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Ask The Work Buzz! More on age

QuestionsHere’s a question from Peter: I am starting a job search and resume preparation. I am close to 60 and would like to know if age should be avoided in the resume and ultimately lie about it?

Peter, if we’re cutting to the chase, the answer to your questions are yes (kind of) and no, respectively. Here’s why…

I know we’ve discussed age at length here and here. But this question touches on something we’ve yet to discuss: How specific should you be on your application when it comes to giving away your age? Well, you don’t need to put your birthdate on your resume or cover letter, whether you’re 16 or 60. So don’t worry about that. And if you’re afraid employers will automatically dismiss you (even though they shouldn’t) because of the dates of your graduation, then leave those dates off. What matters is that you graduated with a degree, not when. There’s absolutely nothing dishonest or deceitful about that.

Still, we don’t advocate lying, and we’re not for burying information either. See, you still should put dates by your employment history, especially the most recent ones (aka ones that you had over the last 10 years, possibly longer depending on your field). Leaving those dates off will seem very suspicious. Employers will assume you’re hiding something. So an employer can always do some quick math if they really want to figure out your age.  Plus, if you get an interview, they’re going to see you face-to-face and, well, unless you’re really good with makeup, they’re going to know you’re not 19. So there’s no point in lying or going through extensive means to hide your age. And do you really want to work for a place that fears mature workers and experience?

Perhaps most importantly, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your age. If an employer is going to assume you can’t perform the tasks or doesn’t want someone with a little grey hair in the office, that’s not going to be a good place for you to work. (Forget how illegal it would be for them to openly dismiss you on those grounds.) Avoiding a few specific dates where possible might not be a bad idea if you’re afraid a college graduation date of 1973 will intimidate someone before they even look at your qualifications. But don’t lie and don’t forget that you probably have gained experience that a newcomer hasn’t. Be yourself and be proud of what you’ve done with your career.

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Video: Matching your skills to available jobs

RosemaryToday2One of the things more job seekers are having to do these days is look to new industries and careers to find employment. Once thriving sectors like finance and construction are ailing and displaced workers find their once sought-after skills are not as valuable.

The key is identifying which skills you have and to which jobs they can be applied. Try using online tools, like You may learn that you can easily transfer into a new occupation with the expertise you have or short-term training and/or certification.

This morning, CareerBuilder’s V.P. of Human Resources Rosemary Haefner discussed this very topic on the Today Show. Watch this segment to learn about one woman who is making the move to nursing and how you can make a change, too.

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“You Have Something In Your Teeth…”

food in teethWe’ve all been embarrassed at work. In fact, just this morning, a woman stopped by to tell my cubemate that a picture of her and her friends was in the printer by her office, in case she was looking for it. At first my associate was confused, but then she realized that the woman was referring to a picture that my co-worker printed (clearly to the wrong printer) to hang in her cube. Oops.

When it comes to embarrassing situations at work, people handle them in different ways, depending on what the embarrassment is and who it’s happening to.

For example, would I tell the company VP that she’s having a really bad hair day? Doubtful. But would I pull my co-workers aside and tell them to look at the VP’s hair for a good laugh? Probably.

Whether or not this makes me a mean person is up for debate. In any case, CareerBuilder decided to dig deeper into this topic and ask more than 4,400 workers if they would point out something embarrassing to their colleagues, and if so,  would they say something to their peers, or to co-workers on a lower or higher level?

Here are some of the key findings. Click here to read the full release.

  • You have food in your teeth or on your face
      a. Same level co-worker – 66 percent
      b. Lower level co-worker – 60 percent
      c. Higher level co-worker – 49 percent
  • Your zipper is undone
      a. Same level co-worker – 67 percent
      b. Lower level co-worker – 62 percent
      c. Higher level co-worker – 50 percent
  • You need a breath mint
      a. Same level co-worker – 33 percent
      b. Lower level co-worker – 29 percent
      c. Higher level co-worker – 14 percent

What would you tell your co-workers?

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Losing a job, losing an identity

pink slippedWe get a lot of questions from readers here at The Work Buzz (and if you want to ask us one, feel free to leave it in the comments here) and on Twitter.  Looking at what everyone is saying, we realize that people are struggling to not only find a job but also stay sane in these tough times. And the times are tough. The frustration is palpable.

I was flipping through the pages of Pink Slipped: A post-layoff survival guide and figured one chapter in particular would be helpful to you. Edie Milligan Driskill, CFP, CLU, author of Pink Slipped, devoted an entire section to post-layoff identity.

The answers to the following two questions will tell us a lot:

1. Who were you the day before you lost your job?

2. Who are you today?

If the answers to those two questions are not exactly the same, then you’ve got some work to do.

Driskill goes on to explain that the title on your business card (real or imaginary) doesn’t mean that’s actually who you are. It can. As she says in the book, an accountant is an accountant as long as he or she has a CPA license. Whether or not the accountant is on someone’s payroll is irrelevant. Or another example she gives is that a physical therapist who gets a job as a waitress in order to make ends meet might not consider herself a waitress. She’s a physical therapist working as a waitress.

That might sound a bit hokey to some of you, but think about it this way:

One strategy that employers use to encourage people to be productive and stay around is to find titles that will feed their egos and give them status within the organization. If you were handed one of those titles and you bought into it, you forgot that it was a rental contract. Believing that you actually owned it will cause you to have an overall harder time dealing with the loss of your employment.

Losing a job is hard on all aspects of your life. It’s an unwelcome surprise. It affects your finances. You’re reminded of it daily when you’re at home instead of at work. If you connected yourself more to the idea of the job than the actual work you like doing, you’re going to have a hard time coping and a hard time finding work. Job titles differ from company to company, as do the responsibilities and expenses that come with them. Your job search needs to encompass a range of options that let you do what you like (and hopefully make what you’d like). That’s why we like to recommend job seekers:

  • Search for jobs by skills, not just by titles
  • Know what they’re good at and what they like doing so that they can find work that suits them–not just another job they hate like the last one they  had
  • Know what they don’t want to do, because ruling out what doesn’t work makes it that much easier to find the job that will work.

Pink Slipped: A post-layoff survival guide is out now if you want to read more about handling unexpected unemployment.

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Ask The Work Buzz! The Age Debate

helpOne reader of The Work Buzz brought up a good topic for debate. Sylvia Paramo asked: “If a job applicant is 55 years old, do they really have less of a chance of getting hired?”

Sylvia’s experience with the younger members of the work force haven’t been all great, so she expressed some hesitancy at losing out on a job to a recent graduate. While we here at The Work Buzz don’t think anyone’s automatically a better or worse job candidate because of their age (or any other demographic trait, for that matter), we do think it’s worth addressing a conversation that’s been going on for decades and has heated up more in the last few years. If two candidates are pitted against each other, one being young (by professional standards) and the other being significantly older, who’s going to get the job?

The thing is, no one knows, and it’s not as cut and dry as age. First off, you should know your legal rights in terms of age discrimination, as explained on the government’s EEOC site. So rather than try to say that you, specifically, can always get hired in any situation, here are ways you can stress the attributes of your age without having to actually talk about your age. Why? Well, because no employer wants to hear “I know I look old, but…” or “I might have baby fat, but…” Instead, phrase it all in terms of experience.

You’re an older work (however you want to define “older):

  • You’ve already  made the mistakes
    When you discuss weaknesses or learning experiences, you can refer to mistakes you made earlier in your career. Everyone makes rookie mistakes, and hopefully you learned from it so that you can point to a time when you didn’t know your limits and now you do.
  • You’ve been around the cubicle (for lack of a better metaphor)
    If you’ve been in the work force for 10, 20, or 30 years, you’ve probably held different positions. Maybe you changed industries, employers, or roles. That experience informs the decisions you make today. The skills you’ve acquired have come from hands-on experience, which is something school alone can’t teach you.

You’re a younger work:

  • You know the current trends
    On average, younger workers (especially those straight out of college) are familiar with today’s technology and new industry trends that are just now making waves. For many employers, that’s a huge asset because their current employees might be more focused on what’s previously worked and not think as much about what’s coming up.
  • You’re willing to take risks
    No employer wants to hire a liability, but if you’re still trying to establish yourself in the professional world (aka you don’t have a ton of credibility to lose at this stage), you’re more likely to try new ideas. Unconventional ones that might not appeal to others could be a boost for you.

The goal isn’t to attack the other applicants but rather to show why you are a positive addition to the team. And remember, your focus needs to be on what you bring to the company. Employers want good workers regardless of age or gender. No one will hire the whiny crybaby who spends the whole interview complaining about the rest of the job seekers.

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Researcher Thinks "Inside the Box" to Create Self-contained Wastewater System for Soldiers, Small Towns

Dr. Jianmin Wang, a professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, has created a wastewater system "in a box." Wang’s system, named a baffled bioreactor (BBR) by Wang, modifies the conventional activated sludge process by using baffles to create a maintenance-free intermediate settling chamber for sludge return.


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Do You Live Paycheck to Paycheck? You’re Not Alone.

advanceScenario: It’s a couple of days before payday. You’ve checked your bank account every day to make sure a forgotten item hasn’t posted. You’ve been eating Ramen noodles for dinner for at least a week. You even find yourself volunteering to attend meetings at work — just so you can get a free lunch out of it.

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re not alone. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 61 percent of workers report they always or usually live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, according to a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 4,400 workers. This is up from 49 percent last year and 43 percent in 2007.

Surprisingly, people earning average salaries aren’t the only ones feeling the need to pinch pennies: 30 percent of workers with salaries of $100,000 or more report that they too live paycheck to paycheck, up from 21 percent in 2008.

“Workers are employing a variety of tactics to help make ends meet in this economy,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. “Whether it’s by keeping a tighter budget, finding ways to bring in additional income or adjusting their savings strategies, workers are doing their best to weather the current storm. These good financial habits will not only help workers in the short-term, but better position them for the future.”

Here are a few key findings from the survey:

  • 21 percent of workers say they have reduced their 401(k) contributions or personal savings in the last six months.
  • 23 percent of workers who earn six figures or more report that they have also reduced their 401(k) or savings.
  • 36 percent of workers say they do not participate in any programs such as 401(k), IRAs or retirement plans, up from 31 percent in 2008.
  • 33 percent of workers report that they don’t put any money aside into their savings each month, up from 25 percent in 2008. Thirty percent set aside $100 or less per month for savings and 16 percent save less than $50.

Haefner offers these tips to help ride the wave to your next paycheck:

  • Keep track of spending – Create a spreadsheet to analyze what you spend each month, including the money spent on those inevitable invisible expenses, such as a morning coffee, cab ride or afternoon snack. Once you can see where your money goes, you can clearly see where you can cut back.
  • Boost your income – One-in-ten workers report taking on a second job in this economy to help make ends meet.* Ask yourself if this is something you can handle on top of your current job and then pursue some viable options. Check out sites like for contract and freelance opportunities.
  • Speak up – Talk to your HR department and see what is available to help you save on your monthly expenses. Even though times are tough, companies are still offering flexible spending accounts, wellness benefits, retail discounts, transit reimbursement and more.

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To Rent or Buy?

Imagine this situation: You are standing in the power tools section of your local hardware store gazing longingly at the dazzling array of equipment with which you could transform your home into something worthy of a Bob Vila masterpiece.


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Engineers design self-righting buildings that survive earthquake test in style

Stanford engineers and others create a structural design that lets buildings rock during earthquakes, then pull themselves into plumb when the shaking stops, confining damage to replaceable steel "fuses."


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Video: Is your resume in HD?

CBTVProbably the most important professional marketing tool you have — after yourself — is your resume. But if it’s filled with fluffy words and vague phrases, it’s not going to do its job. You need to make things crystal clear to employers when you’re telling them about your accomplishments and professional expertise.

Watch this new video from CareerBuilderTV to learn how:

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