As an older worker, it’s easy to go off recalling the “old days” and how things have – or haven’t — changed.
“I remember a really fun interview a few years ago with a software developer I had worked with way back in the IBM 3090 timesharing days,” says Colleen Aylward, president of executive career and job search firm Devon James Associates.
“’Remember?’ he said. ‘Back then, the 3090 was the Cloud. And then we empowered users to actually have their own computer on their desk, untethered to “the mother ship” and able to run applications independently. And now we have ‘consumer apps’ and ‘prosumer apps’ and, just like that, we’re back to the enterprise.’”
In searching for an IT job at 50, however, it’s important to stay focused on the employer’s present and future needs – and how the company will benefit from your experience.
That doesn’t mean leaving dates off your resume to appear less old, according to Shelley Radinsky of T & S Recruiting near Philadelphia. “I think you should be proud of every bit of experience you have,” she says. “If you go in there confident, that will come across.”
‘Pull’ Rather Than ‘Push’
Applicant tracking systems often represent a black hole for job candidates of any age, so Dave Denaro, vice president of outplacement firm Keystone Associates, recommends working around them.
“Rather than try to ‘push’ your way into organizations through the job boards and HR [applicant tracking systems], get ‘pulled’ into organizations by ex-colleagues who know the quality of your work and how well you would fit in their company,” he advises.
Find them though social media, talk with them about the work that really plays to your strengths, and ask them to hand a copy of your resume to appropriate managers and say something nice about you, such as how your strengths could really add value and how you would fit in nicely with the rest of the team.
Focus on Your Value
If a company is looking for an engineering lead to help develop and build capabilities within the team, then the older engineer is an easy choice, says IT resume specialist Jennifer Hay of Seattle. She noted that older project leaders have an advantage, as well.
“If the company is looking for a project leader to keep projects on track and within budget or to turn around troubled projects, then the older engineer is a clear choice,” says Hay. “The basics of people and project management can be learned through education, but experience is only gained over time.”
Aylward pointed out some ways “seasoned” technology professionals have found to equate experience with value:
- “Over the years, I’ve built a reputation for filling the holes in many projects, as I’ve done most of their jobs before.”
- “Have saved my employers thousands of hours in development costs due to my long experience in xyz…”
Find the Right Fit
PayScale looked at the age of workers at 32 top tech companies and found just six had a median age over 35, while eight had a median employee age of 30 or younger. HP had the oldest workers, averaging 41, while workers at IBM and Oracle averaged 38.
“The firms that are growing or innovating around new areas tend to have younger workers. Older companies that aren’t changing with the times get older workers,” PayScale’s lead economist Katie Bardaro said of the findings. “Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to know C# and SQL. Gen Y knows Python, social media, and Hadoop.”
Work schedules also tend to vary with age, experts note. Gen-Y workers tend to need to work longer hours because they are still gaining experience, says Hay. But older workers usually have families and prefer a greater work-life balance.
These older engineers should not feel compelled to have to explain or justify these needs to prospective employers. “An older engineer adds maturity and experience to the team and needs to clearly understand the value this provides,” she says.
It’s important, though, to come across as up to date in the field. Tell potential employers how you’re keeping up to date through your social media profiles and resume, advises Aylward, author of the book, “Bedlam to Boardroom: How To Get a Derailed Executive Career Back on Track.”
To avoid coming across as outdated, she advises:
- Watch the newest television/Netflix series. For a while, every technical interview involved tangents to “Breaking Bad,” and if you didn’t know about it, you were out of touch.
- Play the latest online games.
- Stay current on the most current industry vernacular by reading the most popular blogs and newsletters. You’ll chuckle at some of the “new” names they are giving “old” concepts, but get your laughing done before you go in for the interview.
- Dress appropriately. When in Rome… Check out how employees dress though photos on the company’s website, Facebook page, Pinterest pins, and graph searches for employees on Facebook.