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Before You Do Botox, Do This First

Ageism happens – especially in the media.  If you’re moving into your fifties, you’ve probably seen it firsthand.   Perhaps the easy job or sales interviews you used to get are harder to come by now.  Maybe it’s fewer auditions or business presentations.  Some have see outright discrimination working in a culture that worships youth.  Whatever your experience (and you’re bound to have one sooner or later) here’s a few ideas that will keep your resume – and you – looking younger:

1)  Get some new pictures. Especially if you’re an actor or executive, headshots matter. Personally, I think most people should invest in them because you never know when you’ll need good pictures. You might conduct a conference workshop, write an article, or do something else that requires a headshot. Stop using that shot from Disneyland your brother-in-law took with his phone. Invest in yourself and find a good headshot photographer.

2)  Dump the graduation dates from your resume. The farther away those dates get, the older you look. Unless you’re in academia, specifics about your high school or college education really don’t matter anymore. You graduated and majored in X.  Great. Leave it there.

3)  Experience is great, but not that much experience. Remove your early jobs from the resume.  Focus on your more recent positions, projects, and career choices. Keep the resume at one page if possible, and leave out your earlier stuff – especially if it’s not directly related to the position you’re pursuing.

4)  Get younger recommendations. Certainly you want the most influential and powerful people in your industry to recommend you. But if you can find younger influencers, all the better – especially if your current recommendations are from retired people. This let’s your prospective employer know that you hang with a more contemporary crowd.

5)  Keep your presentation current. Hopefully, your resume has a little style, and doesn’t look like it was typed on an 1985 IBM Selectric.  (Remember the little font ball?)  Don’t go overboard, but reflect current resume standards and styles.  Same if you have a personal or company logo.  Give it a refresh and keep it current.  Let your employer know that you’re not a dinosaur.

6)  Create different resumes for different jobs. In a media-driven culture, it’s about the niche, so have multiple resumes on your computer, customized for different types of industries, positions, or careers.  Don’t assume one will work for the other.  Focus, focus, focus.

7)  Create a Facebook page, a blog, or a website. Technology matters, so you need to be fluent in the language.  Blogs, social networking pages, and websites show people you get it, and it makes a real difference in your perception.  I have friends that don’t think social media matters, and they’re about to find out how difficult job hunting is going to be for them.

8)  Re-think your wardrobe. Find someone younger than you (preferably who  understands what’s expected from your industry) and get their wardrobe advice. PLEASE don’t go overboard and try to look like a 20 year old, but learn what’s stylish and expected today. Throw out the offending pieces of your current wardrobe and update the rest. Sure there’s an expense involved, but perception matters, and it’s tough to change a first impression.

It’s not about bait and switch.  It’s about presenting the most positive face to the world.  Certainly we’d love to live in a world where what’s inside counts, but that’s not the world where I work.  So make the best of it, and chances are, it will refresh you as well.  A new look often changes your attitude as well as your perception!

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  1. It's also wise to keep your weight in the healthy zone and exercise moderately.  What you interpret as age discrimination may be a result of the perception, fair or not, that you're lethargic.

  2. Phil, point #6 – Create different resumes for different jobs – is absolutely crucial. Don't send out a "one size fits all" resume. Create 3-4 different resumes based on the types of jobs you're going after. Be flexible. Look hard at the job posting, then tailor an individual resume for EXACTLY, SPECIFICALLY what the job description states and what the employer is looking for. Even put the job title as your job goal. One needs to target market oneself. They say you have 10-15 seconds for the HR person to scan your resume and either put it in the Candidates pile or Discard pile.

    Also, keep in mind that competition is FIERCE these days and that the process takes time. I targeted a job in May that received over 300 resumes for the position. The employer culled that down to just 3 candidates who got interviews. (I was fortunate to be 1 of the 3.) The job required 3 key "call back" interviews with 5 Emmy winning producers over a 4 week period. What got my resume into the top 3? First, I had the right experience for a very demanding job. But truth be told, I also looked very hard at what the job description spelled out and wrote a brief cover letter (every word counts) stating how my experience matched the job. (The first producer told me it was the cover letter that first caught his attention.) I also stated what "value" I'd bring to the position. That's important. The employer wants to know what you bring to the job that will make a difference, i.e., why should we hire you?

    Lastly, I kept my resume short and to the point. Having been in tv for some time, I also "dumbed down" my experience in this specific resume and didn't got back more than 15 years. The goal: get the interview. That gets you the chance to present yourself. Mission accomplished. In the interviews I kept my answers short and to the point. Didn't ramble. Was upbeat. Made eye contact. Smiled. Listened. Didn't ever, ever interrupt the interviewer. Came prepared. Did research on the position and the tv show. Asked intelligent questions. At the end…I asked for the job. ("I'd love to join your team.") After 3 interviews – got it.

  3. Thanks.

    A couple brief asides: 1. I was applying for a demanding job where the Exec. Producer is 63. My age – 51 – didn't matter. That's very, very rare for tv production companies. Age was never an issue. It was all about compentency.

    2. I made sure to remember names and write them down. When I returned for follow-up interviews I called the receptionist (Andrea) by her name. She gave me special treatment thereafter. (Little people mean as much as the big people in my book.)

    3. Every person who interviewed me got a hand written Thank You note sent to them within 24 hours. Made sure to mention how much their time and consideration was appreciated. There were 2 other competitors for the job. So it's the little stuff that often makes a difference. People like it when you say Thank You.

  4.  I agree with what has been said. But also remember to wear something you feel comfortable and confident in…so you look relaxed in your skin. If you rarely or never wear highheels an interview or important meeting is not the time to test run a new younger look that may require any type of balance or body twisting to walk or sit.  New perm, color, or hair style should be done at least a week ahead to give you time to fix anything that may have gone sadly wrong. Dry cleaning also well ahead if you can. Know the dress-code, protocols and research the folks above who you're meeting with…all the levels even if you think you'll never meet them in a million years. 

     This year I had meetings in DC arranged for me by a congressman. On our second trip we were prepared to have a meeting to discuss the game plan for a meeting with the next level up. To our complete (almost shock) surprise individuals who take months and several levels of red tape to see just walked into our meeting. Completely changed the dynamics of everything. In a matter of seconds we had to change the focus of our entire presentation. It went very well. Try to plan for the unexpected. And when the unexpected happens stay calm, focused and enjoy the ride. Lastly if your meeting requires you to bring a team…pick them with care.  What Craig said, really important stuff. Thanks…

  5. The best solution for a Logan's Run culture that no longer values wisdom and equates a "hoary" head with diminished brain capacity, is to start your own venture(s). Barring that, yes, by all means, go on your job interviews looking your best–that's just good stewardship of your "temple", but speaking personally I can tell you that I have absolutely no interest in trying to compete with 20-and 30-year or even 40-year olds. Not only is this catering to a "sibling society" unbiblical, it's energy best spent elsewhere–like getting on your knees and asking God (and actually waiting around for the answer) what part He wants you to play in His Kingdom work.

    Something tells me He's not going to tell any of His children who happen to be in their 40s, 50s and beyond, to try and look and act a decade or so younger so they can snag a job.  Where, I ask is the faith in that approach?  Trust God, walk uprightly, keep your youth renewed like an eagles by keeping your faith fresh and He will give you the favor you need for the assignment He's given YOU. 

  6. Terrific advice.

    I'd add this – don't succumb to the temptation to lie about your age. All these suggestions urge you to emphasize your youthful spirit, while not compromising the truth or your ethics. Taking that kind of shortcut is unnecessary for success.


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