Now is the time for making New Year's resolutions. And, if you are a job-seeker of maturity, there are 3 especially powerful resolutions that are guaranteed to affect your chances for success.
Now is also the time to take full advantage of the surge in hiring that takes place in January and February. Just as we mark the onset of the New Year with our personal to-do lists, organizations kick-off new projects, put annual budgets into place and create initiatives for the upcoming year. More than likely, they will need to bring on additional staff to carry out their plans.
There is, therefore, a seasonal aspect to employment and right now is a prime hiring period. For a variety of reasons, this is just the time to reinvigorate your efforts and ensure that you are presenting yourself as a strong, attractive candidate... the one employers will want to meet.
Here are 3 power-packed resolutions that will help you do just that:
Resolution #1 -- Practice being proactive
By far, the most impactful resolution you can make is to maximize your time spent networking. Even more than other applicants, mature job-seekers need to rely on word-of-mouth referrals obtained through people they know. This is because older applicants are often viewed as less competitive due to their age alone. Nevertheless, under the right circumstances, you can overcome many of the age-related disadvantages. By getting the nod from a future employer's respected colleague or friend, you are far more likely to secure a face-to-face interview. Then you will have the opportunity to dispel any negative stereotypes they might be holding against you.
On the other hand, if you settle for a reactive job search (by responding to postings and ads) you will be putting yourself at a substantial disadvantage. You can't help but face maximum competition levels because you will be competing against hundreds (if not thousands) of other job-seekers. Plus, if you are measured against candidates who bring personal recommendations, you are guaranteed to find yourself in a losing position.
The most critical action you can take, therefore, is to be proactive and monitor how you use your time. Despite the numerous online tools, a minimum of 75 percent of all new positions is still obtained by way of personal referral. People get people jobs and an in-person connection is always best. So vow to spend at least three quarters of your job search efforts conducting targeted networking.
For optimal ways to connect with decision-makers and people in positions of influence, check out my series: How Best to Conduct Targeted Networking, Land Your Next Job With Targeted Networking and How to Network Your Way to a New Job After 50.
Resolution #2 -- Make the most of your written materials
Be certain that any and all of your marketing materials are compelling to read and easily scanned. This is true for your LinkedIn profile, your resume, your personal website (consider creating one if you don't already have one), cover letters or any other ways you present yourself in writing. Your goal is to have your words both attention-grabbing and visually appealing. The following points will provide you with valuable tips on reaching that goal.
- The 30-second rule: Most recruiters spend 30-seconds or less determining whether or not your information is worth their time. Consequently, the order you present your material is vitally important. You will need to place your most your critical skills and accomplishments to the top and to the left of each of your written descriptions. Be certain to incorporate the liberal use of white space and bullets so that your key selling points literally leap out at the reader. This way you will draw a reviewer's attention immediately -- and a swift glance is all the time you will get.
- Your skills are your key selling points. Make sure you are presenting yourself as a competitive, cutting-edge candidate by populating each of your marketing pieces with skills that sell in today's job market. Use the job postings as a research tool and pay particular attention to the keywords you see again and again. These are the hot-button skills that are currently in the greatest demand for your line of work. Also note the order in which these skills appear in the ads. This provides a major clue as to how greatly these particular skill sets are valued.
- Highlight the results you have achieved. Clearly state the results you have achieved in your previous positions. By stressing your accomplishments and quantifying the results you were able to produce, recruiters and hiring managers will get a real-world sense of both your capabilities and your work ethic.
- Don't forget the "top/left placement" rule outlined above. When creating examples of your work accomplishments, be sure to state the results you achieved at the start of your bullet point. (This order differs from the advice found in many resume books, which suggest ordering your statements with using a STAR format: situation, task, action, result.)
- By forming your statements with the results at the beginning, however, your examples will become far more forceful and eye-catching. For example: "Accomplished a 20% reduction in time to market by...." or "Increased customer base by 15% within a two month period." Placing first-order emphasis on the positive outcomes you have been able to produce is a persuasive sales tool that will get you through the door for an interview.
For more information on best practices for resumes and other written materials, please check out my post, Words to Use, Words to Lose.
Resolution #3 -- Be mindful of your nonverbal messages
Your attitude about your viability as a candidate, the confidence with which you present yourself and the enthusiasm you exude are the ultimate factors determining your success. Your nonverbal messages play a major role in letting potential employers know you are an upbeat, can-do candidate who would make a great addition to their team.
Moreover, as a job-seeker of maturity, it is even more critical that you are aware of your overall demeanor and the way you hold your body. Some of the more negative preconceptions hold older applicants as lacking energy, devoid of ideas and enthusiasm, and just going through the motions. So, whenever you interact with potential contacts, make sure you hold your head high, walk with confidence, present a firm handshake and keep your body language open. Uncross your arms and use your hands to make your points. Appropriate gesturing projects emphasis and energy and these types of nonverbal messages will help to dispel many of the negative stereotypes of age.
For additional tips, take a look at my earlier piece, Mind Your Messages.
Above all, remember that your attitude underscores everything you do. So anticipate the best, exude a mixture of professionalism and personal warmth and go for it. Take pride in your skills, your multiple accomplishments and your value as a potential employee. Recognizing all you have to offer is, bar none, the most powerful resolution of them all!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!