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3 BIG Questions: Edward Lawrence

3 BIG Questions: Edward Lawrence Three-big--ed-Lawrence-1.jpg

Job search tips for people 50-plus

By Debbie Gardner

     Ed Lawrence understands what it takes to get a job. A certified professional resume writer and interview coach as well as an online profile expert, he has helped countless job-seekers through his website 

     As a group leader for the Massachusetts Councils on Aging’s 50+ Jobseeker Program, he also knows the unique challenges facing older workers. Here’s some tips he shared with Prime:

Q: If you haven’t written a resume in years, what’s a good place to start formulating your information.

“Break down five or 10 things that you do really well for the type of work you want to market yourself for. That is going to be your starting point of your self-marketing campaign and you’re going to use those points over and over – although you will want to customize those points for the different jobs you will be applying for.

     “Some people ask how far back you should go with skills and jobs – no more than 10 or 15 years. You want to showcase what you’ve been doing now – your most recent projects – and throw in some soft skill descriptions. You have to remember that you are writing a resume to catch the attention of the employer; it is not a historical record of everything you ever did. Recruiters and hiring managers skim documents quickly. The resume must be appealing to the human eye – more of a movie trailer than a movie of your life.

     “I often get asked if employers can ask the year you graduated from college. Yes, they can, but you don’t have to volunteer that information on your resume.

     “Formatting and the presentation matters. Young people today are using colored lines, and light paint background shading for the job information. Also, resumes from younger workers don’t usually use serif-style typefaces like Times New Roman or other type fonts that have ‘feet.’ Consider using a type of font like Ariel or Calibri or Bookman. The exception might be if you are applying for a job in finance or insurance; there you can still use one of the more conservative fonts like Times New Roman.

Q: Using online job boards or networking- which is a better choice for older workers?

 “Recruiters, employers, and studies all agree “Networking is the best way to find a job.” Job boards have their use, but should not be the main strategy. That approach has an overall low chance of success. In fact, a Yale study about three years ago equated using an online job search strategy with playing the lottery. And online job searches can result in applicants being trolled by bogus job offers.

     “I tell people to build relationships through volunteering if you are between jobs. During my transition to coaching from my original career. I volunteered with social service agencies and

made connections that still help me five years later. You can also thaw out frozen or stale relationships and get in touch with people you knew in the past. If you liked each other back then, you might find a connection today. Networking can be done both in person and online. The idea is to gain leads not just from people you know, but from people they know. This approach is generally much more successful than applying through job boards, because you can gain access to what’s called “the hidden job market.” That’s the pool of jobs that never make it to the job boards. Some studies indicate this pool makes up as many as 2/3 of all jobs!

Q: If you get an online or in-person interview, are there things you should do – or avoid doing?

     “I always tell people to have your whys ready for that interview. Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work for this company? Why are you a good fit for this position? Why does your experience matter?

     “The most important ‘why’ answer is, “Why should we hire you?” Every job seeker must compile a list of their skills, qualifications, and personal traits – and create a combination that will resonate with the hiring people and raise their interest in you.

     “One thing older workers should avoid doing in an interview is reminiscing. Especially in response to a question. Reminiscing can make you seem out of touch with the way business is conducted today, or even make an applicant seem resistant to change and stuck in the past.”