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Work & Purpose

Job Search: 5 Ways to Turn Your Age Into an Asset

Showing hiring managers that your experience is a plus, not a minus


(This article previously appeared on Job-Hunt.org.)

Managing the “age issue” is a matter of perspective during a job search. For older job seekers, the goal is to turn your age from a potential liability into an asset, so recruiters and hiring managers will view you as a seasoned veteran.

As a job seeker, your first commandment is to find the job that fits your experience, career goals, strengths and personal fulfillment. Hiring managers are looking for those kinds of candidates, too. Nowhere in the job requirements is there an age requirement. 

But older job seekers are often quick to be discouraged when they’re turned down, assuming it’s because they are too old or overqualified. When rejection happens a lot to someone I know, my first question is: "Are you applying to the right jobs?" You need to be applying for positions that require more experience, instead of trying to shoehorn yourself into a job that can be filled by someone with less.

(MORE: Rejected For a Job at The Container Store)

Here are five ways to turn your age into an asset:

1. Show that you bring not just experience, but wisdom. Most hiring managers know that experience can bring wisdom, but that wisdom isn’t guaranteed. There are plenty of candidates just coasting through their careers, never learning new things, making hard decisions or solving hard challenges.

That’s why you need to prove yourself, by offering up examples. Tell stories of interesting projects you worked on where wisdom, process and great assessment skills were necessary to reach the positive results. Also, talk about the different personalities you’ve mentored and led. 

2. Make a strong impression in the interview. I have interviewed and hired plenty of candidates over age 40. Some had gray hair, some had long resumés, but the best had enthusiasm, energy and professional goals for themselves.

Instead of saying "I have many years to go in my career," consider saying: "I have many things I would like to accomplish to call my professional life a success" and then list some. You need to be as ambitious as you were when you first entered the workforce and project this during interviews. Let the interviewer know why you’re excited about the opportunity and what you can bring to company.

(MORE: How to Look Sharp in Job Interviews)

Sometimes, older candidates can appear as if they are just trying to find any job that will carry them along for five years, 10 or longer. Hiring managers want go-getters, no matter the age.

3. Don’t worry about being too expensive for a hiring employer. There is typically a salary range already budgeted for job openings. As long as the position fits your budget, you shouldn’t have to worry about younger applicants stealing the job away by accepting a lesser salary. You can justify being at the higher end of the employer’s budgetary range by conveying the value you bring.

4. Play up your network of relationships. Your network is your key advantage in a job search. The longer you’ve been in the workforce, the more people you know. Smart recruiters and hiring managers like placing leaders into jobs, with the expectation that their contacts will lead to future business. Do your homework before the interview to unearth the competitors, suppliers and customers of the employer so you can connect your network to them when you meet.

(MORE: How to Find Work After 50)

5. Finally, make yourself more likely to be found. If you have a blog or post articles to the web in other ways, recruiters and hiring managers will have an easier time locating you online. Doing so also builds (or validates) your credibility, since you’ll be sharing your knowledge on key topics within your expertise.

In short, you can view your years of experience either as an asset or a liability in your job search. With the proper attitude and approach, you’ll be a lot more likely to convince hiring managers of your potential value. Your cup is not half-full or half-empty. It is very full…of experience.

Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring and recruiting and a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consultant. Learn more about Jeff at Alistsolutions.com and follow him on Twitter @JLipschultz and on GooglePlus.

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