You know that Friends episode, “The One Where Chandler Gets an Unpaid Internship”? That actually reflects a real-life example of any former generation being in job competition with the younger during the hiring process.
Even though this is a fictitious story where Chandler is in his mid-30s pursuing a new career, what if you are even older just trying to get back into the same career field after a hiatus? How do you start?
After quitting his job, Chandler Bing decides to pursue his dream career in advertising. He is excited when he nails his interview, only to find out he is joining a class of interns, 10-15 years younger and will be unpaid. While Chandler has more work experience, he lacks any advertising experience through his previous jobs and is competing with a very agile group.
This rendition of Ask CJ is a bit different, where one of our Facebook followers asked: How do I land a clearance job at the age of 50?
One 2020 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that individuals in the workforce over age 40 are about half as likely to get an offer as younger professionals if the employer knows their age. So, what strategies can get you a leg up above the competition?
EMBRACE THE NEW NORMAL
No, we’re not talking about the pandemic (although it relates). Social networking and online job seeking has been ‘the new normal’ for a few years, but especially during a pandemic. Make sure you are on all the right career sites (including ClearanceJobs if you have an active security clearance), and practice good cyber hygiene. Remember that networking online might be a little bit different than your usual in person career fairs you may have experienced in your 20s, 30s, and 40s.
SPIES IN DISGUISE
When you’re applying for new jobs online, it’s best to be mysterious. Not only for Operational Security (OPSEC) purposes as a clearance holder, but also to avoid any types of age discrimination. Yes, employment discrimination based on age is very illegal, but unfortunately, it is difficult for someone to prove and it still happens. Luckily, you could have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Shorten your resume and don’t include your first job from 1985. Instead, take a look at the requirements of the position, and if it only calls for 10 years of relevant experience, include 15 years on your CV. This allows you to meet the minimum requirements without being passed over for a recruiter thinking you’re too ‘overqualified’. We’ll get to that later.
Just be sure to not mention your age – ever. It’s not necessary.
When it comes to LinkedIn or other social photos, again abide by OPSEC principles, but this can also be a venue for more age discrimination. Use an online program that can animate your profile picture – this shows you can be creative without disclosing personal biometric details.
LEVERAGE YOUR EXPERIENCE
More experience generally means you have a larger network to tap into. So, a reminder to not burn bridges, and keep in touch with your former supervisors, mentors, and co-workers. Put the call out that you’re in the job market. After all, a recent survey through CivicScience found that respondents were 64% more likely to say they found their most recent job through their network or someone they knew than via a job site.
So, work those connections.
UTILIZE THOSE STABLE SAVINGS
Generally, with age comes better spending habits. Usually, but not always.
Use your potential savings or any funds you have at your disposal to refresh your skills. Take a college course or study for a new in demand certification. A frequent misconception job seekers over the age of 50 make is assuming they wouldn’t be a good fit because the role includes using software they’ve never used. Apply in conjunction with learning this new skill.
You could even take a lower paying gig while a contractor puts you through the background investigation process to obtain a security clearance (in fact, organizations like Amentum are currently sponsoring at the TS/SCI level).
PROBLEM WITH AUTHORITY? NO PROBLEM AT ALL
A big concern about someone being overqualified is that they would overstep their boundaries since they were formerly in higher roles before. You could be seen as opposed to change or hold a “this is how I’ve always done it” mindset. To avoid this, you could provide examples of how you took on new protocols in your cover letter or initial phone screen.
While you have a ton of experience, maybe what has made you successful in every position you’ve held is taking a step back, being a good listener, taking risks or trying new things, and following through 100% of the time.
All this could explain why you’re not overqualified while demonstrating your ability to learn new things or gain fluency with technology.
Willing to Put in the work
Chandler Bing’s dream in this Friends episode eventually became a reality when his more mature approach eventually paid off, securing a full-time job in the business as a junior copywriter.
So, be willing to put in the work while being mindful of your younger competitors.