When Jean called, it was clear from her voice she was angry and frustrated. She had been unemployed for a year, and didn’t know why she couldn’t get a job. She complained about age discrimination. She had not struggled with finding a job before and knew she had great skills. With unpaid bills starting to mount, she felt stuck and close to a state of panic. Friends and colleagues offered suggestions and advice, but nothing had work so far.
Jean’s experience is typical of many mature workers. She had many accomplishments and experiences suggesting she would make an excellent employee. She set off on her job search not expecting any problems and when days became weeks and then months, it caught her by surprise. As she worked to keep her spirits up and stay motivated, she concluded the problem must be her age. Younger recruiters, threatened by her experience and knowledge must be afraid to hire her. But that didn’t change the reality of her situation - she needed (and wanted) a job.
From Jean’s resume, it was clear she had accomplished amazing things. She had a three-page resume listing her jobs as a cultural affairs director, non-profit fundraiser, journalist, and medical administrator. The truly great experiences were at the bottom of her resume as a volunteer. But, the resume lacked focus and cohesiveness. There were so many diverse experiences and skills, nothing specific stood out. A potential employer would have a hard time sifting through the diversity to determine whether or not she was a good match for a job.
Jean made a mistake common for mature workers. Not wanting to limit her options, she included all of her experiences for the last 20 years. Her thinking was that potential employers would see the many things she had done and view them as assets, as she did. Instead, it backfired and she was viewed as talented and accomplished, but without focus and clear objectives. Potential employers asked themselves, "Is she good at any of them?"
In coaching, Jean began to articulate her strengths. Jean started by listing her primary life accomplishments. Jean was able to see the threads running through all of her work and volunteer activities, regardless of the job title. Jean continually demonstrated great leadership and communication skills. But her real gift was being able to enlist people in grand visions. On numerous occasions, she had been able to get people to volunteer their time on projects requiring a lot of work and energy. These projects were hugely successful, winning accolades from superiors and the public. This information resulted in a concise resume that eliminated unnecessary words and phrases, but still supported her objectives.
Jean began to see how keeping her options open had actually limited her efforts and been counterproductive. She became renewed and re-energized about her job search efforts. She regained her confidence and enthusiasm.
As a result of coaching, Jean honed in on the objective of being a public/community relation’s officer for a medical facility. Her resume highlighted her skills and accomplishments supporting this objective. In addition, she had the specific information to demonstrate her abilities comfortably in an interview. She had a plan to get in front of hiring executives. But most important, she was excited about her prospects and confident she could get the professional position capitalizing on her capabilities.
Cathy Severson, MS is a leading authority in retirement life planning and career change. This is not your parents’ retirement.