This week a delightful 56 year old woman, Carolyn Young, was interviewed on Channel 9's Today program about her plight. She had been unemployed for over a year despite being experienced, articulate, qualified and very pleasant in her manner. She believed that her problems came from age discrimination and that was obviously the point of the interview. I'm the first to agree that age discrimination exists, but often what is called age discrimination is a composite of many other factors.
The interviewer, Lisa Wilkinson, spoke of the government incentive programs for employing older workers, and their policy that people should work longer and until they are older. Both are very valid points which could demand a whole blog post of their own. However neither help Carolyn in getting a job right here and now.
During her interview I was concerned about a couple of major problems that weren't addressed.
First alarm bell: Carolyn wondered if being interviewed by younger people who were perhaps intimidated by her experience was an issue, but she had only had 3 interviews from her 100 applications.
Second alarm bell: She had been told each time that she was "over-qualified" and therefore not suitable for the job.
The following night Kristyn Haywood from People For Success was interviewed about Carolyn's situation. This was a fantastic opportunity to make some really important points for the people viewing the program, but the opportunity was lost in generalisations and the real issues were not addressed. It was also full of stereotying. Why should we presume that the older person looking for a job isn't ambitious?
Kristyn Haywood's tips had validity.
But while they were valid they just didn't go far enough. A little bit of information can be dangerous.
So what can we learn from these interviews and Carolyn's situation?
Carolyn got onto morning TV, so probably has been offered a job by now. Clever lady! Our takeaway from that is to use your network and the network of everyone who cares about you, who has worked with you, who has known you through your work. Who will be your champion? Who will tell people about you? Who will tell you about jobs that are coming up that are not yet public knowledge?
The hidden job market isn't a myth. Far more jobs than you realise are given to people who found out about them through their network or who were contacted because people in their network told someone about their skills and experience.
Carolyn has used a scattergun approach, applying for 100 jobs in a year. I doubt she was equally qualified or excited about every job she went for. This would be clear in her application. Only apply for jobs where you can genuinely demonstrate, from experience and achievements, that you have what is needed to do the job really well. Which brings us to the next huge issue.
It is clear that Carolyn's resume wasn't working for her. 3/100 isn't good odds for getting an interview. Your resume should be so well targeted towards the job you are applying for that they read the resume and want you for what you can offer them. What have you achieved that is relevant to that job? Tell them. Don't presume they will read the cover letter. Adapt your resume so it is clear that you are the right person for this job.
This covers both of my alarm bells! If the resume demonstrated her achievements and was targeted to meet each specific application then Carolyn would have had a far better success rate than 3/100. If she was applying for jobs where her qualifications were truly appropriate they could not say she was "over-qualified".
There is absolutely no point in being on LinkedIn if you don't "use" it to your advantage. Don't waste your time putting a profile on there that is not showing who you are and what you are capable of. I'd also add don't bother being on there if you aren't going to be proactive and make contact with people through LinkedIn. LinkedIn is part of your network if you use it properly. It's just a filing cabinet in which you have put your data if you don't use it properly.
If you'd like to see the Channel 9 Today Show interviews here are the links to them.
If you are having difficulty finding a job, don't just presume that it is because you are older. Sure, that is possibly playing a part in it. But it isn't the full answer. Every day older workers are employed by businesses that are thrilled to acquire their skills and experience as well as their work ethic and stability. Be one of the people who get employed, not one of those who spend a year losing faith in themselves and suffering the indignity of not being appreciated for what they can offer. Help is available!