should explain that you led a team of X people to build Y product, which led to Z outcome. Your goal is to "show how you can benefit the company."
Mustain's resume pro tip: Don't date yourself unnecessarily. There's no need to list more than 20 years of experience on your resume. And don't list your graduation year because it "invites employers to do math."
Work your network
Next, you need to change the way you go about your search. That means don't assume that submitting a job application online is enough to warrant an interview.
"Unless you've won the lottery in the past, don't upload a cold resume," Rob Barnett, a recruiter in New York City who sources candidates for media and technology companies, said.
Instead, you need to use your contacts and do some detective work to identify and target hiring managers. "Do everything possible to end-run the HR shuffle."
Again, seasoned workers might have an advantage here: More time in the workforce ostensibly means more professional contacts.
Begin by reaching out to past colleagues and people you know well. Invite them to lunch or a virtual coffee to catch up. Explain that you're thinking about your next move and that you're open to advice and warm introductions. Mention some projects, companies, and opportunities that interest you.
You also need to connect with people you'd like to work with in the future. Mustain suggests scouring LinkedIn to look for the movers and shakers in your industry. "Find people who share content that seems valuable and start commenting," she said.
Ask if you might pick their brain about a trend or technology. "And be sure to ask, 'Is there anything I can help you with?' The world is reciprocal."
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