Is it really possible to reinvent your working life? Millions ask this question every day as they toil, feeling trapped, unhappy and wondering if life will ever get any better!
The reality is that you can make these changes in your life. It will involve some work on your part, but the outcome is definitely worth it.
This infographic is a summary of the ten most common mistakes I see older workers make when they commence a job search. It was written in response to one client's request for help. I analysed her situation, her resume and cover letter, and observed the following 10 classic mistakes being made. Many of the mistakes were related to her resume which didn't give her the best possible chance of getting a job she wanted.
I hope this list of mistakes helps you to make the changes you need to make and that this results in you making the changes you want in your career.
Small children are fascinated by the world of adults, and this includes the world of work. When given the opportunity a favourite game is to dress up as different adult roles with which they are familiar – nurse, doctor, fireman, policemen, teacher.
Complacency is one of the greatest enemies of the mature worker. If you aren’t growing in your role, learning new skills, open to new and better ways of doing things, you can be sure that someone else around you will be. Often people who are caught unaware by a redundancy recognize, too late to save their job, that they have not proactively adapted within their role or have not been attuned to the politics of what was happening around them.
Conversely, people who want to change their career direction are often so focused on escaping from their current situation and what they DON’T want that they overlook the important point of recognizing what it is that they do want to do.
Tony Robbins, the famous motivational speaker and coach, always asks the question, “What do you REALLY want?” It’s a deceptively simple question. Are you REALLY sure what you want from this next phase of your career? Take the time to consider what makes you happy with work, what you have enjoyed and disliked during your working life, and what gives you genuine satisfaction.
For some people, this is the time when they seek the help of a trained professional career counsellor or coach, while others consult their family and friends.
Family and friends, with the best intentions in the world, are not always the best people to help you through a career crisis. They know you in a different context, and they also have pre-formed ideas about what you are good at and “should” do. When someone tells you “You should do…” – RUN!
Their perspective reflects what they would choose to do in your circumstances. That does NOT mean it is the right thing for you to do. They are seeing you through their eyes, their values and their perspective of what you bring to the world, but no-one knows you as deeply as you know yourself.
Appreciate that they are genuinely trying to help you to see your situation more clearly and they mean well, but also realize that this is entirely your decision, to meet your specific and unique needs, wants, dreams, talents, skills and experience.
Here are five important strategies (eight really but several of them are variations of the same strategy) you should consider when preparing for your change of career direction. If you have kept up to date with the current employment market then some of these comments will seem trite to you, but you’d be surprised how many people ruin their chances for the employment they want by not being well prepared.
When I’m working with clients one of the first things we do is establish their unique criteria for work to be purposeful, pleasant and satisfying. That criteria then becomes the basis from which we analyze occupational ideas that they have had or jobs that are advertised.
Give yourself about 30 minutes and work through this exercise.
Jot down all the jobs you have had, paid and unpaid, throughout your life. This may even include work that you did many years ago, or in a voluntary capacity. Many great clues can lie in the jobs you do when you don't have to do them, or the jobs you did when you were a young traveller or student. You can start by asking yourself, “What did I really enjoy about this job? What did I dislike about this job?”
Do not include only the obvious things such as the sort of work you were doing, but also the environment, the type of people you worked with, the management style of your boss/es, the level of stress, the hours of work, and the office culture.
Do this for each job you have had, and soon you will end up with a fairly long list of preferences. Within that list there will be some patterns emerging. Recognize your patterns because in them lies the secret to the work that will be right for you.
You will notice that this list doesn’t involve occupational titles, just your preferences for all the factors that make work pleasant for you.
Obviously, employers are looking for the best person for their job. Therefore they will not spend time on applicants who do not obviously meet their requirements. So you need to become familiar with your local job market advertisements, the language, keywords used frequently, and how to read job ads to find out what they REALLY want.
Employers usually describe their preferred candidate profile in their job postings, but usually what they are really looking for is not directly stated. You need to learn how to read between the lines.
I suggest to clients that having a pen and a couple of highlighters works well at this stage of your job search. With the pen, underline the key words, those that really make you understand what the employer is looking for. Then use one colour to highlight the areas which match your qualifications and interests, and a different colour to highlight the selection criteria which match your achievements. If a large amount of the advertisement is coloured then it is worth putting in an application. If much of the highlighted area overlapped, that’s even better.
Of course sometimes the language used in selection criteria is subjective. When an employer is looking for a ‘dynamic’ person, what exactly does that mean? It may be code for ‘young’ or ‘good looking’ because discrimination legislation makes stating requirements that are discriminatory illegal in most countries. It could be that they want a dynamic personality who won’t be downtrodden by other more negative members of staff. Then again, they may simply want a strong vibrant person on staff for the energy and fun they will bring to the team.
You must broaden your search. The days of looking at job ads in a Saturday newspaper are long gone. In this digital age, internet and mobile technology are heavily used for job postings. Online sites offer thousands of jobs and such ads can come and go at any time. Online job boards usually enable you to set up job alerts enabling you to have jobs that meet your criteria emailed to you. You list the keywords related to the work you are after and each time a new ad appears in your field it appears in your inbox. The job ads find you. Hopefully, you are also starting to notice trends about where and when the jobs you are interested in are being advertised and the recruitment agencies that specialize in specific industries.
Be proactive! Are you aware that more than half of job vacancies are filled without job ads? This usually happens through internal appointments, people making their availability known to an organization they would like to work for, and through networking. Recruitment can be a painful and expensive process so if a good applicant is available, ready and willing to take the job, the recruitment process is often bypassed altogether.
Changing your job may be possible within your current organization. In fact this is one of the least disruptive ways to change career. You have all the advantages on your side. You know the ins-and-outs within the organization, and people there know you. However you need to let the right people know that you are seeking a change of position within the organization.
Networking is a timeless strategy where knowing a person can be to your advantage, indeed can open doors for you. Let’s say you want a career change, and you know someone from your sporting club, church, service club or neighborhood that works in that industry. You could approach that person and discuss your decision to change career. Just one connection that introduces you to the right people or tells you about possible opportunities within an organization could be pivotal to your career move.
Of course if you don’t know anyone in your proposed new field you need to spend time where they congregate so you can get to know them. Join an association, go to social functions, play a sport or anything that it takes to get to know people in any industry. Connections with people are often the key to successful career change. So, network – Connect with people.
Another alternative is to approach organisations and introduce yourself, in person or by telephone. There may not be a specific job which they are currently advertising but if a company gets an impressive résumé from you demonstrating all the attributes they are seeking within their business, and you have impressed them when you made contact with them, you could well be the person they call when a vacancy does arise.
However don’t waste your time and energy. Research any company you have considered contacting to make sure you would like to work for them and you suit their employment requirements. Don’t send your résumé as an accountant to a firm which sub-contracts their financial activities. However, if there are companies that particularly suit what you are looking for by all means make personal contact. Many managers will file a résumé they like and make contact if a job arises. It’s a win-win situation because the employer doesn’t have to advertise, and you have an advantage of them knowing about you if a position arises.
When I had small children, before I made my big career change, I decided on the spur of the moment (it must have been a bad day with the kids!) to send my résumé to every school in a five kilometre radius of our home seeking a job as a teacher librarian. I wanted a couple of days’ work each week but didn’t want to travel for more than 15 minutes as I didn’t want to be far from the child care centre. The very next morning at a nearby school the teacher librarian carried the Principal’s mail into her office as she arrived for a meeting to hand in her resignation. She discussed her pending resignation and left the office. The Principal opened the mail on her desk and there was a résumé from an experienced applicant – me! Good timing!
4.4 Accessing the hidden job market through LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a wonderful way to develop your network, to connect with people who may be able to assist you with information, to find out about jobs that are available, and to raise your profile for employers and recruiters. You are very welcome to download my guide LinkedIn: How To Crack The Hidden Job Market to assist you with this process.
Only apply for those jobs for which you are well suited, qualified and genuinely interested. It seems harsh to tell you that you shouldn’t apply for some jobs, especially if you are feeling rather desperate for work. However if you are not suited to a particular job why apply for it? Don’t waste your time!
Always tailor your resume and cover letter for every application you are making. If it is worth applying it is worth making sure the application is the best it can be. If your application doesn’t show that you are appropriate for the job it will be rejected at the first read. You will have wasted time in making the application and a rejection can chip away at your self-esteem.
In summary it is vital that you prepare for any job search, particularly if it involves some element of career change…..a new industry or a different role in the same industry. You deserve to give yourself the best possible chance, so take the time to be fully prepared.
Strategies for a successful career change have changed over the last twenty years. Anyone who is 40+ has seen business and employment practices revolutionized, with advantages and disadvantages innate in every major change. People in their 50s and 60s have also witnessed the entire evolution of the information age and the integration of digital technology into every aspect of our lives.
Some of the changes in the area of employment have been massive. Old jobs have disappeared, new ones have appeared and many have morphed into something quite different, but this has been going on throughout history. A century ago, as the first cars rolled off the production line, horses required for transport were far less in demand and so blacksmiths were out of work. Then new jobs appeared because mechanics and car salesmen were suddenly in demand. Now independent mechanics are under threat because of the high level of technology in new cars.
When computers landed on office desks many clerical tasks could be performed by one person and a software package. However someone had to create that software package, someone had to sell the computers, and others had to install the systems and keep the computers working, so as one form of employment was reduced or disappeared new ones came along.
Good schools and teachers are preparing children for jobs which are still not part of our vocabulary or thoughts, but they will be by the time those children are working. Who had heard of a social media manager or a data miner 10 years ago? What jobs will be commonplace in 10 years time but don't exist yet?
If you are going to make a career change you need to know about the changes and understand the strategies that are successful in the contemporary workplace.
Technology has also impacted on the way that people can find work. If you are serious about changing your career, you need to understand the contemporary ways of finding work and being employed.
Job applications have changed in many ways. We live in a world where successful products are marketed very cleverly, and products that aren’t marketed well are not successful regardless of their excellence. Similarly dated unprofessional applications are just not adequate in a pool of well-prepared self-marketing résumés, no matter how skilled or experienced you are.
Privacy rules have affected the content of résumés as well. It is hard to accept that in the 1950s…when Elvis Presley was scandalising parents and Mick Jagger was learning guitar….it was still expected that personal information such as height, weight, age and marital status would be included in your job applications. It was an era when a female employee who became pregnant could be dismissed. Imagine the potential discrimination cases which could arise if employers asked those sorts of questions or took that action today!
Of course some of the requirements of the past are still relevant today. Accurate spelling and grammar and good presentation are essential and carry the same weight today as ever before, especially given the ease of creating a résumé on computer rather than by hand. But in many other ways applying for a job has changed as dramatically as the type and nature of jobs themselves.
Written references are now rare. Once they were essential when applying for a job. Your good character, work ethic and perhaps employment history were detailed in a written reference and made available to your prospective employer. But that was before privacy laws and legal action loomed large in our lives. People are reluctant to write a reference in case the person they recommend lets the company down in some way. The days of those “I have known Joe Smith for several years and he’s a wonderful person” references are all but gone.
A new breed of employee has also emerged over the last ten years – the virtual workforce. Now anyone with the right skills and experience, coupled with a computer and internet skills, can find virtual employment online and work in the comfort of their home.
As a direct result of technology the entrepreneurial 'laptop lifestyle' trend is enticing as people recognize that they could genuinely be their own boss creating a business, online or offline, using technology to enable the business to exist and potentially make serious money. More and more employees are joining these ranks and are finding freedom that their traditional job cannot offer.
Although the basics of business remain the same, the way of marketing, finding clients and communicating with other business people is a world away from the common strategies of the past. The skills involved in starting and running a business…online marketing, finding customers, communicating with customers, raising your profile, building your business brand, recognising changing trends….now demand that you are technologically savvy (or prepared to pay someone who is) and that you are prepared to learn, evolve and adapt as necessary. Technology has made home based businesses commonplace and given freedom to many to create a successful and fulfilling business, but you do need to go into it knowing that you will need to learn new skills and keep up to date. Don't let that put you off. It is fascinating learning the new ways of doing things.
Career change can be daunting to anyone, but particularly to an older person. The media constantly tells you that older workers face age discrimination, and we do live in an era which values appearance over substance. However you have skills and experience that are valuable and if you are willing to adapt to the changing world of work you will find great opportunities in store for you.
Embrace the changes and don't spend the rest of your working life doing work that you don't enjoy or not doing work that would make your heart sing.
You are not alone. Millions of people in their mid-life and older feel the need for a change – a powerful life-changing reinvention of themselves and aspects of their everyday life. Like most of them, you are probably bored, frustrated, or feel trapped in your current job.
You can make a successful major change in your life but to do so you have to be prepared to courageously work through three factors
The best career changes happen when all of these issues are addressed, then the outcomes blended to create the unique mix that will be best for you.
Of course then reality rears its ugly head and it is essential to evaluate if what you want is possible, and if it is feasible then what strategies do you need to use to make it all happen.
There are many reasons why you may want or need to reinvent your life, many of which are related to your job. We spend more than two-third of our lives working. Therefore, it is not surprising to find people in their mid-life who are having a tough time at work and find themselves contemplating an escape. It could also be that you find yourself being bullied at work, feeling inadequate with new work practices and technologies, passed-over for a well-deserved promotion, or even doing the same job for more than a decade.
These all contribute to undue stress. Worse, these feelings can often spill over into arguments at home or may affect your attitude towards your entire personal life. This can impact negatively on those around you.
If this situation remains unchecked for long it can sow seeds of self-doubt. No wonder you begin to ask yourself: Am I performing my job properly? Has new technology made me redundant? Am I being passed over and missing promotion because I am no longer agile or youthful in appearance? Why do I feel uncomfortable and unappreciated?
These are valid questions and if they are not addressed promptly they can cause great anguish and even depression.
For others the self-doubt becomes the catalyst for change that reinvigorates their life.
A career change can be achieved, but only you can make the decision that you are willing and ready. You can stay where you are and bear the brunt of the situation, suffering in silence, or you can free yourself by choosing to reinvent your life – by choosing another career path and totally creating a new ‘YOU’.
It’s important to look at your work situation as dispassionately as possible. Best decisions must be underpinned by facts. So be honest when you are analyzing your situation. Lying to yourself about the true nature of your predicament will not help at all.
For many, the realization that their job no longer excites them is a feeling that creeps up on them over years. For others it is a sudden realization, often as a result of one small thing that happens.
Some people find their discontent arises because their job changes. What you once did and did well is no longer your job. New responsibilities, new technologies, and more can aggravate this situation. It might be that your employer has changed. Companies merge or are taken over. Changes in corporate values, management systems, and policies can also contribute to your growing uneasiness.
Possibly the issue that people find hardest to deal with is when the change is within themselves. What you enjoy doing and what you want out of life changes. Your job, which you previously found satisfying, no longer challenges you. The salary, lack of appreciation, or missed promotions begin to bother you more than usual and then you realize how much you have changed during the time you have been there. Perhaps you are no longer the same person who took this job.
That’s when you really need to do something about it, to remain true to who you are.
Whilst it is good to understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling, it doesn’t really matter what the cause is. The fact is things around you have changed, they will continue to change, and you are unhappy.
Your circumstances have changed too! As we grow older the things we want out of life evolve, as does our private life. We may divorce or re-marry, have grandchildren, take up a new hobby, suffer from a health condition that necessitates a move to a different climate, or face another situation that you could never have anticipated.
When things change, we change too. We have different needs and goals. To meet those needs we have to make choices. A change in your private life may well demand a change in your working life too.
If you are unhappy with your work life, and change is what you need, the most empowering action is to reinvent yourself using your skills and experience and make a smooth transition to another career. It is a difficult decision to make, but you need to take this step if you want to live the rest your working life with meaning, and with a sense of fulfillment.
Life is too short and too precious to choose to endure stress and hardship in a job you don’t like.
Does your work-life balance impact on your health? A workaholic spends more time working because they think they have to, even it is already taking a toll on their health and family life. Many get so involved in their work that they neglect themselves. Making money is a good and essential thing to do, but beware if the cost of making money is your failing health.
Change is intimidating at times and in many cases your fear is valid. However if you want to reinvent your life and change your career you need to face your fear head-on. Fear of change should not deter you from taking a liberating path. Make it your ally, to keep you ‘sober’ in making that life-changing decision. Fear happens to most of us. Your brain screams at you that it could be a mistake. Your partner and best friend tell you the same thing. Your colleague tells you the sad tale of a friend of a friend who failed dismally when they tried to make a career change. It gets you worried. Don’t let that deter you!
Through Boomers Next Step articles you will arm yourself with knowledge and strategies, and knowing that you are well prepared will boost your confidence.
Wouldn’t life be wonderful if everything came with a guarantee? Unfortunately it doesn’t. Life is full of risk. In fact, risk surrounds you every day whether you acknowledge it or not, but we don’t let it stop us going about our everyday lives. However, if you decide to change your career there are ways to limit the risks involved.
Your chances of success will be far greater if you ensure that you are confident that the change you are making is right for you, if you have good self-marketing tools such as a great résumé and interview skills and if you develop and maintain a strong professional network.
Age is one of the common obstacles that mature employees encounter, or expect to encounter, when planning a career change. “Oh I’m 52 and far too old to make a change”. Not true! Age does not matter if you want to achieve a realistic goal. Your year of birth is irrelevant. Your skills, experience, maturity, and attitude are what matter. Seize the day and forget the birthday.
Boomers Next Step will guide you on the right steps towards making a successful career change whether that be a new job, a change of career direction, or stepping out into the world of the self-employed. There are many ways in which you can prepare yourself, but all start with having clarity about the outcome that is going to be right for you.
Are you willing to step outside your comfort zone, to do what may be a bit difficult, in order to achieve your goals?
To make an easier career transition you need to use what you have. Consider your skills, qualifications and experience to be your stepping stones. Step on those stones one at a time until you reach your destination. You might want to choose to do the same job in a different company, because your current skills and experience will be put into use in a different context. Or you may choose to stay in the same industry which you know well, but take a different job role, even in the same company. Your knowledge of the industry will make you an attractive candidate. The new job role may allow you to revitalize your interest in an industry that you used to find interesting. A more difficult career change is to seek a new role in a new industry. However you’ll have a greater chance of success if what you are currently doing is what is sought after within that industry. Your skills and experience may be exactly what that company is looking for. These are your stepping stones for a more exciting career.
Making a decision to create (or buy) your own business seems very different to most people, from making the decision to get a new job. However exactly the same self-reflection – awareness of your skills, experiences, strengths and special traits – is needed before you can get to the stage of deciding what you want to do. For some people the idea that they would like to start their own business will be already a conscious thought. In contrast, I’ve worked with many other people who start this process thinking they are looking for a career change then, to their great surprise, they realize that they want to express themselves within their own business.
If you’ve been stuck in a rut, if you’ve been doing the same job for years, there’s a chance you just don’t know what’s happening in the big wide world of contemporary work. There are new industries and new jobs. There are growth areas that you may not even be aware of, let alone familiar with. Society has changed over the years and continues to change. That means jobs and business opportunities change too so make sure you are aware of what’s available. Give yourself the widest possible range of opportunities and knowledge of what’s out there as you prepare to change your direction.
Before I was a Career Counsellor and Coach I worked as a Teacher Librarian for many years. There were many things I loved about this work, the best part being the kids. I never tired of their fresh outlook on the world, the way they could take an idea and expand it to make it their own.
When I decided to study to change my career I was working full time at a primary school, running a busy school resource centre, then going home to a husband and three teenagers. It was a very busy but fulfilling time of my life.
My work life at school was particularly busy because new curriculum was being introduced and working with the teachers to implement this was an important part of my role. I felt like I was constantly being pulled in different directions, not just between home and school, but also in my mind. I'd be focused on my work in a school resource centre, then drive home and be Mum, then go to my office and focus on career development reading and assignments.
Then one day it all slotted together! I recognised that the new curriculum documents were aimed towards producing exactly the same outcome as the career development documents……..resilient individuals with the personal, social and intellectual skills to be the best they could be in life.
I started naming the career development that was already integrated into the curriculum, and we developed a school culture of foundational career development, awakening within the children an awareness of the purpose of schooling – to prepare you for the rest of your life. When the children realised this (particularly through an annual career day that we instigated) their interest in school rose, their realisation that each core subject was essential learning for life grew, and ambitions emerged.
This was not about choosing a career; that would happen much later in their schooling. This was about realising that they were at school for a purpose and that "real life" success demanded that they be the best person they could be.
Our career education program became highly regarded and won national awards. But far more important to me was that these students were given the opportunity, throughout their formative primary school years, to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes which could strengthen their working lives, and hopefully help them achieve purposeful fulfilling careers.
This video amused me because it reminded me of some of the really fun experiences we had during that time, experiences that I know many of the students still recall and learnt from.
If you happen to be interested in the school program we developed it is outlined in this slideshare Career Aspirations. Slide 42 shows two boys entertaining the crowd with their 'rock band'. The guitarist in that photograph has continued to entertain school crowds throughout high school and recently applied to study a Bachelor of Contemporary Music commencing in 2015. Whilst most people don't have a clue what they want to be for much of their lives, some people have the passion and the deep understanding of their path in life from a very young age.
Successful job searches now are very different from the past. Just applying for jobs that have been advertised greatly diminishes your chances of success because you are up against so many other people doing the same thing. Let's face it, as an older worker you can face a few disadvantages in your job search anyway so let's make things as easy as possible for you.
Forbes has published a great article "Three Smart Ways to Attract Recruiters To Your LinkedIn Profile". In this article they explain
Many people use the 'set and forget' method with LinkedIn and then wonder why LinkedIn is not providing anyopportunities for them. If you followed someone's advice that you should set up a LinkedIn profile, put up basic information about yourself then have done nothing more with it you can't be too surprised that it hasn't brought recruiters, or anyone except old school, university and work friends, to your page. If you want to start from scratch to build up your LinkedIn profile, step-by-step, you can access my free book "LinkedIn: How to Crack The Hidden Job Market". Then, once your profile is interesting and shows who you really are, these ideas from Forbes will take you to the next level.
In this TED talk Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, speaks frankly about the reasons why capable women often don't make it to the top. In her opinion it's got nothing to do with talent or even discrimination. It begins with the women's belief in themselves, their unwillingness to put themselves forward for opportunities especially when they are thinking about starting a family. "Don't leave before you leave" is great advice. She hopes for a day when her young son and daughter can equally choose to be successful in business and to be valued for their work in the family.
You may be very interested to read the Ernst & Young report "Untapped opportunity: The role of women in unlocking Australia's productivity potential". They come out very strongly in favour of women being able to negotiate flexible work arrangements, and the benefits to business for having flexible workers, particularly women working in part-time roles. Older workers, particularly older women workers, are often most interested in flexible working arrangements. This report could support your case in negotiations with your employer.
The broad business benefits of greater female workforce
participation are well documented. Women are a much needed addition to Australia’s labour force, not just making up numbers, but bringing valuable skills and diversity of thought. Now, new research from the Pulse suggests an additional factor: women
in flexible roles (part-time, contract or casual) appear to be
the most productive members of our workforce.
Women in flexible roles waste only 11.1%, compared to an
average of 14.5% for the rest of the working population. Given 43.2% of women in the workforce work part-time, compared to 13.5% of men4, this translates into an important productivity bonus that few employers recognise.
There are 10 job search mistakes often made by older workers which cause them to miss out on opportunities for work that they want.
It’s easy to blame age discrimination, but consider if you could be causing your own employment problems? Many older workers make basic job search mistakes that lead to them being overlooked and then they have to live with the consequences of unemployment, underemployment, or being stuck in a job that they hate.
Today I had a phone call from a past client, a lovely capable woman who is currently unemployed. She left her job because of serious bullying issues that management refused to address. Rather than "make a fuss" she chose to leave a workplace that she found stressful and unhappy.
Her dream is modest – to have a job that enables her to prove her worth and to be given further opportunities for responsibility and some training so that she can grow in skills, confidence and value to the company.
She knows what she would love to do but is unable to find work opportunities that lead towards that role. She is not unrealistic and is prepared to work below her level of experience to get a foot in the door. However her work history does not show a steady commitment to a couple of companies. On the contrary she has changed jobs quite a lot, a combination of personal circumstances and leaving work when she found she was unhappy. Yet this woman isn't a quitter. She is determined that she will find the work that suits her, that she suits, and where she can give great value.
This is not an unusual situation. There are many people, hidden from the jobless figures, who are unemployed or underemployed but don't want to be in this situation. Many ask, seeming not to expect a positive answer, "Are there any jobs for over 50 women/men?" They are unaware that their own job search mistakes are getting in the way of their success.
I have analysed her situation, her resume and cover letter, and observed the following 10 classic mistakes being made. Many of them are issues of what to include in a resume to give yourself the best possible chance of getting the job you want. I hope they are helpful to you too.
Mistake 1: Resume Objective
A resume should commence with a summary of what you have achieved, not your objective in applying for work. Frankly the company doesn't care what you want. They want to know if you can deliver what they need and want in the position you are applying for. There are many sample resume sites online so read through some summaries and create one for your own resume which tells them, in 3 or 4 powerful sentences, about your experience and your achievements, blended in with some personal traits that they are looking for.
Mistake 2:Not Adapting Resume For Each Application
In this client's case she has created a great list of her skills, which immediately gives strength to her resume. However she does not seem to be adapting this list to meet the requirements of each job for which she is applying. Your skills tell the story of your capabilities in the workplace to date. Make sure that they are adapted according to the priority given to specific skills in the job description. Using a generic resume for all applications does not showcase how well you are suited for a particular job, and is one of the most serious job search mistakes you can make.
Mistake 3: Not Focusing On Achievements
When only duties are listed for each job a resume seems one dimensional. It conveys no sense that the work has been carried out to the best of your ability (which I know is the case for this client).
Even if you feel you were only a tiny cog in the wheel at your workplace, and that you didn't get the opportunity to achieve much, there would be things that you did there that no-one else did or that no-one else had thought of doing. Whenever possible put a couple of achievements for each job.
If you genuinely think you didn't achieve anything look at the list of duties and rephrase a couple of them to make them sound like achievements. Separate Duties and Achievements to make it easier to read and understand, just using something simple like a small italic header for each. Achievements are generally written starting with a past tense verb – Adapted, Created, Organised etc. When you write them in this way you just may realise that you actually did make a difference in that workplace. (That helps with Mistake Number 9 as well!)
Mistake 4: An Unstable Work History
If you have changed work many times address that in your summary and in your cover letter. "Adaptability and the skill to quickly develop rapport within teams has developed from 20+ years experience in health and environment related businesses throughout Australia……" They know up-front that you have moved around but you have implied that this has some advantages that make you a better employee.
Mistake 5: Going Back Too Far
If you have been working for around 25 or 30 years or more you have a lot to share in your resume. The sad truth is they don't want to know about it all. Most potential employers only want to know about the last 10 or so years in detail, with the briefest of outline of previous work. Including too much information and detail is a common job search mistake.
So what do you do if all the significant work you have done was prior to this? You must include roles which demonstrate that you are capable of doing the job you are applying for, so you have to find a way to do this without listing every job you have had back to when you left school. There are no hard and fast rules about resumes, so be creative in how you share the information. You can simply put a new section header PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT and list the jobs, elaborating on the one which is relevant to the job you are applying for.
What if the job you are applying for is most closely related to one that you did twenty years ago? Try a few different ways of getting the message across. So long as you have included some information about the job and outlined your achievements, you can draw their attention to it in the cover letter, stating that your most satisfying job was some years ago but it was because of your success in that role that you are now applying for this new position.
Mistake 6: Unattractive Resume Layout
Make your resume look attractive, classy and professional. Consider how you can divide the different sections using lines or different styled headers. Again get inspiration from professional resume examples online. The reader of your resume should perceive only what enhances your profile as an employable strong candidate, with no distractions that may encourage them to put your resume on the "don't bother" bundle. This is where I must mention spelling and punctuation which must be flawless in a job application.
Don't ever be tempted to use one of the bright colourful Word templates to create your resume. That screams "Year 9 double period resume class with a teacher who doesn't know much about resumes"!
Mistake 7: Not addressing the correct person in the cover letter
Whenever possible you should address your letter directly to the correct person. Sometimes this is as simple as finding their name on the job description. Often you will have to telephone the company and ask to be told to whom you should address your application. If they just say some generic title "Just send it to the HR Manager" then ask if you may have their name. If the person is not helpful in this area you may even look up the company online and see if you can find their name. However if you cannot find out the name of the person then you can be pretty sure that others won't be able to either, so just use their title correctly and respectfully.
Mistake 8: Not using your network
In the case of my client, she has a limited network in Brisbane and so is unable to reach out to her network to see if anyone knows someone who may be able to help her, with information about who is employing, with inside knowledge of the industry or with an opportunity to meet someone who may be able to help her.
However it is a classic mistake that job searchers often do not speak to people within their network and so miss out on the help that they could offer. I'll write more about that in a future blog post.
LinkedIn is another wonderful way of using your network to find out about job opportunities and to make connections with people who may be able to help you. Click on this link if you would like a free copy of LinkedIn: Cracking The Hidden Job Market, available from the top right of my Clarity Career Management website.
Mistake 9: Not believing in yourself
It takes a lot to break the habit of not believing in yourself. It's usually an ingrained habit, but one that you have allowed to grow and take over your view of the world. Only you can change this. No amount of other people who tell you that you are awesome and talented and deserve better will make any difference to you until you decide that you can accept that you do have some good things going for you.
Instead of letting your head be filled with thoughts of your inadequacies, flip those thoughts around and remind yourself of the good things you have done. Instead of dwelling on your failures, look towards the future. How do you want it to be? What is your picture of your life over the next few years? What can you do today to start working towards that future? I'm not meaning to sound unsympathetic to your lack of confidence, but I do know that only you can change that negative thought pattern that is looping through your brain. Here is a very funny, very old short Bob Newhart video which you may enjoy watching sometime.
Mistake 10: Not getting professional assistance
So often I see clients who battled on for a long time trying to get a job without success, never considering that they might be causing the problem themselves through their job search mistakes. They believe that it is the current job market, age discrimination, the attitude of younger people, their work history….all perfectly valid obstacles in an unsuccessful job search. So they keep on trying, hoping that next time will be the successful application…and getting very depressed about their prospects for the future, not realising that without these job search mistakes their results could be very different.
Often it takes a meeting with a trained career professional to see what is really going on. It may be a combination of the common job search mistakes that I have outlined here, or it may be another problem altogether, but usually it is something that you haven't recognised yourself. You are too close to the situation, as are your partner, your best friend and your mother-in-law, to be able to see it objectively. Value yourself enough to get some professional career management support.
After reading through these 10 common job search mistakes I hope that you will review your own job search strategies.
As we all know, age brings with it experience and a level of wisdom. We are involved in the community, in an active life and in the economy of our country. Most of us have embraced technology and have a good understanding of the world around us. Yet still every day people face age discrimination, in the workplace and in life in general.
This is never clearer than when an older person applies for a job where the company is actively seeking a younger person in the role. They don't say that in the job advertisement of course, but they have it as an underlying criteria for the role. It's devastating for older workers when they encounter this time and again.
Of course not every older worker experiences this problem. But those who undertake a job search without considering the best strategies to use – those who send out hundreds of resumes in a scattergun approach ("If I send out enough I'll eventually get an interview"); who don't tailor their resume to the job they are applying for; who have outdated resumes; who don't access the hidden job market – usually do find that their age seems to be a barrier.
This video is from The Australian Human Rights Commission. It demonstrates, perhaps a bit clumsily in their attempts at humour, that being older has many advantages. "If you are lucky it will happen to you."
Have you been discriminated against because of your age?
A study undertaken at Berlin’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development compared the consistency of workplace performance and reliability of older workers aged 65 to 80 years old with younger workers aged 20 – 31 years old.
The testing took place over 100 consecutive days and 12 repeated tasks measured perception, episodic memory (remembering things from the past) and working memory (short term memory).
The results showed that the older age group demonstrated levels of productivity and reliability that were higher than the younger age group. This was attributed to them having learned strategies to solve tasks and balance their routines, while maintaining consistent motivation and a stable mood.
This is a significant finding which supports the need for companies to develop policies that support the retention of older workers.