March 21, 2010
How to stage a career comeback
Have you recently entered the job market after a long stretch with the same organization only to find that all the rules of job seeking, networking, and employment itself have changed? If so, Lisa Johnson Mandell feels your pain. After more than 25 years as a journalist, she found herself in the same boat. But rather than continue to watch her younger, greener counterparts nab the few film critic and entertainment reporter jobs available, she did something about it. She made over her resume, updated her image, and "worked the Web like crazy." The result? More job offers than she knew what to do with.
To tell other job seekers over age 40 how she did it, Johnson Mandell wrote Career Comeback: Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want, which incorporates the advice of multiple job search experts and mid-life workers who've staged career comebacks of their own. For tips on how you can follow in their footsteps, I spoke with Johnson Mandell. Here's what she had to say.
Q. What's the biggest mistake that job seekers over age 40 make?
A. They use the same strategies they used on their last job search. Even if it was only two years ago, everything, I repeat, everything -- from resumes to interview attire to job searching strategies -- has changed.
Q. What are your top tips for finding your own niche as a professional?
A. You need to figure out what you can do that no one else (or at least very few people) can do within your profession. Ask yourself, "How can I use my unique talents and gifts within my profession to help the world, potential employers, clients?" Potential employers or clients are more interested in how you can help them, rather than in hearing about how great you are. Once you have your unique value to others established, you brand yourself. You can do this via your own blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook.
Q. Aside from contact info, what essentials should job seekers include on their Web site?
A. A really great, fresh photo of you at your professional best is essential. That way, when a potential employer or client goes to your Web site, they'll have a visual image of you, rather than just words on a screen. This will make you stand out. Your blog entries should be all business -- nothing personal. And they should be helpful, including lots of tips on how to get ahead in your field, new studies, developments. Anyone who reads your blog should know you're on the cutting edge of your field. Tweeting using this method gets a lot of response too. You can also put your resume on your site, but it shouldn't be on the home page.
Q. In your book, you talk about "Botoxing" your resume. How can job seekers do this?
A. Most people use Botox to firm and freshen, so that's exactly what they need to do to their resume. Erase age lines by deleting your date of graduation and removing references to any obsolete or dated experience or skills -- e.g., hardware and software skills that no longer apply. You might also want to remove dates from any experience more than 15 years old. If you've been with the same company for 30 years, you can list your various positions with them and write "More than 15 years of experience with..." Then list all the wonderful things you've done for them over the years, without giving dates.
Q. Is a photo on a person's resume essential? Are there instances when a photo might hurt?
A. A photo on your resume is a good idea if the job requires dealing with the public. It's completely superfluous if you have a behind-the-scenes job. But no matter what your line, you should always have a good photo for your Web site, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook page, and for any other networking sites you belong to. It's true that a picture is worth a thousand words and will leave a firm, lasting impression. So you want to be careful what kind of photo you use.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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