Excerpt for You Are a Classic: An Employment Guide for Baby Boomers by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Fredrick Edwin Manning

Copyright 2005–2017

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To my wife and lifelong best friend, Sheridan, for her love, support, and enduring patience over all the weekends we stayed home so I could write.

To my loving daughters, Katherine and Luann, for their support and encouragement.

To all the job hunters of my generation—the Baby Boomers—who are working hard to find employment.

To the memory of Lily Bernard and Howard Michael Manning.

Table of Contents


How to Use You Are a Classic

Chapter 1 – You Are a Classic

Explains why aging job candidates have an excellent opportunity to find work and should feel good about themselves and their ability to offer real value to their next employer.

Gray is Good

On the Road Together

Road Map to Employment

We are Classics

The Classic Employment Candidate

Attitude is Everything

Choice and Aging

A Historic Opportunity

Classic Timing

Past Patterns: A Blueprint for the Future

Working Life Continuum

James’ Story

Mary’s Story

Some Words about Words

Exercise: Self-Reflection and Analysis

Chapter 2 – Dealing with the Emotional Impact of Job Hunting

Addresses the internal challenges that often confront older candidates when faced with a job search and offers tools to help identify and reduce personal impediments to their success in the job market.

Getting Comfortable with Job Hunting

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time in the Right Frame of Mind



Confidence and Doubt

Choosing to be Confident

Building Confidence: A New Habit

Ways to Develop Your New Habit

Roberta’s Story

Stress and Anxiety

Why Active Mental Relaxation Is So Important

A Simple Stress Reduction Method


Carl’s Story

Job-hunting Philosophies

Exercise: Simple Stress Reduction

Chapter 3 – Smart Job Hunting Techniques and Strategies

Explores methods for an effective job hunting campaign intended to provide more opportunities for success based upon individual effort and a sincere desire to succeed.

The Point of Departure

Fundamental Approaches to Job Hunting: Subjective and Objective

Structuring a Progressive Referral Chain (Subjective Approach)

Building Your Connections

George’s Story

How to Ask for Help

How to Ask for Help: Helpful Phrases

Seek to Humanize Yourself

Learning to Read Between the Lines (Objective Approach)

Be a Job Detective

Where to Look

Further Suggestions

Jane’s Story

You Have Got to Have a Plan

Sample Notebook Page

Keeping in Touch

Sample Follow-Up Email for Keeping in Touch

Chapter Conclusion

Exercise: Organize Your network

Chapter 4 – Overcoming Age Bias

Demonstrates how older job hunters can take a proactive role in removing bias from the mind of the interviewer by directly asserting their knowledge and motivation contrary to prevailing false myths associated with aging employment candidates.

The Emotional Connection

Insecure Interviewers

Yvonne’s Story

Common Stereotypes

A Good Investment

Motivated and Productive

Creative, Flexible, and Open to Learning

Implicit Age Bias

Pervasive Stereotypes

The Challenge Ahead

Myth Busting

Loaded Words with Positive Emotional Attachment

Individuality Index

Sample Accomplishments to Refute Stereotypes

Life Signs

Avoid Negative Markers

Being Overqualified

Seek to Relate

Comments to Help You Dispel Employers’ Fears and Concerns of Boredom

Be Observant

Fred’s Story

Committed to the Employer

Chapter Conclusion

Exercise: Develop Your Myth-Busting Strategies

Chapter 5 – Delivering Your Classic Message

Illustrates how aging job candidates can take advantage of compelling valuable qualities commonly related to older people as an asset to employers.

The Classic Message

Classic Agenda Items


The Classic Agenda Items

Partnership of Support and Mentoring

Grace’s Story

Working Life Lessons

Matthew’s Story

Interviewing Inventory

Interviewing Strategy

Compelling and Convincing

Chapter Conclusion

Exercise: Your Personal Inventory

Chapter 6 – The Classic Resume

Details how to write a resume tailored to the needs of older candidates, with additional instruction for those making a mid-career transition.

Understanding the Purpose of Your Classic Resume

Creating Yourself on Paper

Formulating Your Resume

Use Language to Shape Your Message and Promote Your Image

Writing Your Classic Resume

Making the Cut

The Concept of a Balanced Resume

Constructing Your Classic Resume

The Overview

Edith’s Story

Phrases That Emphasize Experience

Skills and Abilities

Phrases That Negate Stereotyping

Work Experience (Narrative)


Highlight Your Accomplishments

Previous Experience

Illustrate Previous Experience with Limited Information

Computer Proficiency

Accurately Portray Computer Skills


Display a Partially Completed Formal Degree

Display Occupational Training and Professional Certificates

Second Career Transition: Resume Modification

Express Passion and Desire for Entry into a New Field

Express a Motivated Attitude with Classic Advantages

Attributes That Relate to a Specific Type of Job

The Good, the Bad, and the Irrelevant

The Good: Ways to Enhance Your Resume

The Bad: Omissions, Troublesome Entries, and Items That Should Not Be on Your Resume

The Irrelevant: Distracting, Extraneous, and Unnecessary Information

Steven’s Story

Chapter Conclusion

Test Your Resume Against These Questions

Exercise: Resume Overhaul

Chapter 7 –Before the Interview

Offers advice on topics relevant to pre-interview activities and preparation for successful interviewing.

Resume Cover Letters

Sample Level 3 Networking Cover Letter

Fundamentals for Cover Letters

Employment Applications

If Searching for a Job While Still Employed

A Note About References

Arnold’s Story

Spacing Your Interviews

Preparing for Your Interview

Get Ready for the Moment

Checklist for the Night Before Your Interview

Exercise: Dealing with Problematic Issues and Demonstrating Critical Thinking

Chapter 8 – Presenting Yourself In-Person: Interviewing

Covers the entire interviewing process in detail with professional insights and suggestions for an effective presentation.

Effective Communication

Signaling Messages: Nonverbal Communication

Relate and Identify

The Right to Promote Yourself

The Two Pillars of an Interview

Linda’s Story

Listening: Critical to Success

Harry’s Story

Questions: A Versatile Tool for Candidates

Trap Questions

Asking Secondary Questions About the Position

Follow-Up Questions

Questions You Must Ask Yourself

Answers: Focusing and Recovering

Making Your Answers Really Count

Basic Interviewing Styles

Control is Not an Option

Interviewing No-No’s

The Finishing Touch

Important Dos and Don’ts

Exercise: Mock Interview Questions

Chapter 9—After the Interview

Provides instruction for capitalizing on a strong interview performance and additional potential for future interviewing opportunities.

Thank-You Notes

Sample Thank-You Note

Helpful Phrases to Use in Your Thank-you note

Employment Capital


Ben’s Story

References Must Be Available and Secure

Chapter Conclusion

Exercise: Evaluate Your Interview

Chapter 10 – Technology: Job Hunting in the 21st Century

Examines the role of technology in contemporary job hunting with advice and insights enabling candidates to navigate the challenges of an electronic employment environment.

Throwing Yourself on the Internet

Being Out There: Emailing and Posting Your Resume on the Internet

Protect Yourself

Pauline’s Story

Nothing But the Truth

Nathan’s Story

A Matter of Public Record

Administrative Hang-Ups

Interfacing with Technology

Negotiating Applicant Tracking Systems

Formatting Tips

Sample Words and Phrases that Get You a Higher Ranking

Hospital Pharmacist

Social Media Platforms

Chapter Conclusion

Exercise: Personal Privacy and Accuracy Check


The Three Absolutes of Job Hunting


My Personal Message


Appendix A

Appendix B


About the Author



I would like to first acknowledge four individuals whose work I found both inspiring and influential in the writing of this book: Maxwell Maltz, MD, FICS, author and physician; Ken Dychtwald, PhD, demographer, author, president and CEO of Age Wave (; Marc Freedman, author, founder and CEO of; and Benjamin Lee Whorf, American linguist.

I would also like to acknowledge AARP for their important work in promoting and supporting Boomers, offering an uplifting message and critical information regarding their well-being.

Thanks also to the other numerous experts, researchers, and authors whose work has been cited in the book.

A big thank you for the generous help from the terrific people at the National Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau.

A sincere thank you to my wonderful publishing team: Karen Propp, Julie Klein, Karen Parkin, Carolyn Acheson, Mi Ae Lipe, and Timothy Pew who, in particular, went far above and beyond the scope of his role as formatting e-book editor. Their genuine patience, understanding, and caring for this project has been welcoming and extraordinary.

Finally, a special thank you to my good friend Marc Evan Hoffman for his very supportive generosity.

~ Introduction ~

Forty-four years working in the employment industry as an executive recruiter have taught me that finding a job is not only about sending out resumes and interviewing. The process requires an emotional investment from the job hunter and often a supportive effort from family and caring friends. A long-lasting job search can easily disturb an entire family’s emotional equanimity. You may worry about paying bills or inadvertently neglecting the needs of other family members. For many, the inability to “bring home the bacon” is fundamentally linked to self-image and self-worth.

You Are a Classic is a complete employment guide written especially for members of the Baby Boomer generation: those born during the years from 1946 to 1964. I chose this title in the belief that employers can expect value added when they hire a seasoned job candidate with years of practical experience. I wrote this book not only to address the how-to of job hunting for Baby Boomers but also to inspire a sense of optimism and to convey information that will help readers lessen their emotional burdens.

This employment guide will give you clear and concise insights, allowing you to see the employment process as an inclusive system. I will provide you with information and guidance that is easily understood and logical in approach. From dealing with stress reduction, to interacting with the interviewer, to overcoming age bias, I explain the motivation behind my instructions so that you have a complete comprehension of the material rather than just a prescribed set of instructions.

I believe you must also understand the what and the why of job hunting. With so many forces out of your control, nothing is predictable, other than the fact that—while under pressure—you will continually be asked to meet and interface with different attitudes and personalities. Your strength is your consistent ability to convince others that you are worthy of being hired. I suggest you focus not only on details (the job lead, the initial contact by resume or employment application, the interview, and the follow-up) but also on the fundamental concepts and how they apply to any situation you may experience.

The chapters are arranged strategically to emphasize these concepts and provide practical help. Further, the material provides support for many internal emotional challenges you may encounter to help you maintain a positive attitude and energetic motivation. I also provide basic job-hunting strategies, professional insights into employment interviews, practical suggestions regarding employment documents, valuable tricks of the trade culled from my decades of working in the employment industry, and—most of all—advice about the critical issues facing Baby Boomers looking for work.

For the most part, the chapters in this book are interdependent, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The material found in one chapter will be more effective if you put it into practice in combination with advice from the other chapters. Each chapter has a message meant to make you a savvy and capable job hunter. Some speak to specific tasks directly related to a successful job search, and others play a supportive role in that effort. My hope is that you will take advantage of the expert instruction offered and integrate this knowledge with your own creativity as you search for a job.

Chapter 1 introduces the overarching premise of this book: as a seasoned employment candidate looking for work in the 21st century, you need not view yourself as someone in decline, but instead as an individual possessing certain advantages provided by the gift of longevity. Rather than deny your age, use it to promote the benefits it can provide your next employer. Opportunities for older applicants are becoming more accessible, despite lingering vestiges of antiquated hiring practices based on old economic models. The modern-thinking Baby Boomer is becoming a new standard of candidate for employers seeking reliable, dependable, capable, and knowledgeable workers. While the dream of early retirement fades from the lives of many Boomers, this chapter also advocates the need for new language to communicate the abilities of healthy, vital, and seasoned job hunters.

Chapter 2 takes a closer look at the emotional realm of job hunting. Despite the seeming randomness and lack of personal control involved with job hunting, by cultivating your internal strengths and a positive self-image, you can endure and succeed. This chapter examines the benefits of self-confidence within the context of shifting demographics in the workplace, demonstrating that age is worthy of positive acceptance. Despite self-doubt, it is possible to take a more active role in reducing the overwhelming feelings of negativity and anxiety.

Chapter 3 deals with the functional operation of your job search, asserting that you can take an aggressive approach by acting on the constant flood of valuable information surrounding you to greatly increase the potential for job leads. It illustrates that there are several ways for a savvy job hunter to create potential without relying solely on job postings. By starting with the smallest circle of friends and personal contacts, and eventually expanding your networks exponentially through the use of popular social media platforms, you can find any number of job leads. Furthermore, an abundance of more obscure leads are just waiting to be discovered through the clues found in all forms of available media.

Chapters 4 and 5 contain related and complementary messages that get to the very heart of the issues associated with being a Baby Boomer in an employment market that celebrates youth and views aging candidates as far less attractive. Chapter 4 instructs how to skillfully overcome the often-prevalent negative myths surrounding your age. Chapter 5 demonstrates how, as a Classic job hunter, you have the ability to use positive cultural characterizations to promote yourself as a value-added applicant, making you more competitive with younger candidates.

Chapter 6 focuses on resume writing specifically styled for the Classic job hunter. You can design your resume to attract employers instead of inadvertently emphasizing detrimental information.

Chapters 7 and 9 consider issues that come directly before and after interviews that can increase your chances of overall success. Some sections focus on functional topics to help you deal with bread-and-butter items like cover letters, employment applications, thank-you notes, and references. Others discuss perspective and strategy. Each chapter has its own particular insights to improve the quality and effectiveness of your effort.

Chapter 8 advocates that you can effectively and successfully navigate even the most difficult interviewing styles. It examines various aspects of an employment interview, giving expert advice, detailed insights, and professional interviewing techniques to help you influence a positive outcome with nearly any interviewer.

Chapter 10 declares that every job hunter must embrace technology in the search for work in the 21st century. Modern technology can no longer be underestimated or ignored in practical application. With all of its advantages, there are also certain limitations and potential detriments that should dictate your careful approach to the market. This chapter sheds light on key issues associated with technology and 21st-century job hunting that will help you get hired in the modern employment environment.

Finding the Fit: All Parts in Place

It is my sincere wish that, although the journey to find work may be fraught with difficult challenges, your experience will be made easier and you will reach your destination sooner with the information in these pages. I will help you learn how to use the positive characteristics associated with age to place yourself in a preferred position with an interviewer. I will show you how to use your years and life experience as an asset to getting hired. I will explain why, given a historic demographic shift in the US population, you have a unique opportunity to gain employment. Just as I have done for hundreds of others, I will be your personal employment trainer and coach, offering my expertise and support, and guiding you to success in your efforts to land a job.

In the world of job hunting, it is not unusual for candidates who write good resumes to fail in interviews because they are unable to discuss their experiences confidently and in convincing detail. It is also not unusual for candidates who shine in interviews to fail to receive job offers because they did not take the time to secure good references or they misrepresented themselves on an employment application.

It is all meant to work together!

Let’s begin!

How to Use You Are a Classic

You Are a Classic is a job-hunting guide tailored especially for Baby Boomers in the midst of a demographic paradigm shift that challenges current thinking about aging and work. With advances in medical science and an emphasis on healthier lifestyles, Baby Boomers and the generations that follow will experience greater longevity and extended years of productivity. This dramatic change is testing conventional hiring practices, requiring managers to modify their preconceptions. Baby Boomers can lead the way in showing business owners the benefits of hiring aging candidates. Once employed, Boomers will not merely staff positions but will bring added value to the company.

The information in this guide can be utilized in the following ways:

Chronological. Read each chapter from beginning to end as an overview to gain insight into the interdependent nature of the job-hunting process.

Individual chapter review. This method is recommended to focus on material for additional support and to further enhance performance, especially during a specific stage of the job-hunting process.

Revisiting chapter exercises. This method will help the reader maintain search discipline and reinforce a strong personal message by evaluating interview answers and attitudes.

Index topic study. Use the index as a study guide to revisit chapter topics through a random selection of subtopics. Pick a chapter and choose a cluster of subtopics to review and enrich your understanding of interviewing dynamics, to get more comfortable with the process, and to inspire and motivate yourself.

~ 1 ~

You Are a Classic

A Classic is of lasting significance, time-honored and enduring.

Gray Is Good

The labels used to characterize today’s aging generation—“seniors” or “middle-aged”—carry adverse connotations. They give a false perception of abilities and can negatively impact hiring decisions. Ironically, these years are often referred to as the prime of life. Yet yesterday’s narrow and limiting employment practices have been made irrelevant by the ever-evolving advances in medical and business technology. Boomer-aged job hunters are a modern group of candidates deserving of a more positive designation, one that more aptly defines us as a group.

The word “Classic” more accurately describes who you are and what you represent as a potential employee. As a Classic, you retain a vital spirit and enthusiasm for life and work. You celebrate rather than apologize for your years. A Classic has no need to approach an interview with fear that your candidacy will be dismissed because your hair is gray and you wear some wrinkles. I will show you how to use the gift of longevity to get hired. The time you have invested in life can work to your advantage because you are a Classic!

On the Road Together

First, accept the fact that job hunting is a very lonely prospect. It often coincides with financial difficulties and emotional turmoil among your family members, who may not be as sympathetic and supportive as you might wish. But you are not alone in this endeavor. A large proportion of Baby Boomers will keep working to support themselves, and in some cases their adult children and elderly parents as well.

An article published on October 6, 2010, by Melissa Brown and others with the Center of Aging & Work at Boston College claimed that older workers “will soon become the ‘new normal’—fully 75% of workers aged 50 and older expect to have retirement jobs in the future. . . . ‘Working in retirement’ is quickly becoming a new stage in career progression.”

According to data found on the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), as of 2012, about 52 million, or 68 percent of the 76.4 million Boomers, were still in the labor force (including the armed forces). This number represented about one-quarter of the estimated 2012 US population of 314 million people. In a September 2014 article, Paola Scommegna, senior writer and editor at the Population Reference Bureau, wrote, “A growing share of Americans are working beyond their 65th birthdays, a reversal that began about 25 years ago. This upswing appears likely to continue as more members of the baby-boom generation . . . reach traditional retirement age.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2014, more than two million individuals between the ages of 50 and 69 were unemployed. This figure represented the number of unemployed individuals actively seeking work but not those who were unemployed and had given up looking—referred to as “discouraged workers.”

Job hunting is life in transition and is typically a period of frustration and anxiety. It is also a time when comfortable personal routines are disrupted—you are focused on obtaining something with an unknown outcome, and it is unsettling. This fact is even more true if you have spent most of your adult life working for only one or two employers. Job hunting can be daunting, if not completely overwhelming. Sometimes disappointment and rejection are your only companions.

Starting from this moment, you have a champion in your corner who has more than 40 years of in-the-trenches employment industry experience. I will help you fight back against the ignorance of age bias by presenting a fresh look at job hunting in the 21st century. In addition to giving comprehensive job-hunting advice and interviewing techniques, I offer hope, new ideas, a way to restore confidence and build empowerment, and, most importantly, possibility rather than defeat.

I am here to show you the ropes and help you with every aspect of your job search. We are now working together to get you hired!

Road Map to Employment

We live in a culture that worships youth. We are constantly subjected to messages from the media telling us that being younger is better—that youth is somehow more worthwhile and more attractive. For many employers, this message translates into the idea that younger people make better employees. We have all absorbed society’s misguided message that older people are incapable of being productive: we can’t learn anything new, we are too inflexible, and we don’t have the energy to do the job!

You may think that seeking a job as an aging person is futile and that your age is a barrier between you and a paycheck. I am here to say that it is absolutely untrue! To the contrary, age has its advantages in the workplace. You can become a compelling candidate and greatly boost your chances of receiving an offer by doing two things: The first is to break down the barriers of stereotypes surrounding older job seekers. The second is to sell your age as a value-added asset.

We Are Classics

We are living in an era of historic demographic change. The Baby Boomer generation is a transforming influence, driving many of the policies and practices of this new century. To a significant degree, Boomers are rearranging many of the cultural priorities of our modern society. The size of the Boomer generation, until very recently, was unprecedented. (According to a January 2015 US Census Bureau report by Richard Fry, senior researcher on the Pew Research Center’s FactTank, Millennials are “projected to surpass Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation” by a very slim margin.) The opposite is true of the generation that followed the Boomers: the Baby Busters, also known as Gen X. The US birth rate peaked in the mid-1950s. Nearly 20 percent of Baby Boomers had no children, and 25 percent had only one child. The dearth of a Baby Buster population offers Boomers greater employment opportunities.

Boomers represent a new standard of employment candidate for the 21st century. Boomers are knowledgeable, time tested, trustworthy, and willing and eager to work. They have the necessary skills to contribute to workplace success. They deserve a description that projects a more accurate image not only for their employers but also for themselves. Boomers are products of the 21st century: productive, healthy, engaged, and seasoned by time. They are the perfect package in a market where employers are looking to increase their chances of success and reduce their risks.

This is your time to go on the offense and get hired!

The Classic Employment Candidate

We all have friends who view themselves as old. They talk about the “good old days,” their aches and pains, and how they just don’t get the same enjoyment out of life as they did when they were younger. They project what used to be called a negative vibe.

Being a Classic is a state of mind. Classics are spirited, energetic, and determined to continue being productive. They view themselves in the mainstream of life and not on the periphery. Classics have demonstrated that they have the drive to succeed. They are passionate about making a contribution and maintaining their enthusiasm for work. They know that motivation is not the sole purview of the young and that desire to work is not dictated by a person’s age.

Classics continue to learn and grow as people, and they have the added perspective and benefit of a lifetime of accumulated knowledge. They want to be active and engaged, not just marking time and waiting for old age. Classics are premium candidates because of their age, not despite it. They can exceed expectations and do a better job than a younger person because of their experience and life lessons. Classics still have control over their lives and available choices. They look toward the future with optimistic expectations. To paraphrase what Maxwell Maltz said in his 1960 book, Psycho-Cybernetics, Classics, in a sense, have nostalgia for the future. They don’t long for retirement as an entitled reward but rather view themselves as remaining engaged within what I refer to as the Working Life Continuum.

Mitra Toossi, “Projections of the labor force to 2050”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, October 2012, Pp. 3–14.

Attitude Is Everything

Attitudes influence decisions. Attitudes have a significant effect on the emotional decision to hire one person over another. Almost all hiring is based on an employer’s subjective emotional decisions. Your attitude is perhaps the most important and influential aspect of an interview. You are responsible for setting the emotional tone—the vibe! You must create a constructive emotional foundation for the interviewer. It is an intangible form of communication, one that conveys without words that you are the kind of person they want to hire. It characterizes the dynamic you will bring to their group.

Choice and Aging

“Longevity is the new reality,” said the editors of the AARP Bulletin in 2008. Due to medical advances and healthier lifestyles, modern 50-year-olds have 30 years of adult life behind them and 25 years of vital adult life ahead. People are not only living longer but leading more active and much more productive lives.

Life expectancy at age 65 is rising

Longevity in the 21st century has radically changed our lifestyles from those of previous generations. Classics believe in modern aging. According to Marc Freedman, CEO and Founder of Civic Ventures, a think tank devoted to Baby Boomers’ work and social purpose, and author of Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America, it is a time of “a new kind of aging.”

There are differences between physical aging and intellectual aging. The current era of employment characterized by technology and limited physical labor has created more opportunities for the Classic employment candidate. As Gail Sheehy asserted in a 2005 article in Parade Magazine, “Those in their 60s have active minds and vigorous bodies and enjoy the benefit of a mature perspective of life.”

With this mature perspective comes a new personal expectation—an acknowledgment that you are committed to a strong work ethic, possess an additional insight into human nature, and can be of great value in the workplace. Sheehy goes on to say that this is a stage of life where a “maximum of freedom of choice co-exists with a minimum of physical limitations.” Physical ability, as opposed to chronological age, is once again a key determinant in hiring for the new economy of services, information, and technology.

This choice gives life meaning and provides us the opportunity to find continued satisfaction in what we do day-to-day. With longevity, given reasonable physical and mental abilities, Classics can choose to enter the workplace with confidence as they age. As Matt Thornhill, president of Boomer Project, a Virginia consulting firm, stated in an article by Bob Moos in The Dallas Morning News in 2006, “Boomers will do aging on their own terms.”

Classics age with grace—they continue to contribute and to be constructive. You have the choice to feel empowered with the knowledge that, as a group, we have the skills to support, instruct, and mentor—valuable assets to the success of any organization.

Classics can benefit from the established, positive characteristics associated with age in our culture. For example, Classics have a pragmatic sense of wisdom—the ability to synthesize knowledge from greater life experience. In an article that appeared in Psychology Today in 2011, Nancy Schlossberg quoted the authors of Successful Aging, John Rowe and Robert Kahn, who defined wisdom as “the ability to exercise good judgment about important but uncertain matters”—something always helpful on the job.

A Historic Opportunity

Boomers are a generation in demographic transition. As a reflection of this new reality, employers are beginning to show less resistance, recognizing that older candidates are viable and necessary for their staffing needs. Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, believes there will be more “opportunities in the future for older workers and probably less for younger workers.”

In The Business Case for Workers Age 50+, a 2005 report prepared by the consulting firm of Towers Perrin for AARP, the authors, utilizing studies prepared for the journal Monthly Labor Review, projected that by 2012, nearly 20 percent of the total workforce would be age 55 or older, up from just under 13 percent in 2000.

The statistics were trending early on. According to Workforce 2020: Work and Workers in the 21st Century, a highly regarded book on the subject published in 1997 by Richard W. Judy and Carol D’Amico, more older candidates will be hired due to the “enlightened self-interest of employers.” In the early part of the century, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that by 2006, two workers would exit the workforce for every one entering.

Of course, economic conditions had some impact on those numbers, but in general, this trend puts enormous pressure on employers. They must maintain a skilled and competent workforce with institutional knowledge—an intangible asset that can be easily lost if businesses do not retain or hire older candidates. In Workforce 2020, the authors argued that both employers and other workers would have to welcome and integrate older workers into the workplace of the new century, and they projected that the average age of the population and workforce would continue to increase over the first two decades.

From a purely demographic standpoint, employers must acknowledge a future where Baby Boomers will continue to represent a substantial contingent of workers within their organizations. Boomers must internalize these statistics as part of a personal outlook while searching for work.

Despite the myths surrounding older candidates that are still inherent in the hiring attitudes of many businesses, Boomers can take advantage of this new era. Businesses are seeking skilled employees and are concerned about a potential shortage of capable, reliable, and productive workers with traditional work ethics. This idea of employers with more accepting attitudes prepares you for a more favorable outcome to an interview—initial acceptance is critical to every hiring decision.

To further illustrate how demographic timing is advantageous to Boomers, Bruce Tulgan, an expert on generational differences in the workplace and founder of RainmakerThinking in New Haven, Connecticut, wrote that through the year 2020, the “workforce growth will decelerate each year. . . . And the 25- to 45-age group [considered the prime age workforce] will decline.” This shift will require organizations to rely increasingly on older workers.

In the 2006 book Workforce Crisis: How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent, Ken Dychtwald, demographer and founder of Age Wave, a consulting think tank for issues relating to the impact of our aging society, and his coauthors suggest that large employers may need to double the number of workers over the age of 55.

Classic Timing

Demographically, this is a perfect time for Boomers to feel more comfortable about looking for work. While as a culture we are still obsessed with youth, the employment market has become more accepting of hiring older people.

In Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America—And the World, distinguished government advisor Peter G. Peterson predicted that the covert hiring practice of denying employment to older candidates due to implicit cultural bias will need to be reconsidered.

Even the federal government is examining ways to encourage the hiring of older candidates, as evidenced by the February 2008 Report of the Taskforce on the Aging of the American Workforce. The task force was specifically “charged with developing strategies to address the impact of the aging of the American workforce.” The report makes various recommendations regarding actions that federal and local governments and businesses can make to create “greater opportunities for older workers to remain in the workforce and reduce barriers that may prevent them from doing so.”

Modern nonindustrial economies are no longer dependent on physical strength. A more practical solution for hiring quality employees is to choose candidates based on qualifications and not age—an idea that companies are starting to embrace. With such large numbers, Boomers are the new cultural standard of employment candidate, which is consistent with the impact they have always had on American culture.

We live on the threshold of a new era in hiring practices. The time is ripe for an age-friendly workplace, where employers will be more open to hiring Boomer-aged applicants who can interview convincingly and show the value they will bring to the job. The Classic employment candidate is symbolic of the 21st centurya time when the forces of supply and demand have converged to favor a longer productive working life. Moving forward, not only will politicians, judges, doctors, attorneys, scientists, academics, business moguls, and artists be esteemed, and in some cases venerated by virtue of their age, but so will other members of the Boomer generation. This means that employers will be more respectful and interested in what Classics can contribute. Employers must find qualified people with a value-added dimension of seasoning, which gives Boomers the opportunity to stake their claims in the employment market. You can be that Classic employment candidate who employers want to hire!

Past Patterns: A Blueprint for the Future

Historically, the idea of retirement—or actively disengaging from the workforce—is influenced by the structure of society’s economic base and the needs of the business community. Ken Dychtwald suggested that changes became evident when our agrarian society—where older people were honored for their knowledge—transitioned to an industrial society when there was more of a concern with productivity, speed, and physical stamina, a time when industrialized innovation required a quicker pace. He called this “the providence of the young people.” In general, until the post–World War II era, older men remained at work—retirement often had negative connotations, and older people were expected to work. According to Peter Peterson, as recently as the Great Depression, employers viewed the notion of retiring a person as a method of getting rid of an unproductive employee, a means of “clearing out deadwood.”

Experts say that early retirement as a socially acceptable phase of life is a relatively recent Western innovation, one that became an entitlement in the second half of the 20th century. Full retirement at an earlier age was encouraged in the mid-20th century to move people through the workforce and make room for large numbers of Boomers, as indicated in the Task Force on Aging. Successful entrepreneurs like Del Webb sought to capitalize on earlier retirement with the building of active retirement communities.

These policies supported America’s economic goals at the time by providing a plentiful supply of workers to satisfy the country’s industrial growth. Peterson suggested this trend became evident in the 1950s when pensions and health coverage expanded and the idea of retirement became more palatable—something the public viewed as being positive in nature. Workers began looking forward to years of subsidized leisure. He pointed out that in 1950, three out of five American men in their late 60s were still in the workforce. By 1999, the number had dropped to one out of five. In 1950, the average age at which US workers started collecting Social Security retirement pensions was 69; in 1999, the average age was 64. A pattern emerged that reflected not so much the needs of the workers but rather the requirements of business and economics at any given time.

Life expectancy, ability to work, and self-sufficiency have always played an important role in establishing a clear age that marks retirement. Perhaps the most significant influence on policy in the 20th century was the establishment of Social Security, which was intended for people who could no longer work. The question was: At what age is there a transition from physical self-sufficiency to physical dependency? That age was initially established as 65. According to a statistical report prepared by Elizabeth Arias, PhD, for the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1935 the average life expectancy for all genders and races in the US was 61.7 years. Much has changed in the last 80 years.

Hiring patterns shift. There is no predetermined time when people are destined to fade into obscurity from the workplace. If the past is any predictor of the future, and with established historical reasons now tipping in their favor, Classics will be welcomed into the workplace. If the rationale for 20th-century-type forced retirement is no longer valid, neither is early retirement practical for many people. Older candidates must still work harder than younger candidates to get hired. However, with the right approach and a diligent effort, you have the benefit of historic demographic timing.

Working Life Continuum: A New 21st-Century Employment Model

Clearly the trend toward early retirement is now on the wane, and a significant number of Boomers will continue working beyond traditional retirement age. Early retirement, as conceived in the mid-20th century, does not have a place in the lives of many Baby Boomers. Based purely on economic necessity, the concept is outmoded and no longer part of the common experience. Working Boomers face a future where they will not be in retirement, but rather will continue to be engaged for a lengthier period of time than their parents. Retirement will not be based on chronological age and cultural expectations but rather on a person having the physical ability and mental acuity necessary to maintain some form of employment. Boomers in financial need or those with a desire for active vocational engagement will continue to work. I believe now that so many people are working beyond traditional retirement age the word retirement has lost its relevance within this context.

I prefer the concept of a continuum for many Boomers: it illustrates greater flexibility about expectations and better describes a reality set within a 21st-century framework. Of course, there are always exceptions for those who are able to take advantage of their savings and/or inheritances, and still others whose type of work and attendant demands will dictate the length of additional years of engagement before true retirement.

Rather than characterizing yourself using obsolete and antiquated terminology, consider that if you are working—whether you are in pre-, semi-, partial-, delayed-, or un-retirement, are a working retiree, or are working in post-retirement—you are still engaged on the Working Life Continuum. I advocate for terminology that encourages Boomers to embrace their lives with optimism about the future and to live without regret. Many of us will not stop working in our 50s and 60s. Some Classics will work in their 70s and beyond. The aging of America’s workforce is a long-term demographic trend. It is time to internalize a more useful descriptor.


James’ Story

James was a career accountant with a good education, including a graduate degree. He had a stable employment history with progressive advancement. After passing the CPA exam while working in public accounting, he transitioned to a job in private industry and rose to the position of controller with a large division of a major US company.

At 60 years of age, James was thinking about retirement, but he had some concerns about being bored. “You can only play so much golf day after day,” his friends told him. Besides, he still liked the idea of getting out of the house every day with someplace to go. After calculating his investments and savings, he made the decision to resign his position in two years.

Then one day there was a companywide announcement that his division was being acquired, and the entire accounting group was now redundant. There would be layoffs within three months. To further add to his misery and anxiety, a week later his wife was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. As part of his new reality, he would have to forget any previous thoughts of retirement and continue working in order to keep up with increased medical bills that insurance would not cover. He was momentarily devastated at the thought that he would soon be without a job while still needing to provide medical care for his stricken wife.

Yet James was an innately positive individual, known among his colleagues for being upbeat and optimistic. He accepted the fact that he would have to keep working, like so many peers of his age, for several more years.

Looking forward, he decided to find something where his skills were transferable—something that would provide him with a sense of personal satisfaction and give him more time to care for his ailing wife. James had always enjoyed mentoring subordinates. In fact, training was one of his favorite job responsibilities. He decided to leave corporate life completely to pursue a teaching position. After several interviews, he landed a job as an accounting instructor at a private business school.

James is a Classic engaged on the Working Life Continuum. With the benefit of his excellent health, high energy level, and genuine enthusiasm for his new job, he joins the millions of aging Boomers who need or want to work beyond the traditional 20th-century retirement age.

Mary’s Story

Mary was widowed at 37 after her husband died in an automobile accident. As a single parent, she had to provide for and raise her eight-year-old son. Luckily, she was able to find a good job at a nearby factory.

Mary had worked at the factory for 25 years when it was announced that the plant was closing; management had decided to send production overseas. To make matters worse, her son, who also worked at the plant, fell into a deep depression after being laid off. He subsequently lost his apartment and moved back in with her. Mary was out of a job and was now also supporting her adult son.

In general, Mary was outgoing—full of energy and enthusiasm with a joy for life and ready to face her future with optimism. Lacking a second household income or an inheritance—like millions of other aging Boomers—Mary had to find a way to earn a living. Besides, she liked the idea of going to work and being productive day-to-day, taking pride in doing good work.

Since Mary had always enjoyed making food and preparing meals, she decided to take cooking classes at the local occupational school, intending to find a job in the culinary field. After spreading the word using her personal network, a member of her church referred her to a popular local family restaurant, where she was hired as a cook’s assistant.

Mary is a Classic. At 62 years of age and in reasonably good health, she remains actively employed and eager to be challenged with work while maintaining her social activities and personal interests. As an aging person, she found meaning living a full life on the Working Life Continuum.


Some Words about Words

Some linguists believe that thought, culture, and outlook toward life depend on the meanings associated with the words we use. It is the content of our thought (the words we use) that influences the process of our thought (how we think). To take the idea further, it is the language we speak that controls our view of the world.

That is why this book is entitled You Are a Classic. The word “classic” clearly signifies someone older and also someone of value! In order to perceive the reality of positive aging in the workplace, it is important that you view yourself as a Classic. In a competitive market where you will be challenged to compete against younger candidates and other Boomers, confidence is crucial to your success. How you perceive yourself as an aging person is critical to what you project in an interview. You need to think and communicate with words that reinforce the positive aspects of aging—what I refer to as anti-ageism terminology. Chapters 4 and 5 will discuss the need to express yourself using specific phrases to dispel the negative stereotypes of age and will instruct you to use language that is associated with the positive attributes of aging.

As you embark on this journey to find work, take comfort in the knowledge that, in terms of demographics, there has never been a better time than now to be older and seeking employment. The path is available for your success. In the following chapters you will find the information you need to enter the employment market with the confidence and savvy it takes to become a competitive candidate.

Exercise: Self-Reflection and Analysis

The basic questions remain that only you can answer—those you have to answer for yourself before you can expect an employer to hire you. Find a quiet place and take some time to write down answers to the following questions. You don’t have to show this material to anyone else. These are questions meant to get you started on your journey to finding a job as a Classic.

  1. Write down three words that honestly describe your attitude toward aging.

  2. Are the words you wrote down the way you wish to be perceived? If not, write down three words that describe how you wish to be perceived as an aging person.

  3. What mental changes do you think need to be made so that you are perceived in the way you wish?

  4. What physical changes—wardrobe, grooming, etc.—do you think need to be made so that you are perceived as you wish?

  5. Do you think you measure up to the new cultural standard as explained in this chapter?

  6. Do you see yourself as part of this change? Why or why not?

Make sure to save the answers to this exercise, as we will continue to examine these and similar issues throughout this book. You may be very pleasantly surprised when you reach the end of your journey and start your new job!

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Dealing with the Emotional Impact of Job Hunting

Job hunting is an emotional process that forces you to confront yourself, calling into question your personal strengths and weaknesses as well as your ability to triumph over other candidates. You want to be the most compelling applicant for the position. This challenge takes discipline and the willingness to make certain constructive changes in your behavior.

Do you believe that interviewing places you in a position of extreme emotional exposure? Are you willing to present yourself in the most impressive light possible during a time of financial pressure and likely repeated rejection? Do you fear that all this rising tension will claw away at you, that it will continually distract you from communicating a positive message with your words and body language? Can you give the interviewer the confidence to choose you as their new employee? If you worry about any of these questions, then relax—you have come to the right place.

The bad news is that, at best, job hunting is a random process where most of what happens is substantially out of your control. Even in your best interviewing experiences, there will be absolutely no way to ensure a positive outcome. You are dealing with a process that is susceptible to unforeseen and unexpected forces, not the least of which is how well you conduct yourself in an interview. An interviewer simply may be having a bad day. There might be a sudden freeze on hiring dictated by an executive at corporate headquarters in some other state. It may be a decision made by the parent company someplace in Asia or Europe. Interviewing is subject to many factors that ultimately impact decision making—unpredictability is the only factor that doesn’t change.

The good news is that this chapter will help you cope with the stresses you will undoubtedly encounter as you seek to find your next job. First is a brief overview offering some general observations of the process, including how to deal with challenges. Next, I will address the internal challenges, such as self-image and confidence building. Following that is information on the nature of stress and anxiety caused by the job-hunting process and how to manage it—especially in an interview setting. Finally, I offer several job-hunting philosophies to help maintain a healthy attitude, good morale, and a motivated outlook.

This chapter also includes a breathing method to alleviate stress and release some of the pressures associated with looking for work.

Getting Comfortable with Job Hunting

Job hunting and interviewing are unlike most other activities that we do throughout our lives. You are in a period of transition, out of sync and outside the realm of most ordinary days. As creatures of habit, we all get comfortable in our routines and gain confidence the more familiar they are. Essentially, we become secure by virtue of the routine itself. We know what is expected, what will work to our advantage, and what will satisfy our families and employers. A routine is a safe place emotionally because it is predictable. With job hunting and interviewing, it is very much the opposite. Nothing is familiar, and a positive outcome is not guaranteed, despite what may be your best efforts.

You can, however, learn to get more comfortable with job hunting and interviewing by creating a personal routine. When followed consistently, it will help buffer worrisome thoughts and feelings of helplessness, offering structure, support, and familiarity. A thorough, practiced routine serves as a solid foundation. It is something you can always count on and is a strong positive step in your favor. A personal routine comes from consistently structuring your days in such a way that it will benefit your job-hunting effort. Set aside the same time each day to focus on stress relief and the operations of your job-hunting campaign.

There are three critical principles that you need to embrace during your job hunt. First, you need to make an emotional adjustment to functioning in an environment that is full of uncertainty. Regardless of the outcome, accept that it has nothing to do with your self-worth or your ability to do a good job. Second, develop a self-nurturing attitude during the process. Acknowledge that everything you do to further your job-hunting efforts—whether it is filling out an application, sending out a resume, or attending an interview—gets you closer to your goal. Activity begets opportunity. Third, interviewing requires a specific set of behaviors, which may be a challenging adjustment to how you normally interact with people. Because it focuses on self-description and polite self-promotion, you must be willing to adapt to an interviewing mode, asserting yourself even though you might be shy or introverted.

Act as your own enthusiastic advocate—champion your candidacy. You might ordinarily believe such advocacy to be unnecessary self-aggrandizement or simply impolite behavior, but remember that you are in competition with others. Not only is this type of conduct socially acceptable, it is welcomed and expected by the interviewer. Once you receive an invitation to interview, it is your obligation and right to promote yourself—to help the interviewer decide whom to hire.

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time in the Right Frame of Mind

Successful job hunting and interviewing takes discipline, not only discipline to be diligent about finding job leads and potential openings but emotional discipline as well. Emotional discipline keeps you going when things look dismal and your chances of finding work seem grim. It frees you up to convey a positive attitude in an interview, even though you may be battling low self-esteem. It allows you to have the presence of mind and emotional control essential for you to exert a positive influence on the interviewer.

Sure, the old saying that you have to be in the right place at the right time is true, but unless you are also in the right frame of mind, you will be unable to take advantage of your preparation. You could be setting yourself up for failure before you start. Successful job hunting and interviewing begins with a conscious choice to approach the job market with the right frame of mind. You possess a number of unique and desirable assets that will be of interest to an employer. As a Classic candidate, you have it within yourself to convey your value convincingly and effectively.

People live within their own realities. No two people view the world in the same way. Our individual experiences shape our beliefs and behaviors and create a prism through which we see the world. Develop your personal job-hunting reality so that it consists of feelings of well-being. Embrace your efforts with positive anticipation rather than negative apprehension. Maintain a positive outlook despite the challenge of job hunting in a culture with a bias toward younger candidates.

Nearly everyone experiences rejection while seeking employment—it will be part of your job-hunting reality too. We will work on cultivating a positive job-hunting outlook based on the belief that with each interview, regardless of rejection, you get more accustomed to what you are doing and improve your chances for next time. In your job-hunting reality, each interview will be a positive experience, regardless of the outcome, because with each interview your interviewing IQ rises and statistics start to trend in your favor. It is your choice how you wish to internalize your experiences. Successful interviewing is a skill improved by doing. Your willingness to risk rejection is an expression of strength and belief in yourself as a person of value. Your ability to bounce back from rejection and maintain a positive attitude means that when you are in the right place at the right time, you will also be in the right frame of mind to make the best of an interview.


Experts agree that low self-esteem and poor self-confidence are significant obstacles for many job-hunting Boomers: “Self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment,” Maltz wrote in Psycho-Cybernetics. “Change the self-image and you change the personality and the behavior.” In other words, your self-image is key to how you behave in the world.

Successful job hunting and interviewing requires a positive self-image. It is the very foundation on which all else rests. The lack of confidence to engage in a job search and the inability to present a convincing interview are simply nonstarters. While hiring practices are changing to accommodate the demographic transition, you may still feel like a victim of ageism. Worse, you may succumb to the belief that your age will deny you the opportunity to land a good job. A slowly deflating self-image can unconsciously rob you of the energy and mental focus you need to keep going.

Interviewing is about perception. Besides your experience, employers are trying to figure out who you are and what you will be like in the workplace. They need to have the confidence to make you an offer; you need to have the confidence to support their decision. Employers also want to know: Are you pleasant to be around? Will you make a positive contribution to group morale? Or will you have a negative influence on the work environment?

Have you taken stock of the way you feel about yourself lately? Job hunting is not only a journey comprised of others scrutinizing you but also a time for self-examination, introspection, and adjustment, if necessary. So take a moment to reflect. Do you still retain the vigor people usually possess when they feel good about themselves? What are you projecting in an interview? How do you come across? Are you confident? Do you believe in yourself? Do you show the spirit, passion, and drive to continue working? Survey a few of your close, trusted friends, and listen to what they say. You need to know how others view you. It is human nature for employers to surround themselves with candidates who are upbeat and confident.

Self-image takes a beating while job hunting because so many of us tend to identify ourselves by how we earn a living. Very responsible people often experience a loss of self-esteem because they think they are letting down those they support. However, your worth is defined by the people who care for you, your relationships, and your interests—not by your employment status. You are not your job. Self-image should be a reflection of the positive aspects of your life.

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