Many people are having a harder time landing a job in this difficult economy. But some men over 40 are finding it even harder, since many employers believe seasoned workers will cost more and know less about technology -- and those are just two of the misperceptions. Here are some common concerns for potential employers and tips for how you can meet them head-on. Articles in This Feature:
Great Salary Expectations
“In this market, there are a lot of talented young people out there with lower salary expectations than those who are established,” explains Seymour Adler, senior vice president in the Human Capital Consulting Practice at Aon Consulting in New York. “Organizations have this idea that it’s not motivational to hire someone at a salary that’s 20 percent or 40 percent lower than their regular salary.”
To combat this, job seekers should be proactive. Address the issue in cover letters and during interviews. Explain what motivates you besides salary, but be careful not to come off as desperate. “Clearly and concisely be able to describe what you’re passionate about and how you want to make a difference with your work,” suggests Carol Vecchio, founder and executive director of Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal in Seattle.
Old Boys Can Learn New Tricks
Some employers think it’s more difficult for people middle-aged and beyond to learn new things. “Research shows that a significant percent of people continue to learn, and learn aggressively, well into their 50s and 60s,” Adler says. “It’s a bias that’s unfortunate.”
Overcome this mind-set by demonstrating learning agility. “You want to make sure the person knows that you are committed and have been committed to lifelong learning, are open to new experiences, are not set in your ways and have curiosity,” Adler explains. “Transmit this in conversations whether you’re being interviewed or networking. Of course, this works best if it’s really true.”
This strategy also works if you’re looking for a position outside your industry. “Take time to reflect on your career and the skills and experiences that are transferable,” Adler explains. “Make it clear how you can think creatively to apply that learning in new and different ways.”
Walk the talk by using the time between gigs to pick up or enhance some skills. “Do some extra education that was either put off or just felt you didn't need (and) includes certification,” says Dallas-based Dorothy Beach of Frontend Recruiting. “Those acronyms are a tiebreaker, and that is what recruiters search on.”
Are You on Top of Technology?
There’s also a perception that middle-aged workers are less on top of new developments in technology and society. In other words, “fresh-out younger people are more in tune with what’s new and hot than people over 40,” Adler says. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true at all.
Luckily, there are many ways to show you’re up on things. Using social media is one way to demonstrate you are tech-savvy as well as your “with-itness.” “If you are an expert, then you should have a blog,” Beach says. “Take the time now to develop one, and keep it up when you do land [a new job], and use the other social media channels to point to it.” And don’t forget to include the URL on your resume.
How’s Your Attitude?
Although it might be hard to do, presenting a positive mental attitude also is important. “In this market, you’ve got to be technically qualified and be smiling, positive,” Adler says. “Job seekers with positive energy will be more likely to find jobs, because people are drawn to engaging, positive people.”
One thought that might help: There are employers who value experienced employees. You bring a good professional network, historical perspective and a depth of experience younger candidates can’t.
"Personally, I would hire a person in the age group of 40 to 60 in a heartbeat if they fit the qualifications posted for the job,” says Eric Edie, owner of e-Edie's, an IT and startup business consulting firm in Richville, New York. “This group is at that age of maturity, (is) levelheaded, puts thoughts before actions and honestly does a much better job. They are also the group that will be there early and leave late if there are deadlines and work needs to be accomplished."