Age May Not Be Baby Boomers' Problem in Job Search

By Lindsey Novak

October 9, 2014 5 min read

Q: I am a certified career coach for a large company and work online with clients. For the past two years, I have had many baby boomers seek job coaching and ask me to redo their resumes. I have gotten all kinds of responses when they hear me explain how the job market works now, but I'm also seeing that nearly all clients in that age group have similar problems in knowing how to market themselves.

Not only are their resumes similar in showing all they've done but also their responses to my advice are similar and detrimental to their getting jobs. One woman absolutely refused to make changes and told me that this is how she always has done her resume and that she is not changing it. Even though she had come to me for advice, she obviously did not want it. Others have been willing to change, but I've gotten the feeling they aren't confident that it will work.

I wanted to share this with you because perhaps you could tell them the things I would love for them to understand. I can't take the time required to convince them.

Job searches have drastically changed because jobs have changed. Every large company uses a software program to weed out resumes. I know the online applications are limiting and restrictive, but today a resume has to be written using the exact words for the system to select you as a potential job candidate. Because most of the baby boomers I've helped have had jobs in which they've done a lot of different things through the years, they tend to want to include everything. Listing everything won't get them selected. Companies are now very specific in what they are seeking to fill jobs, and the system looks for those items. This doesn't sound appealing, but job candidates must think in terms of molding themselves to fit into a specific-shaped peg.

For example, if a company lists six definite requirements, job seekers wanting that job have to use all of those words in their resumes so the system will choose them. What makes job searches work is that similar job titles at different companies may use different wording to describe what is needed, so changing one's resume ever so slightly for different jobs may be necessary. It's a tedious process and discouraging for people with extensive experience who can do much more than the job requires. Even if those people would be serious assets to a company, unless the job is for upper management, department heads and managers want to fill the jobs with employees who match the exact qualifications.

One of my clients was qualified to work in nearly every position in an operations department, so he listed everything he could do. The job listing, however, asked only for specific abilities to complete certain tasks. His resume was not getting any responses. It's hard to ask a professional to remove a lot of the tasks, but including duties from a current or previous job that aren't needed for the potential job makes the resume lose focus. No one wants to simplify a resume so as to look like everyone else, but it has to be done.

Think of the resume as a brochure to attract customers by using only key selling points. The time to show one's understanding of how the whole business works is in the interview. It's also important to reassure the interviewer that this is the job desired.

I feel bad because I can see why a person, after accomplishing so much, doesn't want to eliminate or hide job duties in generalizations. But hanging on to how things were done in the past won't get them the results they want. Maybe some of the resistance stems from their being told how things are done today, but please let baby boomers know that if they want to keep up in the workplace, they must be adaptable and flexible. I don't know what the ultimate solution is, but I try to help as much as a person will allow.

A: You have given a heartfelt explanation of what you are seeing in the job market and have said it perfectly. Baby boomers may not like the new system but will certainly appreciate your telling it like it is.

Email your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @I_truly_care. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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