About Me

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Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. She gained functional experience in a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 20 years. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires more thought than 20 years ago. Unexpected changes in life force us to consider the future. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Resumes that Win Interviews: 4 Secrets from Mr. Resume

I met Don Bauder (aka “Mr. Resume”) at an employment networking event last month. When someone gets introduced as “Mr. Resume” I’m thinking he better be good (mildly cynical). Don’s presentation earned him the title. I found myself taking notes and wanted to share a few nuggets of his extensive resume wisdom with you.

If you haven’t updated your resume in a few years...everything has changed. Here are four of Mr. Resume’s secrets in creating a winning resume that leads to an interview.

Secret #1: Skip the career objective at the top of the page. Bauder explained, “Objectives focus on what YOU (the job seeker) wants to do. In this competitive environment you have to stand out and create value for the employer.” He says what you want to do is to explain in this resume what you bring to the table. You have to set yourself apart by communicating your BRAND.

Secret #2: Tell a story. In the past we did a chronological data dump. With bullet points define your brand so your career makes sense to the reader. Examples of your results show what a job seeker can accomplish. According to Bauder, sometimes our experience doesn’t seem consistent for the job we are applying for and it is our job in the resume to tie it together for the reader.

Secret #3: Understand keywords: Computers screen today’s resumes, not people. The computer searches for keywords. Bauder explains that job-seekers have to do their homework and look for potential keywords in the job posting. If the person has that experience, put it in the resume. This is also the point he tells job seekers to never lie on their resume. “It is the worse thing you can do,” says Bauder.

Secret #4: Customize every resume you send out. Bauder explained that each resume has to position your brand a little differently depending on what the employer is looking for. The keywords are going to be different for each posting. He cautions if you use the same resume for your job search, you will be eliminated early in the search.

You can reach Mr. Resume via e-mail at: don_bauder@hotmail.com

Here are other links to blog posts with information related to resumes:

Successful Online Job Searches for Experienced Workers:

Turbocharge Your Career with Social Media

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turning Your Passion into a Career

A dear friend of mine turned 65 Wednesday with 9,999 others who reach that milestone daily in America. He didn’t celebrate with a gold watch and there is no retirement party in his immediate future. He worked really hard all day at a job he loves and said there was no where else he would rather spend a birthday. His career has transformed since we met 22 years ago when we worked as medical sales representatives. Now he’s the owner of a successful boutique winery in the Temecula Valley east of San Diego that bears his family name.

Twenty years ago, it was a dream. During a break at a sales meeting, he was reading about vintners in Napa Valley that gave up their day jobs to follow their hearts into the wine business. “One day I would love to do something like that,” and sighed one of those sighs after you buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot is $200 million. One of these days. Ever the cheery, encouraging friend, I suggested he just go for it. “No, it’s just a dream of mine,” he replied and we were off to the next sales training workshop.

Years pass and things begin to fall into place without him seeing the big picture of what was happening. (It happens like that sometimes). My friend acquires some land to grow palm trees for sale on weekends as a side business to generate extra income. He and his family built a farmhouse on the property by hand. The commercial palm tree business was sizzling and sales of capital medical equipment was still booming in the 1990s.

Over time, as you know, work situations change and what we want out of our lives continually evolves too. Retiring about eight years ago, my friend stood at a professional crossroad. He just dedicated twenty-five years of his work life to one company. At 57 years old, finding a mid-career position in Corporate America providing fulfillment seemed unlikely, so he threw himself into volunteer work and earning a real estate license. Through those two endeavors, a lot of interesting (and helpful) people crossed his path. If you are in good health and have a passion, 57 years old seems too early to call it quits and live out our days watching reality television.

It helped that this friend also had an undergraduate degree in microbiology (read: mad scientist) and an MBA in Finance from a top notch business school (read: brilliant business mind). Of course, this true corporate fairy tale has a happy ending—or I never would have posted it.

Over time, the palm tree business’ season came & went. In the meantime, the Temecula Valley became known as a great place to grow wine grapes and wineries were moving in all around. “Amazingly” the right mentors, advisors and helpers showed up in his life and he listened, learned and most importantly acted. Now, Chapin Family Vineyards is not a dream; it is a reality. It is a blend of passion, science and the art of wine-making. Several years from the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon release in 2006 followed by a fruity Syrah, later a Zinfandel and Summit Meritage—the “dream” is being written about in Southern California media, served in upscale restaurants and wine club members are buying by the case. One reviewer gave the vineyard perhaps the ultimate compliment calling it, “an undiscovered gem, on the edge of something big.”

No matter our age or circumstances, if we’ll nurture our passion and stay open to the possibilities; a world of opportunity can still open for you. So Happy Belated 65th Birthday, Steve! Lift a glass for me.

Winning the Interview—Part Two

In Part One, the different types of interviews were highlighted along with interview trends. In this post, I will tackle behavioral interview questions recruiters seem intent on asking along with the illegal questions recruiters are not supposed to ask. The final post of the Winning the Interview series--Part Three, I will address how to handle gaps in employment and other tough questions.
Illegal Questions:
I’ve been asked some of these questions  early in my career and I have answered them and got the job. I’m not saying you should answer illegal interview questions. When you see them, you will notice many of them are focused on younger females (because they are around family planning). One caution in answering illigal questions is they could be a signal of worse situations to come in that work environment. Certainly, corporate-trained hiring managers and recruiters know these questions are off limits and would not put their company at risk:
1.      How old are you? (often disguised as a compliment, it is still inappropriate and illegal)
2.      Were you born in the United States?
3.      Travel is a big part of this job. Will your (boyfriend) or girlfriend be alright with the travel? Do you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend)? Are you married?
4.      I see your ankle is wrapped. How did you hurt yourself?
5.      Do you have children?
6.      Are you planning to have children?
7.      What political party do you belong to?
8.      Do you go to church? What religion are you? Would your religion beliefs allow you to work Sundays?
9.      What’s your race? What country are your parents from? You have a Hispanic-sounding last name, but you look Caucasian-which are you?
10.  What is your sexual orientation? (even if it is couched in a “that’s-okay-here,” we have a GLBT affinity group), like question #1 it is inappropriate and illegal).

Behavioral Interview Questions:
As established career professionals, we’ve lived through the interviews that were straightforward—“What are you strengths and weaknesses?” “Do you like working independently?” And now, behavioral-based interview questions are becoming more prevalent as the economy has tightened. Human resources professionals believe that how you actually reacted in the past will give them a glimpse into how you will handle situations in the future at their company. These are typical behavioral-based questions to prepare for your interview:
1.       Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem and you initially did not know what to do? What course of action did you take and what was the outcome?
2.      Describe a situation where you had to deal with an angry customer. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?
3.      Tell me about a time when you had to make a quick decision and what was your thought process.
When handling behavioral interview questions, be prepared with a quick example or story that addresses the specific situation. Keep it as current as possible—two years ago or less if you can. The interviewer wants to know if you have what it takes to be successful in the job. Behavioral interview questions are less about questions than they are statements asking you to cite a specific example. Remember to give the interviewer the outcome in your story or example. The time the company invests in hiring, training and orienting you into the position is just that—an investment. And, like any investment, the company is looking for a return on investment. That is the intent of the behavioral interview--helping the company make a good investment. Hiring managers want someone who will be productive; someone who will stay with the company for a while-to recoup their initial training investment and someone promotable into the next level or two.
When you read the job description or during your phone interview, try to identify the competencies and attributes considered most important for this job. It can even be one of the questions you ask during the telephone interview. Then, think about your current position and examples or stories you can give from your current work experience that highlight your use of the competencies and attributes. Examples of attributes include:
A strong work ethic (important in sales and positions where you work independently)
A sense of urgency
Emotional intelligence
Good judgment and decision-making skills
Strategic-orientation (the ability to see the big picture)
Resourcefulness
Credibility
Interpersonal Skills
Preparation is critical to interviewing success. Remember you've made it this far, so you definitely are in the inner circle to get the job. Congratulations!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Winning the Job Interview--Part One

Job interviews are often a stressful time. It is not something we do very often (if we are fortunate) and many people have a tough time talking themselves “up” to others because they are concerned about bragging. The job interview is the one place where you must temper your modesty and present yourself and your achievements with confidence and passion.

With 9% unemployment and four generations in the workforce, experienced workers may have to update their interviewing skills to win today’s jobs.  Here are a few insider secrets to help you on your next interview.

PRE-Screening:

With hundreds or maybe even thousands of applicants for a single opening, HR recruiters have to narrow the field to the most qualified candidates based on the skills they “must” have and the skills it would be “nice to have”. Many larger companies and staffing agencies use an applicant tracking systems to help them find the most qualified candidates to move forward in the interview process. They enter search criteria based on the essential job “musts” for the best candidates to surface. (See the August 6 post, “Successful Online Job Search Techniques”).  
  • Larger corporations may have several questions online that you must answer before submitting your resume as their prescreening tool

  • Other companies may have a staff member call and ask 7-10 questions related to the position.

  • The trend is toward group interviews for more entry level positions. Hiring managers can observe your interpersonal skills, how you get along with others and your social skills in this format. After the group interviews, individual interviews are scheduled.

The Phone Interview:

After surviving the first round of elimination during the pre-screening, now you are ready for the phone interview. Your phone interview is Numero Uno in moving pass the gatekeepers to meet the hiring manager face-to-face. These interviews usually take place with a Human Resources recruiter.  Some of their biggest complaints include candidates giving a phone number that doesn’t work or low batteries on a cell phone that disconnects mid-interview or the candidate who forgot about the interview and the recruiter heard dogs barking a blaring TV & babies crying in the background. Take the telephone interview seriously; many job-seekers take this step too lightly. Remember it is critical to securing that all important face-to-face interview.

  • Project an enthusiastic tone over the telephone

  • Don’t ramble on & on—keep your answers succinct and relevant

  • Keep your examples current, in the last 1-4 years

  • Do not mention anything age-related or make a joke about being older

  • Have a three well-thought out questions ready for the interviewer

Face-to-Face Interview:

If you’ve made it this far, the job could easily be yours. As you prepare for this stage of the interview process unless you are interviewing for a position with a small business, you should expect a series of interviewers. Make sure you are well-rested and prepared for a long day (which also shows the interviewers your stamina).

  • First impressions are key—err on the side of conservatism: being dressed appropriately, firm-but not overbearing handshake, maintain eye contact without have a ‘stare down’ & BE ON TIME!!

  • Answer questions directly without getting distracted or going off onto a tangent

  • Assure each interviewer that you meet or exceed the required criteria for the role and ask them if they would support you for the role—if not, handle any objection they mention in a non-defensive, non-hostile way

  • Send a thank you e-mail to each interviewer and confirm your interest in the position and mention a line about how you will add value to the role

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It is “Lay-off Season” in Corporate America: Brace Yourself

Saturday night while at dinner with several friends from the Human Resources part of my life, the conversation was light and fun. The food was delicious and our experienced server had perfect timing balancing leaving us alone to talk & laugh and making sure our needs were met. We reminisced on the old days of doing employee benefit enrollment by hand with paper before it was automated. Everything was going great and as the entrée arrived the workforce planning consultant among us cast a pall over the mood as he reminded us his practice was busier than ever because it was “layoff season” with a glint in his eye that seemed a little evil to me. My appetite weakened and all eyes darted toward me because it was my idea to invite him—it was like the “Grim Reaper” joining us for dinner.  At the risk of knowing this would turn into a blog post, the consultant continued to talk throughout the entrée course—as consultants often do.
So, brace yourself, lay-offs are coming.

An HR spouse commented that it seemed a shame that corporate lay-offs occurred so close to the holidays and ruined Thanksgiving and Christmas with job loss notices. Our consultant friend reminded us that many activities happen BEFORE a person receives their lay-off notice and severance agreement. (I guess that is what pays for the gleaming new luxury car he drove into the parking lot.) The terms downsizing, right-sizing, lay-off, reduction in force (RIFs) are all yesterday. Today’s clients call it “headcount reductions” and the workforce planner’s task seems very mathematical and legal in nature. Sometimes senior management (usually the finance department) will engage him without much interaction with human resources because the HR department is also going to lose people too. Despite what we think, the target is not always long-tenured highly-compensated mature employees. Because of the litigious nature of people, he’s clear to first document the business need for laying people off. His team, which includes an attorney and statistician conducts an adverse impact analysis shared with his client’s in-house counsel, finance person and VP of Human Resources. That’s the step that insures or allegedly insures the mature workers are not singled out for lay-off. If you or a friend find yourself laid off, here are steps you should consider:

#1- Even if you are short on cash, invest the money in having an employment attorney review the severance agreement and general release you are being asked to sign. Not every company hires a knowledgeable consultant or has the skills in-house to properly prepare an adverse-impact analysis. In the United States, workers >40 years old are protected by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. In a group termination, there are special considerations for older workers and courts are trending toward invalidating template-styled releases companies obtain through the Internet or professional associations. I cannot suggest this strongly enough. Would you rather spend $200 for an hour of an attorney’s time or be cheated out of thousands of dollars or maybe even your job? It’s money well-spent.

#2- Have the employment attorney explain every section of what you give up by signing the release (generally it is the right to sue-which is usually pointless anyway). Use that document to bargain or negotiate if you need more $$ than the severance plan allows or extended benefits before you go onto COBRA or to propose continuing as a consultant. No matter what, make sure you react in a timely way to the release, so you don’t lose what the company is offering you.

#3- Immediately contact your state’s unemployment office to find out how soon after receiving your severance you qualify for unemployment, the process and how much you will receive.

#4-There’s a lot of emotional upheaval for a person who is laid-off. Surround yourself with supportive people and begin networking as soon as you can work through any anger or bitterness that comes through you. It sounds cliché, but it is so true, one door closes and another opens.

The good news is—the workforce planning consultant says the lay-offs are not as deep as 2008 and 2009. The business reasons are generally corporate acquisitions and mergers. Uniquely qualified people are still in demand, so while the company is reducing headcount in some areas—there are other areas of the same company still hiring—primarily I/T, systems and technology. Dessert finally arrived and the discussion was light again. (Note to self)--don’t invite the workforce planning consultant to what is supposed to be a relaxing dinner with friends. Make it a great work week!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Career Wisdom from the Legacy of Steve Jobs

iPads, iPhones, and iMacs spread the news of the death of Steve Jobs at age 56 on Wednesday. I was at a meeting in Naperville, IL (a Chicago suburb) when an Associated Press alert on my iPhone gave me the news. I shared the information with the people I was with and e-mailed it to two others. Later, we saw candles lit and flowers laid out in front of the Jefferson Street Apple Store in Naperville. Steve Jobs redefined media and the tools we use to access it; that is the legacy he leaves us.

At some point all of us will leave a legacy for our families, friends and work colleagues. I was talking about it with a good friend who said most people don’t care what their legacy will be which began a very spirited debate about why people do the things they do at work. We got into the concept about whether people work to live or live to work. Certainly we know the place “work” had in the life of Steve Jobs. He discussed his career when he gave the 2005 Stanford commencement address and a couple of key concepts came out of that talk that are even more applicable to midlife professionals than newly-minted college graduates.

#1: Careers Make More Sense When You Look Back on Them—
Steve Jobs told the graduating class, “you cannot connect dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”  How many times have you looked back on a career move and thought, “how did I end up here?” Later we realized we were right where we needed to be all along. We met people we needed to meet; had experiences we needed to have and learned essential things. It is hard sometimes to understand that when we’re in the thick of it. We've all experienced it; taking a backwards glance puts a lot of things (personal and professional) into perspective.

#2: You’ve Got To Find What You Love—
Jobs told the commencement audience, “I was lucky. I found what I loved to do quite early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parent’s garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion dollar company with over 4,000 employees.” Then he talked about getting very publicly fired. Talk about a backwards glance---he started NeXT and Pixar, met a woman he fell in love with and married. As he mentioned in #1 you cannot connect the dots looking forward. Apple purchased NeXT, the company he started and hired him back with a salary of $1 per year (he certainly didn’t need the money) and stock options. The rest, of course, is history.

#3: Living Your Own Life—
He advised the class to follow their hearts. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Even if we live much longer than Steve Jobs, life is still too short not to step out and do some of the things you always wanted to do. There’s never a “right time”; you’re never going to have enough saved and the economy will never make you feel comfortable. You have to take that leap of faith. I remember leaving a corporate job with good pay, great benefits and fantastic co-workers to start my own business in 2001. As a  one-income, single Mom with a 10-year-old, people thought I was crazy. I never worked harder or traveled more than I did those four years of entrepreneurial craziness. But the people I met, the experiences I had and the things I learned….Steve Jobs was right.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Turbocharge Your Career with Social Media

Can LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube impact your business and career? You Bet!Social media is the darling of savvy corporate recruiters for many reasons. It wasn't  just celebrities sending 50 million tweets per day in 2010. Entrepreneurs and corporate types alike leverage social media to get their message out to customers (& potential customers), increase their visibility to further their careers and become known as experts in their profession. Follow these 5 steps to turn website visitors into customers or take your career to the next level using social media.

Step #1: Leverage LinkedIn. It’s where savvy corporate recruiters are mining their next $100,000+ hire. From medical sales, marketing professionals to IT hotshots, I personally know people recruited from their LinkedIn profile. There are others that have made business connections through this platform. What does that mean to you? Create a profile if you don’t have one personally or for your business. Have a professional photo taken (if you’re within driving distance to Indiana; I recommend Michael Florence Photography-he’s on LinkedIn). Write a career summary that POPS!! If you are in job seeking mode, focus your career section on results or achievement NOT job duties.

Step #2: BLOG. When results from the search engines repeatedly point to you, people will take notice. Blogging is the fastest way to go from local to global. Blogging takes commitment (from a woman who only had 2 posts in September). When you blog, remember Content Rules!! And Frequency is a very close second (and no, 2 blog posts a month are not good enough). Can’t decide what to blog about? Start with your area of expertise. What do you want to be known for? Head to Blogger, Wordpress or if you are an artist, check out Tumblr and start your blog.

Step #3: TIYF. Technology is Your Friend. Repeat it until you believe it. If you are in the corporate arena, a smart phone is de rigueur. Link your e-mail account to it even if you only check at certain points throughout the day. Take a class, many libraries offer free courses on software and many community organizations offer free or low-cost programs on social media.

Step #4: Consolidate Platforms. You have to manage all the information, and not let the information take over. If I’ve overwhelmed you with the idea a personal social media strategy is just one more thing for the to-do list—there’s a simpler way. From a free platform like, Tweetdeck (my preference) or HootSuite or Hellotxt among other being launched daily, you can manage your social media from one site and update them all at once.


Step #5:  Smile, You’re on Candid Camera! If you read this blog, you probably remember Candid Camera. Today’s version is YouTube. Spice up your blog with video (expect to see some here soon)! A friend of mine had an interview with a company in Dubai via Skype. He got the chance to travel to the United Arab Emirates for the in-person interview and landed a new job. More companies will adopt video recruiting technology like HireVue, LiveHire and OVIA. So get ready for your close-up, it is the next big thing. Entrepreneurs-video of your products/services or video customer testimonials will help you convert your web visitors into customers.

There’s a lot out there in the world of social media and it can seem overwhelming at times. Rest assured, the technology community is a friendly place with lots of people willing to share their expertise. So jump right in and give your business or career a boost!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Five September Career Tips

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love the cooler weather, dining al fresco wearing a sweater and the kaleidoscope of colors courtesy of the trees in Indiana. Even though it isn’t officially here yet, here are a few autumn career housekeeping reminders. I recently read an article that said people spend more time planning their summer vacations than they do their careers. You can change that.
If you are currently working:
(1)   Review your performance appraisal from last year. Are you happy with your performance assessment for 2010? Are you likely to be assessed the same or higher for 2011? Schedule time in September for a face-to-face meeting with whoever writes your review. What is their perception of your work this year? Let them know you want to improve your rating. It shows two things: (1) that you are planning for the future & (2) that you care about your appraisal. One of the issue workers in their 50s and 60s face is managers begin to think you are less engaged because you are thinking of retirement.
(2)  It’s Employee Benefit Time! It is a time of year near and dear to my heart from years of working with my team to have a smooth annual benefit enrollment. From the employee perspective, that pesky information is staring you in the face AGAIN. I can tell you from experience, you never truly appreciate your company-paid employee benefits until you don’t have any. Take the time to look at the package from the benefits department and call the 800# if you have questions. Paying attention to your benefit choices and options can put more money in your packet (and who doesn’t need more $$)? Benefits like your Flexible Spending Account and Child Care Accounts cannot roll over from year-to-year and have to be updated annually. So think about 2012— need new glasses? Daycare having a tuition increase? Wisdom teeth out for those older kids?
(3)  Since you are already in benefit mode, it is probably a good idea to check the website of your 401(k) or 403(b) provider. Yes, it is (pick one) SCARY, DEPRESSING, HORRIFYING,  USELESS, but it is a part of your retirement nest egg. During my years in the employee benefits world, our 401(k) provider recommended employees increase their contributions at merit increase (aka, raise) time, so it would be a less noticeable in your pay. I know some companies are delaying or freezing merit increases, but if you still do receive one, it is good advice.
For the Job-Seekers:
(1)   October is the perfect month to find seasonal employment. If you are looking for a full-time job and you have been out of the job market a long time, what do you have to lose? I highly recommend working during the holiday season. There are so many positives to earning money, even if it is minimal. Working gets you out with new people (aka-networking), forces you to put on your happy face and it could lead to something full-time. Employers seem more open to mature workers for seasonal jobs. I understand if you are receiving unemployment benefits that you cannot compromise your benefits with a holiday job. If you are among the long-term unemployed not receiving benefits anyway---retail outlets, shipping services like UPS and Federal Express, entertainment venues, catering companies and call centers generally need more people during the October-January timeframe.
(2)  Job Searchers take heart. 2012 budgets are being created as you read this. And your new job? It is in the budget. Now is the time to position your self for the headcount being added for 2012. Your perfect job is out there.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Expert Career Advice for Labor Day 2011

We move into the Labor Day holiday with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting unemployment remained at 9.1% during August 2011.

Here’s a number you rarely hear reported:

153.6 million

That’s the number of people in the U.S. Labor Force going to work everyday.

So whether you are looking for a job or attempting to maintain the career you have, I’ve asked four experts to weigh-in with one tip to take you to TOP of your career or job search.


From Peggy McKee— Owner of a medical sales recruiting agency based in Dallas, TX

The one tip is that the JOB SEARCH is a sales process.
When you treat is like a sale, you will be much more successful.

Contact Peggy via LinkedIn or Peggy McKee - Owner/Recruiter. PHCConsulting.com (888.263.5688 ext. 100)

From Michael Scott— Chief Career Officer at Career Velocity LLC in Denver.

My tip for experienced job seekers and career changers is: "The best way to access job opportunities is by tapping into your circle of influence, (friends, family, colleagues and other).... people that know, like and trust you and are willing to advocate for your success."

Contact Michael@ Career Velocity, LLC,
1624 Market Street, #202, Denver, CO 80202
or via LinkedIn

From Anne Akridge- President, Interview Owl, Tampa, FL
"If you are 40+ it's safe to say you probably have at least 20+ years of
professional experience.  When it comes to writing your resume, make sure
you only include detailed experience through the last 15-20 years.  Anything
beyond might not serve you well if a more junior recruiter or HR person is
sorting resumes.  They typically feel comfortable seeing 1990 - 2011 in
experience.  Once you get into the 1980's they may unfortunately see that
experience as irrelevant since it's not in today's economic market.  When
detailing your college degrees, enter your degree, college, city/state -
leave off the year.  This will make you relevant to today's market,
highlighting your most recent experience"


From Vanessa Taylor— Talent Development Consultant, Allentown, PA area

Employers are not only looking for who can do the job but also who will be highly motivated to excel in the role and who will have the competencies to grow with the business.  Often, employers question whether more experienced workers are set in their ways, interested in continually learning and growing or if they have the flexibility and stamina to excel in the role and future roles. It is critical that more senior job seekers demonstrate success using key competencies such as leadership, business acumen, learning agility, action orientation, and the motivation to add value through achieving results.

Contact Vanessa@   vandike@aol.com or via LinkedIn

Enjoy your Labor Day long weekend for our U.S. readers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Age Discrimination: Real & Rising Part 2

Remember when you were a kid and you thought 40 was sooo old? When I was growing up, people called their 50s the “Golden Years.”  And 65?  The image of 65 was retirement and living out your final days with a plaid blanket on your lap in a rocking chair. Baby Boomers have proven getting older is not necessarily the END of anything, especially not work. Aging even looks different now and many people feel healthy into their eighties and beyond. There are studies that confirm the more your mind is stimulated by learning new concepts, brain function improves. Social interaction also has a positive impact on the aging process according to recent research. The problem is---Corporate America and business in general hasn’t necessarily kept up with these changes.
Hiring for all except C-level jobs at many corporations is often an entry-level function--now we have a disconnect. 20-something employees tasked with attending job fairs, screening resumes and performing initial telephone screening interviews with a person old enough to be (YIKES!) their parents or grandparents. I was chatting with a friend over the weekend who is a young-looking 60, relocated and looking for a job for the first time in thirty years. She shared the story of recently walking into an interview and the recruiter (who looked 25-ish) exclaimed, “Wow, you don’t look 60!” Clearly this was meant as a compliment no matter how inappropriate and after a full day of interviews; she was not called back for a final interview. In the back of her mind, the idea that her age was an issue was not missed. The HR recruiter mentioned it, but how many others in the process were distracted by it?
We can’t turn back the clock and we shouldn't have to, but we can implement 4 ideas to level the playing field when we finally have that all important interview.
#1—Image Matters: Come to the interview or job fair in something you know you look good in. For men, it may be the suit you receive the most compliments wearing. People tell you the colors in that tie look good on you or the shirt brings out your eye color. Ladies, wear an outfit that is up-to-date, but tried and true. Knowing you look good will give your confidence a boost. Your main goal is to dress age-appropriately in well-fitting clothes for a professional interview. Many department stores offer free personal shopper service and you can get objective feedback about what styles looks best on you.
#2—Watch your Words: You will hear job-seekers lamenting about how old they are, how old they feel or how this job is a step down, but they are desperate for work. That’s not appropriate for an interview. Even if the recruiter is mature, they are not your confidante. Don’t be your own worse enemy bringing up references to age or how you hate computers, technology or how your smart phone is smarter than you, ha-ha. Even self-deprecating jokes have no place in the interview. Keep your tone  up-beat, be confident, friendly—and professional.
#3—Role Play & Practice the Interview: You should have answers to basic questions already in your head.  What are your strengths? Weaknesses?  Rehearse how you are going to answer questions about extended unemployment. Have concise illustrations ready for behavioral interview-style questions. Those questions usually start with, “Tell me about a time when….?” Keep it short and focused because a lot of experienced people (myself included) tend to ramble. When they ask you for questions, have 2-3 questions ready and make sure they put you in a good light. Don’t ask about time off, health benefits or  negative company comments you read on a corporate message board.
#4—Sell Yourself: You are at the interview to sell yourself as a high-performer with experience and maturity. You are a professional that works well with others and your skills can help the company meet its objectives. Use sales techniques to learn what problem the company is trying to solve and position yourself as the solution.  In the interview ask some “closing” questions. How do my skills align with your idea of the perfect candidate? If there are gaps, you can address them. Would I have your support to move on to the next level of interviews? If not, you can address the issue and ask the question again later in the interview. Close each person you talk with for their support in hiring you for the job.
These four ideas can help you level the playing field and position yourself for success. It is tough out there, but it just takes one great offer to move your career into high gear. If you have advice, additional tips or strategies that have worked—share your comments.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Age Discrimination: Real & Rising

A participant at a recent workshop asked the guest speaker about overcoming age discrimination during a job search. The speaker explained that age discrimination is less of an issue than in the past. Really?

It was one of those moments when you know you should speak up and say something. Before I could raise my hand to comment; the esteemed guest speaker went on to the next question. The person who asked seemed to disconnect from the presentation at that point. Three weeks later, the brief encounter still gnaws at me. Why didn’t I say something? What should I have said? At the very least, why didn’t I go up to the man after the session to validate his observation? So, the essence of this post is YES—age discrimination is a HUGE issue. It is not going away; it is getting worse. I’ll offer a few tips and ideas about actions you can take on the job and during a job search in this 2-part post on Monday & Tuesday.

Consider this:
  • In February 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the job search for (>age 55) workers was 35.5 weeks
  • Experienced workers (>age 55) faced an average job search of 54.7 weeks in May 2011 according to AARP.


You all know the scenario. The unemployment rate is hovering in the 9% range.  New jobs are not being created fast enough because most corporations are uncertain about the global economy. Not one corporate communicator among you wants to answer the calls following the headline, “XYZ Company Cuts 10% of Workforce.” So companies sit tight and don’t hire. Consumers, on the other hand, are scared witless that they are going to lose their jobs—so they don’t buy anything except necessities (and unless it is really gross, we try generics). According to a December 2010 AARP press release, beginning January 1, 2011 about 7,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 each day! The same release says 40% of those Baby Boomers “plan to work until they drop.” I’m assuming that means drop dead. If Fidelity Investments, the largest provider of 401(k) accounts, is right and the average account balance is $71,500, as they reported in June—we know why. So, we find ourselves in an employment cycle ripe for age discrimination.

Problem #1 is the applicant tracking system. These automated systems that run large job boards and the smaller versions that run in companies all REQUIRE dates. The company can easily calculate how old you are when you apply. These systems are designed to collect school graduation dates along with dates of employment. Most will not let you move forward in applying online without supplying all of the information. (entering 9999 overrides the dates in a few applicant tracking systems). While the ADEA (the act protecting employees and job applicants 40+) doesn’t specifically prohibit an employer from asking age or date of birth of an applicant, it is supposed to be for a lawful reason and the circumstances are very limited. Most companies train their hiring managers not to discuss age, but they already know anyway from your online application.

Check out the post from August 6 for more information about online job searching:



Okay, so let’s say you survive the online applicant tracking system, the telephone screening interview and you are invited for a “live” interview with the hiring manager, other staff and human resources. They want you to have the KSAs-Knowledge, Skills & Abilities. But there is something else they are looking for and it is subjective. It is called, “fit” and no HR professional will admit it to you; but it’s there. How are you going to mesh with the other people in the department? Do you fit into the culture of the organization? And you know what? You want to “fit” too. If you are a square peg and the organization is a round hole- no matter whether you are 25, 55, or 73—this is going to be a stressful bad experience for both you and the organization. Seek opportunities where you see other mature workers. Ask your friends what it is like where they work. Some industries, companies and departments are more accepting of experienced workers than others. It is tough searching for a job, but you want to find a place where you are celebrated—not tolerated.  On Tuesday—in part 2—we’ll focus on the interviewing, image and general information.

Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are appreciated and please forward the post on to someone managing their career@40+.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Career Tune-Up? 3 Adjustments for Continued Success at Work

August 1977 was a warm, beautiful sunny month filled with news. While the world mourned Elvis Presley’s death at age 42, my career was beginning. The first in my immediate family to earn a college degree and merely 20 years old; the job possibilities seemed limitless. I was idealistic, excited and enthusiastic about the future. Often in August, it is an opportunity for a reflective career evaluation.  Since 1977 I’ve met so many great people living in California, Arizona and Indiana on corporate transfers and traveling the world for work--- these three consistent traits are shared by people I've met along the journey who enjoy resilient careers throughout their lives.

#1---Adjusting their Expectations: I’m not saying that as you get older your career has to be a downward spiral. I can tell you, that if you want to be a manager, Director, Vice-President or CEO and it continues to allude you where you are---resilient people have the confidence to look outside their current company. Some have found they won’t get to the next level anywhere and that’s a tough adjustment—others move on to achieve the dream somewhere else. While others find they have “maxed out” and as long as they work for someone else they will always be a level below what they think they deserve. “Brenda Tip” if you haven’t made it to that next level by age 42—the odds are against you. Sometimes, people adjust their work/job/career expectations because they learn to separate who they are from what they do. Getting older does NOT mean we lose the “fire” or competitiveness or passion for work---our experience just provides a new lens, a different perspective and a different way to view what happens in an organization.

#2---Adjusting their Skills: While the July unemployment rate hovered at 9.1% there is a hiring boom in the tech sector. CDNet reported the July 2011 unemployment rate for tech professionals is 3.3%. Cloud computing, social media and data security continues to drive the market for software engineers, tech sales people and others with tech backgrounds. We’re not all cut out be a tech guru. That’s certainly not my calling, but I have strengthened my skills tool-box this year in the technology area (at my own expense) by attending local workshops and webinars. Even if it is not tech, we have to continually update our skills to stay relevant if you want to stay in the job market. If your field has a certification—earn it. That designation could be the keyword in an applicant tracking system that brings your resume to the recruiter's attention. Make it a point to learn something new every three months.

#3---Adjusting their Attitudes: Every career has trade-offs.  You didn’t take the expat assignment in Asia and it may cost you an opportunity. You decide not to the transfer to Kansas City for a promotion so your kids can finish school in Dallas. Sometimes as we get older, we think about what could have been and “what if” scenarios. There are no guarantees and we can only live with the decisions we make based on the information we have at the time. So it is better not to look at what you missed and focus on what you experienced, who you met and what you learned. One of my favorite quotes about endings comes from Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  The resilient people, the ones who are enjoying jobs in their 70s, having fun in their 80s and performing volunteer work in their 90s---they smile through it.

It is a warm, beautiful, sunny August day in Indianapolis, thirty-four years after graduation.  I remain idealistic, excited and enthusiastic about the future and I hope you will too.

Getting Along With Co-workers May Lengthen Life

Getting Along With Co-workers May Lengthen Life

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good News for Working Baby Boomers

I am tired of bad news. The anchors on my favorite business channel seem delighted to report our retirement accounts are plummeting. Violence rings out around the globe from riots in London to shocking hate crimes in Mississippi. And, the weather? It’s just weird—the snowiest of winters, the wettest of springs and now the hottest of summers.

Aging in the workforce? I know millions of experienced people struggling to find work and even more mature workers are exhausted trying to stay relevant in their careers. Others, isolated, depressed and discouraged, have simply dropped out of the job market. What is going to happen to them long-term? It is frightening.

Where is the coming labor shortage that is supposed to make Corporate America lure Baby Boomers back to work with high salaries and workplace flexibility to save the economy? While we wait, there is a silver lining and it is the late bloomers, comeback stories and reinventions by ordinary and extraordinary people. I’ll focus on names you know well. However, for each of the celebrities, there are 10 ordinary people in communities everywhere being resilient. We can all make the choice to either sit on the sidelines or just run with what life has given us and see where we end up.

The most famous late-bloomer and comeback story is Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. After many careers, some more successful than others; he franchised his first KFC at age 65 years old. Nine years later (in 1964) he sold it for $2 million dollars. Sanders pioneered branding. At age 70 he began only going out in public with the white suit & string tie. He did public appearances for a fee well into his 80s. He died at 90 years old.

Clara Peller was “discovered” at age 80 by an ad agency. The next year, she delivered the iconic line, “Where’s the Beef” in the famous 1984 Wendy’s commercial. Before her death she appeared in movies, made more commercials, managed to get sued by Wendy’s and appeared on Wrestlemania.

Betty White at age 89 years old is everywhere! Many people remember her in the Golden Girls. Maybe you are like me and remember her from the Mary Tyler Moore show. Her May 2010 appearance on Saturday Night Live (with musical guest, Jay-Z) garnered the show’s highest ratings since November 2008.

Diane Rehm is a 75-year-old NPR host with an internationally syndicated radio show reaching 2.2 million listeners a week including Armed Forces Radio and Sirius satellite. Despite an illness that sidelined her career in 1998 when she was diagnosed with a voice disorder, she persevered to win a 2009 Peabody Award.

A few other notables include the U.S. Senator from Indiana, where I live, Richard Lugar. He’s 79 years old and is the state’s longest serving senator. Actress, Writer and activist, Ruby Dee won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word album when she was 83-years old in 2007 and she still books speaking engagements.  Actor Morgan Freeman, 72, was honored with the AFI, Lifetime Achievement Award this summer. This year, Suzanne Somers turns 65, along with Dolly Parton, Donald Trump, former President Clinton and Cher—they are all keeping busy in their own right. So What’s Your Next Chapter?

Remember, there is plenty of time to find your passion and bloom, to reinvent yourself or even to make a comeback. This week—Smile and Stay Encouraged.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Successful Online Job Search Tips for Experienced Workers

The strategy of an online job search is very different from searching for employment in the 1980s or even in the low unemployment era of the 1990s. Recently, I talked with my former colleague &  good friend Connie Savage, SPHR, LinkedIn LION-- an independent recruiter and job search coach about what makes a successful online search today and how can experienced workers position themselves competitively. If you haven’t looked for a job in three years, everything’s changed.

Brenda: Are there any jobs out there for workers over 40?

Connie: There are plenty of specific jobs out there for qualified people, but the employers are trying to find everything on their “wish list” in one person. With so many people looking for work, employers are very picky about experience and still may not pay what people made in the 1990s when unemployment was 5%. Now unemployment is nearly double that and it is very competitive. Job seekers have to be realistic.

Brenda: Why do some people apply for hundreds of jobs online and never receive more than an automated response?

Connie: Generally, people don’t understand how online job search works. First, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of responses for a single job listing. Many of them are not remotely qualified, which is why online is so efficient for the staffing department. The applicant tracking system and recruiters will search for keywords, so you want to have those in your resume or online application. You can usually find keywords in the job posting. The tracking system then ranks the resumes based on “relevance” or how closely they match the job description. The staffing specialist may only consider the top 25; maybe the best candidate is #438. Their resume may never be seen.  Staffing departments have a lot fewer people than they have in the past.

Brenda:  Would online applications make it a more equal playing field for mature workers that meet the specific qualifications?

Connie: I wouldn’t assume that age doesn’t matter. An employer can determine how long you’ve worked because many of the online systems require dates. Some employers are looking for someone with 5-7 years experience or 10 years experience, so they may not plan on bringing in someone with thirty years of experience.

Brenda: What can a 40+ worker do to stand out and have their online application reach the top?

Connie: #1:  The best way to be sure your resume is seen is to tweak your resume to reflect the job description EXACTLY.  You must create different resumes for different jobs.  Use keywords contained in the job description and you can even list keywords along the bottom of your resume. Also keep your resume “refreshed” on the website.  Each time you “refresh” your resume it moves up on the list the recruiter sees, since most are listed in either date order, or relevance order.  This will give your resume a better chance of reaching higher relevance in the candidate database when the recruiter is working on that opening.
#2:  keep graduation dates and any other non relevant dates off the resume and don’t list jobs over ten or fifteen years ago unless they are relevant.
#3: with some online applicant systems if you enter “99/99” it will over-ride the date for graduations
#4: always apply at the company website.  Applicants don’t realize that it is extremely expensive for companies to utilize the mega job boards, and, as the staffing department budgets are cut, they are relying more and more on other means to attract candidates like employee referral programs, their own company websites, and networking sites like LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Craigs List and many other “free” resources.
#5: If there is a place to add an objective or statement—don’t leave it blank! Put something clever related to the job and keywords to more perfectly match the listing.
#5 Consider having a professional assist you with your resume and coach you when you do get that precious interview.  It could well be worth the investment.

Other online job search tips to remember--- some of the more sophisticated online applicant systems have a second step that asks specific questions to rule out people without their “must have” qualifications. Once you make it through the first hurdle, you may get a follow-up e-mail. Use all of your online resources including alumni listings, professional associations, career specific sites. If you know people who work for the company see if there is an employee referral program. Before using this source, however, be certain that the individual referring you is in good standing and well respected in the company, otherwise this one could backfire on you. Generally, the employee receives a finders fee if you are hired. Employers are going to LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Juju, Indeed even Twitter & Facebook and getting away from just the mega job sites—so use social media wisely. Put your name, city and state in a search engine to see if the search results are what you want a future employer to see. Please don’t forget to network with your contacts at the company. The hiring manager may ask the staffing department to search for you by name. Never stop networking!

Connie is the President of CSS Recruiting and Consulting and can be reached via LinkedIn.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

MidLife Jobs in Unexpected Places

Never Say Never

There are certain things in life that I promised myself to never do, like the first time I saw someone bungee jump off a bridge. My first thought was not me—EVER.  In the 1980s when I lived in California, people were walking over hot coals to prove some mind over matter theory.  Again, I watched and knew I wanted no part of that. Once I got out of there, I knew I would never see that group of people again. EVER.

Then there were those things I was so sure of and over time my feelings changed—like promising to never eat sushi again after food poisoning from a bad batch. It took some time. Actually it took a decade, but one night I was tempted by the most delicious California Roll, and…well the rest is history. But, I digress.

Would you? Could you? Go back to an employer you worked for before. They call them Boomerang Jobs. Similar to Boomerang (Adult) Children that leave home and then come back to live with their parents. Boomerang Jobs are companies you worked for at one time and then years pass—even a decade--- and you go back. When you shut that door and left you said, “I’ll never work here again!” Never say Never and I’ll tell you why.

Industries are shrinking and as the companies consolidate, you could find yourself working for the company you thought you left.  It happened to a friend of mine. After a long career, a new President/CEO brought in his own management team. My friend saw the writing on the wall. The new people would keep him from making the career moves he had planned. As the CEO’s trusted VPs were hired in from their previous company; they brought in their own Director-level people. So my friend quit and went to work for a competitor. Less than two years later, the very same management team took over his new company where he was now a Director-level employee. He was laid off—and kept his same functional job, and changed industries.

Sometimes the situation changes at a company and you want to go back. There could be a shift in leadership, a new product line is introduced or an expansion. The company you worked for could change dramatically in a few years and they may welcome you back. Depending on your previous role with that employer, they may need you for your specialized skill. You may have deep organizational knowledge that could be used in a different area of the company than your worked previously. I have one friend who worked in a technical area of an organization and after a decade of global experience with an unrelated company returned to her former employer in the finance department. So, when you are in a job search, look no further than your resume for leads. You are sure to still find a contact person there or a former colleague who can give you some insight.

Remember one career management tip when you are re-hired. Avoid comparisons between “the good old days at the company” and now. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift that’s why they call it, the present.”---Alice Morse Earle

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Horrible Bosses

People asked if I went to see the movie, Horrible Bosses, that came out a few weeks ago with Jennifer Aniston and others. The answer is, “No.” Nothing against Jen & friends, but I’ve survived horrible bosses, so I didn’t need to see the screen adaptation. I’m not being cranky or anything (okay, maybe I am) but anyone that’s worked a while has survived their share of supervisors that were far from super and managers from hot places with pitchforks.

Personally, I can report being happily managed by a guy who is supportive and encouraging. That’s not always been the case, but I have been more fortunate than most. In the sales part of my career, so much is about producing results; if the numbers are good, you are rarely disturbed. Many of my human resource roles had very tangible outcomes with deadlines and project milestones that allowed me a fair amount of autonomy. You probably see a theme, that freedom and not being micromanaged is very important to me. But, I’ve had some real doozies—and I won’t bore you with them here

Horrible Bosses, the movie, exceeded financial expectations grossing $28 million for the weekend after 4th of July and it earned $10 million the Friday night it opened. This is an R-rated comedy about employees plotting to kill their bosses.  A lot of people must have had a really rough week at work. On a more serious note, bosses are changing a lot. With fewer dollars to invest in leadership development; employees end up with managers, bosses, supervisors and not real leaders. I hear about managers that would have never been promoted 20 years ago—who have made it because of their tech savvy.

There is an absence of training for leaders in companies to understand how to manage multiple generations in the workforce. Today there are potentially four generations working together at your workplace. The Traditionals—born before 1946. Baby Boomers born 1946-1964. Generation X-born 1965-1981. The Millennials (aka Gen Y) born after 1981. No wonder the directors, leaders, managers, supervisors, team leaders are bewildered. Each generation has a different view of being motivated, rewarded, recognized, and their work ethic, attitudes on work/life and perspective on life in general is shaded with the lens of their entire generation. With budget cuts, recessionary fears and new regulatory environments in many industries; I’m enjoying my role as an individual contributor. Leaders have a tougher role than ever. HR professionals (I am a lifetime member of the HR community) have a tough job designing employee benefit plans, compensation arrangements and employee relations strategies to attract and retain these disparate communities.

So, I won’t be visiting the local multiplex to see Horrible Bosses, I lived through that already. You can share your views on today's bosses (horrible or not) anonymously on this post by clicking the comments button and choosing "comment as" anonymous.