Q: Dear Dr. Culp, Employers seem to think that your skills aren’t current and that something must be wrong with you if you’ve been out of full-time work for six months or more. How should I approach these problems?
A: Dear Musing, Tackle them head-on!
Break stereotypes. Write down everything you’ve done that marks your skills current. Prioritize them with the most compelling points first. Sprinkle any and all of them throughout your resume and interview so employers can’t assume otherwise. If even a single skill is rusty, dedicate some of your job-hunting time to updating it and finding an environment, even if it’s volunteer, to prove you’ve nailed it. Include the training and execution in your written and oral presentations.
Meanwhile, research the number of Americans who’ve been unemployed for more than six months. If an employer implies that there’s something wrong with you, say, “X million Americans haven’t worked for six months or more.” Smile as you testify, “I want out of that group!”
Still stuck? Ask for a test-drive to assess your contribution to 1) increasing profits, productivity or efficiency, 2) decreasing waste or 3) whatever you do well that he/she needs.
Q: Dear Dr. Culp: After being laid off in 2008, I spent a year job hunting before promoting myself as a consultant and freelancer. I’ve done OK, but I really enjoy daily interaction with peers and customers versus working alone at home. I believe my age, 57, hurt me initially and people keep hitting me with “overqualified.”
How do I get around my age and three years as a consultant? HR folks don’t think I want to work as an employee, because I’ve had success on my own. I was also laid off in 2005 and again worked for myself until I found a job. Recruiters are telling me I’m looking wishy-washy. Of course, I think I am resourceful. How should I handle the age and self-employment issue?
Turning a Corner
A: Dear Turning, Interviewing with HR and recruiters helps only if you inspire them to sponsor you in their company or client companies. You’re out-of-the-box, making that difficult for them. “Overqualified” becomes a standard excuse. Find people most likely to hire you directly. Mention your professional activities and reading about industry trends. Age shouldn’t come up, but you can address it by illustrating how highly productive you are in your work. Be specific.