Clayton Coder worked in pharmaceuticals for 25 years before a company reshuffling late last year reorganized him out of a job.
Alarmed by his sudden unemployment, the 57-year-old Coder applied for every suitable open position he could find. After submitting roughly 300 job applications without an interview, he says he began to notice a pattern in the rejection letters.
“I was getting the same response,” Coder said. “It was almost the exact same wordage in every letter except for the name of the company. That’s when I began to realize that something was going on here.”
Exactly what, however, didn’t become clear until he attended Navigating Ageism in Your Job Search, a monthly IowaWORKS workshop in Davenport and Des Moines and available on Zoom across the state.
The workshop is a collection of tips and best practices for older Iowans who have been out of the job market for a while. Participants receive detailed tips on how to manage an online job search and the importance of an updated, “age-proof” resume. They also are advised to develop a social media presence, get current with technology, and modernize their wardrobes in advance of interviews.
Laura Williams Graham, who teaches Navigating Ageism at IowaWORKS in Des Moines, said federal statistics show that the percentage of U.S. workers older than 55 has almost doubled since the 1990s. Yet, many gray-haired job seekers report having a harder time getting their feet in a potential employer’s door.
IowaWORKS career planners Cassandra Kimler (Davenport) and Andria Schaul (Dubuque) created the Navigating Ageism workshop after clients requested it through responses to surveys.
“I think that getting to a certain age, people feel like job hunting is scary,” said Williams Graham, who shares online workshop duties with Kimler and Schaul. “Some people have been with the same company 20, 30, 40 years. When was the last time they went through a formal application and interview process? It looks very different today than it used to.”
For instance, many employers now use computers to scan resumes and pare down the pool of applicants long before any human selects who should be brought in for interviews. IowaWORKS advises job searchers – including people like Clayton Coder – to pay close attention to a job posting and link themselves directly to the position by making sure that keywords are reflected in their resumes.
Coder, who had no idea that automated resume screening existed, changed the way he approached his applications and quickly received contact from four companies. After five interviews, he started a new job earlier this month.
“Once I took that workshop, it was like a light bulb went off,” Coder said. “It was fantastic.… I have no doubt in my mind that it helped me get this job.”
Navigating Ageism in Your Job Search is held online each month via Zoom and in person at the IowaWORKS offices in Davenport and Des Moines. For more information about the May 8 virtual offering, visit the IowaWORKS events calendar.