September 04, 2013, 3:20 PM — You have 25 years of experience as an IT professional, you made it through the dot com boom and the housing bubble. So why is it you can't seem to find a new position in your chosen technology field?
Some say it's because of your age and they may not be wrong. According to a recent CIO article, age discrimination in the tech industry (and in Silicon Valley, in particular) is a growing trend among companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Cisco and others. While there isn't a lot you can do if a hiring manager is bent on hiring someone younger, there are things you can do to prevent yourself from being cut before you even make it to the interview.
Marva Goldsmith, an author, career strategist and an expert in helping people over 50 rebrand themselves, says there are three employer misconceptions that you have to overcome if you are a Baby Boomer IT pro and you find yourself in the job market.
You're too old (you've outlived your usefulness).
You're too expensive (your salary could fund three new employees).
You're too old school (you can't keep up with new technologies).
"The reality is that these perceptions exist in the career marketplace and -- as we all know -- perception is reality," says Goldsmith. To help make a new job your reality, CIO.com spoke with career coaches, strategists, IT recruiters and authors to uncover what's behind this trend and to provide tips to help you avoid being cut for your age before you really get a chance to showcase your skills.
Job Hunting Is a Full-Time Job
"Boomers need to recognize who they are competing with," says managing partner of Keystone Associates, Elaine Varelas. There are no shortcuts here. The IT job market is fiercely competitive so you've got be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort. Don't rely only on your recruiter or job boards; you've got to have a multipronged attack if you want to secure a job in a reasonable amount of time. Work with a recruiter, use job boards and put the word out to your network.
Resume Tips for Baby Boomers
The resume is a great place to start. This often times is the only contact you may have with a prospective employer. "Write a solid accomplishment-driven resume that shows how you overcame challenges with results," says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president at Keystone Associates. This is at the top of her list of critical items that baby boomers need to address.
Trim Your Resume Down
You've been an IT pro for more than 20 year, but you don't want to list all that experience on your resume. Nothing will make your resume hit the trash can faster than a laundry list of out-of-date skills. Remove older positions and skills that aren't relevant to the position you are shooting for. Unless you're a multi-published person, Varelas says, "Boomers need to be sure they leave it at two pages. It needs to have your LinkedIn profile on it and you really need to make sure that it's easily readable."
Remove Unnecessary Dates
A good recruiter will be able to ballpark your age with or without dates but this is one way to give yourself the best chance. "Mature workers can eliminate the dates on positions they held many, many years ago - and also delete the date of graduation from schools," says Ford Myer, executive career coach and author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring.
Include Groups, Affiliations and Awards
Align yourself with groups and communities that are thought to be at the forefront. "The resume should include a "professional affiliations" section, reflecting active involvement in the most "cutting edge" organizations and associations," says Myers.
Whether it's in your resume or in real life, you need to communicate to whomever you talk with the value you bring to the table. What is it you do better than the other people who do the same job as you? The best way to do this is to know what an employer's problems and pain points are. Once you know that, focus more on how you can solve those problems. Experts agree that if an employer thinks you will add value to their company, the age issue becomes less of a factor.
Have a Social Media Presence
If you are in the technology field and you don't have a social media presence you are doing yourself a disservice. More and more companies are turning to social media to find new talent. An IT pro or developer who can't be found on networks like LinkedIn, Google+, StackOverFlow or CodeProject can send up a red flag with employers. "We highly recommend that if someone does not have a LinkedIn profile established to spend the time in doing so upfront, "says Ripaldi.
Build a Professional Network
Build a network of professionals using LinkedIn or Google+ by connecting with past bosses, coworkers, clients and so on. You'd also be wise to identify the companies you want to work for and connect with hiring managers and peers as well as follow the company.
"Once you have your profile established spend consistent time networking with those you know, those in professions you want to go into, etc. You'll be surprised at how fast you can build your new network and what opportunities may lie for you through your networking efforts," says Ripaldi.
Networking is multi-layered process, according to Mattison. Many Baby Boomers think networking is simply sending a resume as many people as you can and saying, "if you hear of a job, let me know." "Networking is building and maintaining relationships with people -- via in-person meetings, chats at cookouts, phone calls and LinkedIn messages - who can give you advice, information, and contacts that will eventually lead to the hidden job market," says Mattson.
She also recommends asking the people in your network who you are in regular contact with the following questions.
What skills and experience are you looking for that will add the most value to your organization?
How does your company find key talent?
What does your company look for when interviewing established workers?
What do we need to do better in presenting ourselves more effectively?
What should I do in-between the first and second round of interviews when I do not hear back from the employer?
Do you know of companies that are targeting the more mature worker?
What skills would you recommend for me to acquire to make me more marketable?
Is there an internship at your company to show you what value I could bring to your organization?
Do you know of a particular networking group that would be helpful for me to join?
Is there someone else you could recommend I speak with who could help me fine tune how I present myself the most effective way in today's challenging job market?
Social media is also a great place to post any content you've created. "The articles that you write should be posted on your social media sites," says Goldsmith. It will get the word out and help you establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
Update Your IT Skills
Find out what skills would make you more valuable to employers in your industry and then go out there and add those skills to your tool box. This could mean taking online courses, workshops, webinars or books, going back to college or a tech school.
"Once you identify the direction you want to go, and then understand the specific skills needed, you will be able to find resources to train. Upgrading your skills will be essential and the time should be spent doing so. Also you will be able to locate free resources that can help you validate the skills you need and offer the skills training as well," says Ripaldi.
You could also go the less-traveled route and volunteer your time somewhere that will allow you to grow your skill set, like a nonprofit or church organization.
Raise Your Profile by Creating Content
One great way to get your name out there is to create content germane to your profession. "Select a topic for which you have an opinion and can add unique perspective, write about it, not just once, and post it to a variety of online article submission services. For example, I have a friend who has worked for 20 plus years in hospitals and has positioned herself as an IT hospital specialist. If she were looking for a job, I would recommend that she network at hospital conferences and identify opportunities to speak about an IT topic that would interest this market (if she is a good speaker); or join a hospital industry association and write an article for the association newsletter or blog," says Goldsmith.
For example, a sysadmin might write an article on migrating assets to the cloud or an HTML5 developer could write an article on HTML5 best practices. Senior IT people could write about leadership topics or project management.
Final Word of Advice for Baby Boomers
There are some who recommend changing your hair to appear more youthful, but a majority of experts advise against this. Being yourself is the only way to truly know if you will fit into their team and culture. That doesn't mean a wardrobe update or hairstyle is out of the question, but as Shakespeare wrote, "To thine own self be true."
"Don't try to look 25-years-old, but giving yourself a makeover, a new hair color and style, an updated wardrobe, and modern eyeglasses will help keep the interview to just the questions and not thoughts of your maturity. Also, it's true that if you feel good on the outside it helps promote positive energy from within and makes not just you, but your entire personality more appealing and hirable," says Mattson.
Job Search Resources
"Over 50% of working retirees want to work in a new profession. So there are also sites geared towards assisting those individual in identifying their 'second careers' such as the My Skills, My Future website from The Labor Department," says Matt Ripaldi, senior vice president with IT staffing firm Modis. There a number of resources on the web and in the real world that focuses on helping people over 50, refocus their careers or find new ones.