Work

Young at Heart—and on Your Résumé

It's not about how old you are, it's about how old you are perceived to be

My friend shuddered as she glanced through my résumé. "No," she said, her red pen slashing through everything from 1980 to 1995. "This has to go, and this, and definitely this too."

Something balled up in my stomach. A hard knot. Rage? Shame? Some unholy combination?

Even though I knew my friend was right — my résumé was a sprawling mess — I wasn't yet clear on how to fill the gap between college graduation (1980) and the present while still starting my work history in 1995, in some bizarre attempt to shroud — gasp — my REAL AGE.

After passing my résumé through the requisite filter of self-loathing, I looked around online for some tips on job hunting for people my age. According to an article called "Take 10 Years Off Your Image," perception is the new reality. So don't worry, boomsters! Sixty is the new fifty. Because check it out: It's not about how old you are, it's about how old you are PERCEIVED to be.

According to the article, here are some select tips for knocking that interview out of the park:

1) Get and use Crest White Strips to brighten up those craggy gray things in your mouth that you call teeth.

2) Don't yammer on about Starbucks; that's where "unemployed losers" go.

3) Don't be seen (I guess?) reading a newspaper (online news only); don't refer to your children or (duh) grandchildren; and never EVER talk about the '80s or '90s.

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4) Practice sounding young on the phone.

5) Brush up on sports.

6) You use AOL? Seriously??? You need to be killed.

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7) Read Entertainment Weekly (so you're up on what Taylor Swift is doing and can make chirpy references to same during your interview).

When I read articles like this, I can't help but leave my body and dream about the olden days. Days when if we wanted to know what time the doughnut store opened, we picked up the phone and dialed up the doughnut shop and asked, "What time do you open? We'd like some doughnuts."

We didn't feel compelled to tell everyone what kind of doughnuts we bought, photograph them, make a crueller app, link them to breaking stories about nostalgic snack foods, then animate them. We just ate the freaking doughnuts.

That said, I GET IT. Résumés aren't biographies and employers need what they need to get the job done.

I was recently taking classes at a computer lab when a woman in her late 50s kept asking the monitor, a man in his 20s, for help. Over and over and louder and louder, she wailed, "Sorry, I just don't get this. I'm a DINOSAUR!" I could feel her mounting terror, her panic and embarrassment.

At first, I wanted to shake her until she bled. Tell her to stop talking about how ancient she was. Tell her that, unfortunately, nobody cares about her insecurities. Everyone has their own problems. Tell her to do her homework. Learn every day, like we all must to survive. Yes, it's true that the world is changing faster every minute, but that's the case for everyone.

But in my fantasy, after slapping her, I wanted to hug her. Tell her that yes, she will learn Excel; that the mysteries of Outlook will be revealed; that the cogs and wheels of PowerPoint will emerge as from a morning fog; that everything will be all right. Tell her to sit up, calm down, and ask for help with dignity. But to stop apologizing — as well as making excuses — for not knowing things.

There has to be something between trying to sound like you're 25 on the phone and erasing our pasts completely. Got a bad case of the shlubbies? Definitely get some fresh duds, hit the gym, eat better, snap things up a bit.

But my God, if you've made it this far 50 — 60 — 70 and beyond, hallelujah. Whatever happens, respect yourself. The kids will respect you for it; hell, they may even offer you a job.

   
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