You wouldn’t brand yourself as inflexible, non-current, stuck in your ways, unwilling to adapt new skills, tired, out of touch, retired-on-the-job, unmanageable, unwilling to take constructive feedback, or overpriced … would you?

Well, you certainly wouldn’t brand yourself this way on purpose.

Yet that’s exactly what many 40+ job seekers do, without realizing it.

Could your personal brand amplify negative feelings about your age? Could your personal brand actually be contributing to the ageism that employers direct towards you, making it difficult for you to find your next job?

Here are 6 negative age-related perceptions your personal brand may be causing:

  1. You focus on years of experience: To an employer actively searching for more senior candidate, drawing attention to your years of experience might be a good thing. However, few employers value number of years of experience as they once did. Today, employers are more interested in the value you’ve provided and the problems you’ve solved, over your years of experience. To many employers, a focus on years of experience implies that you have few results to brag about … giving the perception that you maybe haven’t tried that hard during all those years.
  2. You’re out of touch: When you describe your experience using “old-school” terminology, phrases and jargon, you can give the perception that you’re out of touch. For example, if your company used an older enterprise or accounting system, don’t brag about it – Don’t even mention it. If your last employer is using manufacturing processes that aren’t cutting edge, don’t bring it up in your resume. Even if you’re God’s gift to marketing and can prove it with the fact that you invented the Happy Meal, mentioning that accomplishment makes you seem out of touch.
  3. You’re not technologically current: When you send a paper resume or fax it to an employer, you give the impression that you don’t understand email. When you refuse to have a Facebook profile based on principal, you appear technologically backwards. When you use an AOL email account for your job search, you appear like you’re stuck in the ’90’s. When you list a fax number on your resume (believe it or not, many people still do this), you’re a blast from the past. Just the other day, a candidate asked me if she should print her resume on fancy paper in a different color – how awfully ’70’s of you.
  4. Your skills are stale: If you’re trying to show an employer how qualified you are for a job because you did the same job 10 years ago – you’re giving the employer the impression that your skills are stale. Hiring managers don’t remember what they had for lunch last week – so why would they believe you’ll be more effective as a candidate with current experience when your experience is 10 years prior? If you’ve been out of work for the past few years, how can you expect an employer to think your skills are as sharp as someone who has been working during that time?
  5. You’re not hands on: If you’ve been managing a large staff for the past few years, you give the impression that you’re not hands-on – too far removed from doing the work, because you’ve managed it for so long. If you don’t mention that you’re adept with tools like the components of Microsoft Office, you give the impression that you’ll need someone else to write reports for you, to do spreadsheet analysis for you and to create presentations for you. Most businesses today require managers who can both manage and work hands on as part of the team plus be self sufficient enough to do their own reports and presentations.
  6. Your best years are behind you: When you take up a lot of resume space describing details of what you did 10, 15, 20 years ago, you give the impression that your best years are behind you. Back to the example of the Happy Meal inventor (yes, it’s a real client example) … Why would a hiring manager want to hire someone who brands themselves as “all washed up”? That’s how you brand yourself when you put emphasis and include a great deal of detail about the early part of your career.

You don’t have to let your age stand in the way of your career. Often, it’s not your age…it’s how you present your age that causes you to lose opportunities.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to change your personal brand to combat ageism.