Far too many job-seekers over 50 are feeling the weight of all the bad news regarding their chances for finding work. If you're one of these disheartened applicants, please check out my last post, "Ageism in the Job Market: Truth or Hype?" Of course, I'm not suggesting you head out into the reality of today's difficult economy only to have your hopes dashed by wildly unrealistic expectations. But a sense of optimism and a positive outlook are critical to presenting yourself with confidence. An upbeat, can-do attitude is just what employers are looking for.
That said, let's get down to basics: you need to think of yourself as a product (i.e. a skills merchant) to be sold in the marketplace. And becoming you the product requires a marketing plan that will highlight your talents, distinguish you from the competition, and create a positive buzz regarding your value as a candidate. In other words, you'll need to present you the product as a powerful and memorable brand.
Here are four steps to creating your own power brand:
1) Begin by researching your customers (potential employers) and determine what they're looking to "buy." As you peruse the postings for your line of work, you'll find certain skills listed over and over. Make certain these hot button skills appear liberally throughout your resume and that you frequently refer to them while networking and during an interview. It goes without saying, you must present your skill set with honesty. However it is your choice as to how you wish to emphasize what you're capable of achieving. So give the customer what they want and match your skills to the current demand.
2) Build your brand both verbally and on paper. Your resume needs to begin with a professional profile describing the function you perform, your level of experience, and several key skills. Your 30-second commercial (aka elevator speech) follows these same points. Each time you send out a resume or introduce yourself, you'll want to customize your approach somewhat to address the specific needs of your audience -- however you'll keep your general message the same. That way, you'll be presenting a unified brand that represents you in succinct and powerful terms and you'll be targeting your message to the interests of your audience. (Think: customized marketing.)
3) Emphasize your unique value. You the product are also you the person. You bring individual strengths and talents that distinguish you from anyone else. Personal traits and strengths have long been discounted as "soft skills." But your personality and soft skills are exactly what will make you stand apart from the competition and sell you in the interview. Employers recognize they can teach you the "hard skills" but they can't teach attributes like responsibility, showing initiative, innovative thinking, etc. These innate talents represent your "added value" as a unique individual and create real marketing power for your brand--so sell them!
4) Most importantly, present yourself with pride! Do not apologize in any way for your age. Have you ever seen a commercial where the business apologizes for its product or service? I doubt it! If they did, they wouldn't instill confidence in their customers or clients. Moreover, I bet you've spotted several ads with a phrase along the lines of "proudly serving the community since 1985." Seasoned job-seekers need to take their cue from these types of ads and remember to present themselves, their skills and experience from a position of strength.
The candidate who demonstrates current skills, an ability and willingness to learn new things, as well as the added value of having a mature work ethic and all the other positive attributes of age will present an unbeatable combination that's certain to attract employers. Your goal in power branding is to deliver a consistent message of expertise, distinguishing personal strengths, and a commitment to excellence. You the product are powerful and, with the right branding, you'll get your message across with a sense of confidence and a can-do attitude that's bound to bring you success.
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife job-seekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide packed with techniques to turn age into an advantage, tools for mature applicants to successfully navigate the modern job market, and strategies to give them the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!