DEAR J.T. & DALE: I lost two jobs in the past year and am looking for another. In the past month, I’ve had two in-person and two phone interviews, and was not asked to go to the second round. Two friends said it’s because of my age. I’m a young-looking and energetic 55. It also may have to do with my having stayed in several jobs for two years or less. I took short-term jobs because I could work at a higher level and earn a higher salary. I’ve heard the catchphrase “interview younger.” How do I do this? – Emily
J.T.: One of the challenges of being a “seasoned pro” is that people make assumptions. Your pay, your age, your skills – they all get critiqued. There’s a reason so many people say their careers peaked in their 40s.
Dale: Ouch. Please don’t add to Emily’s age paranoia – age is not the problem. Look, Emily, you bagged four interviews in the past month. That means your age is not an issue – people have some sense of it before they invite you in for the first round. Besides, two interviews were over the phone.
J.T.: However, Emily, many people in your situation tend to pack too much into their résumés and their interviews, eager to show off their experience. That can scream “overqualified.”
Dale : Getting interviews is the job of a résumé and yours is performing just fine – four in one month. But I believe J.T. hit on a more likely root problem when she mentioned “showing off.” If you talk about “higher level” and “higher income,” and/or you come across as a know-it-all, you are doomed. People don’t hire anyone, at any age, who isn’t eager to learn and grow and, most of all, collaborate.
J.T.: If that is the problem, here’s how you solve it: Instead of trying to sell yourself as someone who has seen and done it all, identify the single biggest problem you can solve for employers and market yourself on that platform. Employers gladly hire specialists who can alleviate their management pain.
Dale: And having gone 0-for-4, get out and do some practice interviews. If you are thinking, exasperatedly, “Dale, I’ve been around – I know how to interview,” that’s proof that you’re not coming into interviews with an open and eager mind. There’s a marvelous image from martial arts: If you’ve been a black belt long enough, your belt starts to wear out and turn white. That’s when you achieve “beginner’s mind,” open and curious.
J.T.: And there’s the answer to your question about “interviewing younger:” It’s about the younger generations being sensitive to feelings and being teamwork-oriented. They’ll love finding a specialist with a beginner’s mind.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I have a great low-stress nursing job. I am about to retire. How do I get the word out to find an RN to take my place? – Teresa
J.T.: What a fabulous question! You have a great job and want to find the right replacement before you retire – I love it!
Dale: Yes, it’s a kind and helpful impulse. But, have you involved your employer in this discussion? Often, someone retiring is seen as a chance for reorganizing. Sadly, in this dreary economy, someone’s “low-stress” job often will be chopped up and dumped on other employees. Or your management may decide not to replace you with an RN.
J.T.: And you call the economy “dreary.”
Dale: I just hate to see Teresa get colleagues enthused about a job that might not exist. So let’s assume she’s doing this with the support of management. In which case, you can ask your local nurses’ group to post something on its website or newsletter.
J.T.: I suggest you put together a short narrative about why you love the job, especially if it differs from traditional roles. Then, share it with friends and colleagues by email and ask them to include it on their social media platforms, like Facebook, suggesting that they contact you by email. People love to help out in situations like this and I guarantee you’ll get enquiries.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.