Last year Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research released a study with a discouraging synopsis for job seekers over 40 years of age. It concluded that companies steer clear of them due to four key factors: less energy, higher salary expectations, high health and life insurance costs, and an unwillingness to learn new technology.
While people today live longer lives and nobody really retires anymore, companies crave young whippersnappers ready to work more, make less, take orders, and get technical. It is presupposed that without worries over children, young people will work late or on weekends. Plus, with today’s gadgets their eyes may never stray far from work.
So while prospects are decent for younger jobseekers, older workers who have been laid off are more likely to find themselves in an ocean without a lifejacket. “They were so busy working, living, and putting out fires all the years they were at their jobs, that if they are let go they don’t know what to do,” says Nancy Range Anderson, founder of Blackbird Learning Associates in Bound Brook and author of the 2010 book “Job Search for Moms.”
Many 40-plus jobseekers will go home and dust off an old resume, one from when they were first hired or promoted within the company. For a brief time Anderson was one of these people. Now she shines light on the 21st century job search.
Anderson will kick off a summer and fall series of free job search sessions, starting with “Job Search Skills for the Age 40+ Worker” on Thursday, June 30, at the Franklin Township Public Library, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Call 732-873-8700.
Anderson ran the gamut of the corporate world, spending time at the Bank of New York, the CIT Group, and the Chubb Group of insurance companies. She was with J&J for 21 years as a senior training analyst and human resources consultant, but in the aftermath of the economic downturn two years ago her longtime position was eliminated. Luckily she found help.
“Johnson & Johnson had an outplacement office so I went and gave my resume to a counselor,” she says. “They said, ‘this thing really ages you.’ I didn’t realize.”
Anderson says the over-40 crowd should exclude dates of employment and college graduation to protect from age discrimination.
#b#What’s in a name#/b#? Age discrimination may run as deep as your name. Anderson says her own name, Nancy, is from the 1950s and names like Susan and Janet or Peter, Mark, or Tom for men can age candidates as employers make assumptions without meeting people. If they do meet you, your appearance might be the determining factor.
“Talk with a friend or family member and ask for their advice on how to update your appearance or your wardrobe,” she says. “Don’t wear a suit that you’ve had for 15 years to your interview just because it still fits.” She recommends stores like Kohl’s or Marshall’s, which have “good deals on professional-looking clothes”.
Be aware, too, of body language and how you carry yourself. “A lady in my class — the same age as me — was slumped over in her chair and she looked angry,” Anderson says. “I asked what frustrated her most in her job search. She replied “‘they said I didn’t have energy.’” And she clearly didn’t, she was all slumped over.”
#b#Face it, it’s not just Facebook#/b#. In every seminar Anderson teaches, she takes a poll, by a show of hands, of who uses LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The results are not encouraging.
“Quite a few have Facebook but they use it socially, like for finding school friends,” Anderson says. “For those 40-plus, when I ask about LinkedIn and Twitter, the hands go down to less than half, and that’s so frustrating for me because statistics say companies are moving away from job boards and recruiters and they look for people on these sites. I tell [job seekers] that and they roll their eyes.”
For some, social media is a daunting obstacle, or they are so fed up they just don’t want to do it. But this is not an option, Anderson says. Companies want people who are comfortable with technology.
Anderson had her own qualms over seeing tweets with “FF” on them each Friday, thinking there was some lewd meaning behind this. She later googled for the meaning of FF and found it means “Forward Fridays,” a hash tag used to recommend Twitter friends to your followers. She also learned how people post links to resumes and how employers scour Twitter to find job candidates.
Also, jobseekers need to have professional pictures online. Although those over 40 are less likely to have embarrassing or inappropriate photos online, they must be aware of other activities that can trigger a negative reaction. Anderson says people over 40 tend to have stronger religious and political views, and if it’s expressed online, it’s fair game.
“Say someone is in a Glenn Beck discussion group or has made slightly controversial political comments,” she says. “If I Googled him I’d find the comments. It might be even more of a turnoff than a younger person’s beer drinking photos.”
Anderson’s father spent the first 23 years of his career in U.S. Army intelligence during the end of the Cold War, taking his family abroad. She and her older sister, Barbara, were born in Japan, and after a brief stay in New Jersey, her dad was transferred to Germany. The family lived in Heidelburg and Nuremburg about four years.
As a child Anderson never knew her dad held a job straight out of a thriller novel: chasing spies. She recalls evenings when her mother, a stay-at-home mom, would lock the girls upstairs in a bedroom as a precaution. When her kids were grown she finally told them what the reason was.
“My father was always on secret missions in the days of the Communism” she says. “There were all sorts of people at our house, and they would drink and drink. My father would get them drunk and they would tell their secrets.”
Anderson finds the root of her profession in her father’s second career, as a fifth grade teacher in Lincroft. She followed suit by earning a bachelor’s in elementary education from Lynchburg College in Virginia.
In 1986 Anderson was hired as a trainer for J&J’s informational technology department in Raritan, where she mentored employees on communication, quality performance, and leadership skills. Her first job with the Asbury Park-based department store Steinbach’s shifted Anderson into the training profession. Management approached her to teach employees how to use new point-of-sale cash registers. She began introducing people to technology and “showed them how easy it was.”
Her father inadvertently taught her a teaching technique she says is “the most important thing I’ve done”. He would tell kids in his class stories from World War II, and Anderson recalls that for math lessons, he used flying a plane as an example of how to calculate speed and distance.
“He’d go into stories about gauging how long a runway was. He used personal examples and I do the same thing — taking anecdotes and placing them into training,” Anderson says.
Her mother and father instilled a secular view in their two daughters, and the man she calls “an adventurer” offered the best advice for job seekers at any age. “My dad would always tell me go experience life and don’t settle. Do what you love to do and be happy doing that,” she says.