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7/16/2014
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Kevin Casey
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9 Job Hunt Tips For Older IT Pros

The IT job market isn't always kind to professionals of a certain age. Use these strategies to improve your odds.
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Make age an asset
If you've read InformationWeek's ongoing coverage of age discrimination in IT, you know it's a real and sometimes heated issue. If you're a person of a certain age -- say, on the wiser side of 40 -- there's a decent chance you've encountered ageism, often subtle in nature, in your IT career.

In fact, roughly 70% of IT pros who participated in a recent InformationWeek poll said they've either witnessed age discrimination in their workplace or been victims of it themselves. In her breakdown of the poll's results, Susan Nunziata posed some tough questions about, among other topics, the relationship between age and salary. Here's a hint: that whole "you make more money as you get older" thing isn't necessarily true. Rather, median salaries peak around age 46 before flattening for staffers and actually declining for managers, according to InformationWeek's 2014 Salary Survey. That's not scientific proof of ageism, mind you, but it's also not a ringing endorsement for the perks of experience -- not to mention that it kind of belies the idea that we should all shuffle our middle-aged feet into middle management as quickly as possible.

Age-related discrimination can be a particular problem for IT pros that hit the job market later in their careers, all the more true if you do so abruptly and unexpectedly, which is typically the case in an involuntary layoff or unforeseen personal event. The job application and interview process lends itself well to the quieter, difficult-to-prove types of ageism -- "we're looking for someone who really clicks with our culture," etc. This can be particularly true in startups, mobile app development, and other environments that often attract young workers -- if not bona fide brogrammers -- in herds. The "old guy" might kill the game room mood, bro.

Still, it's not doomsday. Lots of companies want the "old guy," as one IT veteran told us last year. There are plenty of steps you can take to make your age an asset rather than a hindrance in your job search.

And it should indeed be an asset. Experience brings with it critical traits for any employer: the kinds of skills that can only be developed on the job, the ability to spot -- and solve -- problems before they occur rather than when it's way too late, the efficient knowledge that it's not how many hours you work in a given week but what you get done while working that really matters to the bottom line, and so on. Then there are less tangible advantages of a well-balanced, diverse team that includes people across generations. Just as Mother Nature doesn't typically favor a monoculture over time, nor does the business world.

In the tips that follow, we outline some ways in which you can make your age a plus. It's not always easy, especially if you're out of work and feeling the considerable stress that often accompanies unemployment. But the ideas, drawn in part from our coverage and conversations with IT pros who have been there, recruiters, executives, and attorneys, can help frame your search, whether planned or unexpected, in a much more positive light.

In turn, they help frame you in a more positive light. For example, instead of branding your experience with a number -- "22 years in IT" -- why not brand it with the bottom-line results accumulated during those 22 years?

Read on for more. Have your own tips from a recent mid- or late-career job search? Share them with us in the comments. I'd also love to hear about your age discrimination stories via email.

(Source: Flazingo)

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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Cybdiver
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Cybdiver,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2014 | 9:52:09 AM
Too old to work in IT?
I guess I must be a dinasour.  My resume is longer than my arm.  I've been in IT since punch cards.  My first computer was an Apple //e.   I can't be that bad I just deployed over 500 new PCs with Win8.1  Put up a new mail server and reconfigured a few firewalls.  Yet folks look at my resume and run.  I have no intentions of retiring I like computers, they don't talk back like my wife.  Can I just reboot her?   All kidding aside I'm available for large scale deployments, or saving your network for cost over runs.  Everyone should be able to identify a real floppy disk and it's not something that happens when you jump in the water.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 1:49:12 PM
Tweaking the resume
I'm a bit amazed at the idea of having to frame your resume as skills disguising the time invested in those skills rather than experience in those skills using that time to tell a story of how much experience you have. I know IT changes fast but people in IT tend to keep up with that. As my husband and I look to possibly relocate, this article hit home for us. We will have some resume tweaking to do.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 12:17:18 AM
Re: Time to go sell real estate?
@gzuckier: You are spot on. HR recruiter would err on side of filtering a valid resume out, rather than sending an invalid resume in. So many of us are victims of this flawed hiring procedure. It hurts the companies as well as the candidates. Linked in can come to the rescue: a profile analyzer that takes job requirements; evaluates the already present profiles and then suggests candidates nearness to the target profile in terms of %ages. It would be better than current binary output of selection! Is it happening somewhere already?
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 11:59:52 PM
At the age of 34 ..
At the age of 34, I believe I either would have to move up or move out of the industry. These three pieces of your advice are particularly relevant for me: take a public speaking course; become a mentor; contribute to industry publications. Thanks for a comprehensive blog that is so relevant for so many of us.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
7/26/2014 | 4:03:32 PM
Nice but worthless tips
The above referenced tips are all very nice but the fact is, only works IF you have your foot through the door long enough to be contacted for an interview.  The way interviewing for IT currently works in the US is a resume that contains 15-20 years experience, or is not a male under age 25, is immediately flagged and flushed down the ol' digital johnny.  Boom. Done.  The candidate in question is never even given a chance.  And on and on it goes.  Tips are worthless unless you are related to the hiring manager who has agreed to give you an interview.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/23/2014 | 12:53:25 PM
Re: Time to go sell real estate?
@gzuckier0, you raise a good point. IT and HR managers both have a role to play in this process. And no one is penalized for passing over hidden gems in the talent pool.
gzuckier0
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gzuckier0,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/23/2014 | 12:03:07 PM
Re: Time to go sell real estate?
As you say, HR is looking for any kind of filter to screen out as many of the applications as possible. They can't carefully scrutinize 100 applications for a position, and they can't pass on to the hiring manager 50 of those applicants who might be qualified. So consider the consequences of either type of error in their selection, false positives or false negatives. If they pass on a candidate who is unqualified, or even just one who the hiring manager doesn't like, they get yelled at "Why are you sending me these people? You're wasting my time! You're supposed to be screening these duds out!". Whereas they could reject any number of perfect candidates, and the hiring manager won't say anything, because he/she has no idea that happened. So there is a huge bias towards tossing applications out, even if there is no good reason to.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/23/2014 | 12:01:29 PM
Re: Time to go sell real estate?
@Dana, thanks for chiming in. I hear your frustration with the hiring process over and over. It can be incredibly hard to pass the first HR screen (often done by an outside firm, no less.) I believe that as a profession we must change this dynamic. I have had CIOs tell me: Smart people who want to work with my IT organization contact me directly.
DanaRothrock
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DanaRothrock,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/23/2014 | 11:48:13 AM
Re: Time to go sell real estate?
I'm 64 in IT.  IT is ugly.  There are a few nice jobs out there, but Wall Street and globalization has decimated the country.  Now is the worst time for all jobs since the Great Depression.  Every type of filter is used to pick that one special employee out of hundreds of applicants.  Resume over 1 page, garbage can.  Hire only people who are already employed.  The skills list has to match the requirements exactly.  So, the one who adulterates his/her resume gets hired.  The company gets what they deserve.  This is typical.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/21/2014 | 4:43:28 PM
Re: Time to go sell real estate?
I don't think you have to age out. Smart techies much older than 40 have tons to contribute to teams. Smart IT leaders know this.
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