The headlines have tried to convince us that work-wise, it’s a great time to be a boomer: Americans 55-plus accounted for about half of all employment gains in 2018. What’s more, by 2020, 26% of the U.S. workforce will be 55-plus, compared to only 14% in 2002.
So why do so many of us feel like calling BS?
Check in with yourself and your circle of friends, and you probably hear comments like, “I’m afraid I’m about to be downsized/put out to pasture/swapped out for a couple of millennials.”
Industries that many of us rose in are no longer the thriving hubs they used to be, and there are new skills that those of us born before 1970 have to work hard to cultivate.
To help you embrace the professional changes and challenges ahead, we spoke with Chandra Turner, an NYC-based guru who has watched her previous industry — magazine editing — sputter. She’s pivoted to become founder of Talent Fairy, a recruiting agency that helps companies find editorial talent. She is also co-founder of After Magazines, a private Facebook group where over 1,000 former and current print magazine editors network, as well as founder and CEO of Ed2010, a career-advice and job-posting site for media professionals.
We asked her how to hunt for a new job and possibly a new career path in 2020.
Q: First, inspire us! What are your favorite examples of how people have taken their skills and translated them into a new career direction?
A: Certainly! A former colleague, Dana Bowen, had been an editor at national food magazines. She co-created a kids’ cooking shop-social club-camp in Brooklyn called the Dynamite Shop. It started as an after-school program where kids learn about and make food that they can then take home for the family’s dinner. She took her expertise in food, her organization and planning skills as an editor, her years of marketing to moms, and her years of being a mom, and put them all together.
Q: That’s a great example. Any others?
A: Sure. Cara Birnbaum was a writer and editor covering health and psychology; she was always so good at interviewing people, listening to people’s stories and seeing things from others’ POV. She went back to school and is now a certified social worker, counseling everyone from teens to senior citizens and loves it.
Q: If a person doesn’t have that “a-ha” moment for a career change, how can they get inspiration?
A: Your circle of friends and colleagues can help you brainstorm. They may say, “You’ve always been a good writer. You should go into corporate communications.” Or, “You were always the one who had a nose for talent, you should be a recruiter.”
Q: What if a person has an inkling of the kind of job they want. How to navigate all the job-hunting sites?
A: You must have a presence on LinkedIn, period. That’s how people will find you if they meet you and forget your full name or exactly where you’ve worked. And that’s also where many hiring managers and recruiters go first. That said, statistics show the majority of people find jobs via people they know.
Q: So how can a person expand and tap that personal network?
A: Put those decades of connections to good use: Reach out to old friends and colleagues who have moved on to new roles and careers. Take them for coffee or drinks (a phone call doesn’t hold the same power). Ask them about their jobs, what they like, what they don’t like, and then what they think you should do. The best thing about meeting people: It gets them thinking about you and being your advocate. They will tell you about jobs or put in a good word for you.
Q: How about a crash course in resume retooling: What kind of headline works well when trying to segue to a new job or new path?
A: Keep it snappy and focused. Avoid a long laundry list of every place you’ve worked or everything you’ve done. Pick the best of the best that aligns with your new direction. Give yourself a title on your LinkedIn profile, under your name sharing the role you want, i.e., Food & Nutrition Consultant or Marketing Strategist Specializing in Educational Reform. Everyone has a short attention span — humans will be scanning your experience quickly and bots now scan via an algorithm.
Q: So now the bots pick job candidates?
A: Yes. Bots now read resumes in addition to humans, so keywords are especially important. The bots and humans scan for them to see who aligns with the company’s job descriptions. It’s not hard to fill them in. Just go to any job description for a role that you want and see what the skills, tools and words are used; then plug them in your resume and LinkedIn.
Q: Is it true that job-hunters should remove all date references and drop early jobs so it doesn’t show how long you’ve been working?
A: I do recommend taking the year off your graduation and to avoid saying things like “30 years of experience” in your LinkedIn. It pains me to say that because I think those 30 years are so valuable and what makes you such a strong candidate. But the truth is that millennial hiring managers may see that or a graduation date before they were born and can’t relate.
Also, don’t list all your jobs with dates on your resume. Stop at the last one that is relevant to their new focus or has name recognition. Then summarize early work experience into one short paragraph with no dates at all. It could encompass 5 or 25 years of experience; no one needs to know.
Q: What else should we know about crafting a grabby LinkedIn profile?
A: Please, please include a photo on your LinkedIn. I know some people are afraid they’ll look “too old” but you have to have it. No one reaches out to people without a photo. It suggests you are not legit. Spring for a professional headshot — and even a little retouching. It’s worth it. Or hell, just use an old photo. That’s fine too. Just don’t not have one.
Q: Some boomers will have to retrain to stay employable. What’s a good first step?
A: Take classes in subject areas that you feel insecure talking about in a job interview. Every industry is different, but in my work, those areas are often data analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), or social media marketing. Take online courses; many are quite cheap.
Q: Is there a mantra you share that helps people with their job hunt?
A: It’s not so much a mantra, but more of a practice. I believe in what I call career karma. If you put yourself out in the world to help others in their career, they will in turn help you. It’s how I made my own career pivot at age 45. Take time out to meet with people for coffee when they ask, share a laid-off friend’s post who is looking for job leads, or simply ask others what they do when you’re at a party. People love to share their stories and they will remember you for caring. If it comes from a genuine place of helping others, it will help you.
Janet Siroto is a New York-based journalist and consumer-trends specialist whose work has been published in Vogue, Self, NextTribe, and many other national titles.