9 Lives for Women Blog

Jane’s Journey Back to Work: Look for the Office Vibe, Not Age Cohort | August 25th, 2015

Jane (the 56-year-old woman navigating her way back to work) is making progress with her job search foundation…getting all her ducks in a row for the post-Labor Day “back to business” rush.

In the past couple of weeks she has…

  • Whittled her resume down from three pages to two
  • Enhanced her Linkedin profile—by changing to a more professional headshot and creating a new summary that focuses on her experience and skills and zeroes in on “keywords” that will help potential employers find her in a search. (I reminded Jane that she should use these skill keywords as often as possible throughout her profile so that she is one of the first people in her area who comes up in a search for her specific expertise.)
  • Joined alumni groups on Linkedin and on school web sites, and she is now following organizations that appeal to her as potential employers. (I suggested that Jane go one step further and look for regional and national Linkedin groups in her areas of expertise–focused on online magazine writers, for example–and join the alumni groups for past employers.)
  • Discovered some very good Linkedin tools, such as “job openings in my network”.
  • Contacted past employers for Linkedin recommendations. (I told Jane to ask employers and former colleagues for skill endorsements as well.)
  • Met with Apple for one-on-one sessions to increase her knowledge of current technology.

This is all great progress that is getting Jane closer to a full-scale networking effort and contact with potential employers. As she researches organizations that are of interest, she is noticing that many have young founders and senior teams. So her related question is “at age 56 am I wasting time thinking I will fit in if everyone is in their 30s or 40s?”

The quick answer to this question is to focus on the culture of the office and the overall organization, not necessarily the age of the employees.

You can try to read between the lines of an “About Us” section on an organization’s web site, but the only reliable and efficient way to determine the unvarnished office vibe is by networking with current and former employers.

It also depends on the organization—and often, the industry. New York City fashion magazines are full of recent college grads who all wear size 2. Advertising agencies in most big cities tend to be very casual, on the younger side and a parade of rather offbeat fashion. Start-up companies often employ many young people who are short on life responsibilities (like families and households) and long on the time needed to work almost around the clock.

If you’re not someone who thrives on a very young environment, what you want to find through networking are industries and companies that employ a greater mix of ages. You want to have at least a few colleagues in your age cohort so that you don’t feel—day in and day out—that you are operating on a different time zone than the rest of the staff.

The fact remains, though, that you need to be young in spirit and talent for any company. No one wants to hire anyone, at any age who is, for example:

  • Stuck in their ways and not open to or generating new ideas or approaches
  • Using outdated references to successful companies or products
  • At a loss when it comes to operating software in the Microsoft Office suite
  • Dressed in clothing that does not reflect even conservative aspects of current trends
  • Slow moving and unable to turn on a dime as projects and priorities inevitably change and change
  • Inflexible about unexpected deadlines that require all hands on deck beyond 5pm.

In the most healthy company cultures, employees realize that there is both mentoring (young people learning from older colleagues) and reverse mentoring (employees “of a certain age” learning from younger colleagues). A strategic networking campaign that finds company insiders and alumni will tell you if the employee mix at an interesting company could be oil and water or your cup of tea. —KAS

Keep watching for more on Jane’s Journey Back to Work. In the meantime, what questions do you have about your own back-to-work journey? Use the comments section below or contact me about individual coaching. And if you like this post, please share by using the social media buttons also below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Work-Life Blend Newsletter