Dear J.T. & Dale: My hospital administrative job was eliminated by an electronic medical records program. At 55, I went back to school and got a nursing license, making top grades and passing the boards with ease. Now I’m getting the brush off in interviews. Why aren’t my skills, reliability and experience appreciated? My 30 years in the field prior to nursing don’t seem to count. – Renata
J.T.: Reliable, experienced, skilled – that’s a familiar story. And, ironically, that’s part of the problem. These days, career stories need to be told with a bit of flair, conveying your value in an original fashion. Step back and ask yourself, “When it comes to the work I do, what do I believe in?” and “What does my approach to the work represent?”
DALE: Flair, eh? That means you have to get beyond cliches like “I believe in doing it right the first time.”
J.T.: Exactly. An example: A family friend who’d been an RN left the field to raise children, then found herself having to go back to work at age 55. Her initial attempts to find work resulted in rejection after rejection that felt like age discrimination.
Eventually, she was referred into a job at a geriatric facility. When asked why she wanted the job, something inside her came alive, and she boldly stated: “I believe in patient advocacy.
My job is to serve patients and to help the families that have put them in the facility feel good about the decision. These people deserve good care, and I believe it’s my job to ensure that it happens.” That answer got her the job. After that, she built her reputation on that principle.
DALE: Beautiful. In that example we see the paradox of sharpening your focus: You increase your odds by decreasing your options. A good boss wants to hire employees who will love the job; therefore, knowing what you love is a prerequisite to a successful job search.
J.T.: The tougher the job market, the stronger the reason to clarify your beliefs and share them with employers.
DALE: And one more thing: One of your beliefs, Renata, should be that your prior 30 years of experience are not just relevant but an added bonus to the employer.
While you might think that’s obvious, it’ll be up to you to make that case. You can not only sell your passion, but make your experience relevant by saying something like, “Given my background, I can assure you that I will master your record-keeping system and I will work to be an asset to the entire team on improving our administrative compliance.”
Believe this: You aren’t just older than most of the other applicants, you’re better.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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