A savvy boomer who has been on hiatus whether by choice (e.g. raising a family) or a downsizing caused by the recession, must marshal all of her strategic skills to transition back to the workplace. It is doable and it can be exhilarating, but only if your game plan emphasizes your positives and eschews the issue of age. Perception trumps reality – if you look fantastic and sound fantastic you will have the opportunities.
Let’s consider your confidence. That’s the single best predictor of how you will prevail in an anemic economy. Do you have a narrative of what you’ve accomplished and how you’ve been successful at your work? Can you speak about your leadership skills whether as a volunteer or leading a team at work? It is essential that you exude a sense of passion and excitement when talking about your prior experiences. Remember, employers are looking for attitude as well as aptitude. You can teach someone how to do EXCEL but you cannot teach someone how to communicate with warmth and brio.
What’s your packaging like? Do you look like a million bucks or have you forgotten that first impressions take less than six seconds? Once again, your age is irrelevant if you are playing the interview as if you were twenty years younger. Invest in yourself – give yourself the tools you need to nail the job: Hair, makeup, clothing, accessories and a pair of well-polished shoes. You must look swank – staggeringly fabulous.
Oh, yes, the handshake. Some people forget the importance of a firm handshake, but this is the time when it really counts. Practice with a friend but make sure that you take someone’s hand and squeeze it web to web. Now, look them in the eyes until you can determine their color. Once you know the color, you can drop the hand but not before. And no one pumps the hand – so 60s. A firm grasp, a warm smile and eye-to-eye contact. That’s all it takes.
Oops, almost forgot the importance of the smile. Why wouldn’t you smile if you’ve gotten past the gatekeeper and now have the chance to show off all your talent? A genuine smile of interest and empathy is not only irresistible, it’s strategic. It signals confidence. It puts the interviewer at ease. It makes you look younger and vibrant. The smile also helps you to connect with the interviewer – listen to what he or she is saying. Brilliant listening is an absolute, and that means full presence. While you’re on the interview you’re collecting information that you will use in your thank-you note. Whether you mention the artwork in the lobby or the interviewer’s gracious interest in your accomplishments, you must demonstrate that you were “on it” during the meeting.
And finally, the handwritten thank you note. Here’s where your age plays to your advantage, since the younger generation will text their thanks on the way down to the lobby. Not you! You’re going to go home and take out your best stationery and write a note. Trust me, you will crush the competition when you’re the real deal – the whole exciting package of charm, humor, competence, and a willingness to work hard and give 120%.
Shall we recap the essentials before you step out the front door? Start smiling and make smiling a habit. Put your cell phone off the minute you enter the lobby! Rise when shaking someone’s hand. Always sit in the middle of the chair to indicate interest in the interviewer’s questions (sitting too far back in the chair might indicate a lack of interest and sitting on the edge of the chair could be interpreted as aggressiveness.) Wear only one earring in each ear and hide a tattoo (you must always be sensitive to other people’s biases). If it’s raining, ask the receptionist if you can hang your coat in the closet. And no onions before the interview! Go get ‘em!
For more than 30 years, Ellen Lubin-Sherman has advised business leaders and luxury brands on how to infuse their identities with flair. In 2003, she founded LAUNCH, an executive coaching firm. She’s the author of The Essentials Of Fabulous and speaks regularly on culture, manners and style. For more about Ellen, please visit her website www.EssentialsOfFabulous.com. You can also find Ellen on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ElleTellsIt.