Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Overcoming Ageism: Career Strategies from Colleen Paulson

Colleen Paulson

Colleen Paulson

Career Coach

Key Takeaways

  • Overcoming Ageism: Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals can counter ageism by creating succinct resumes, highlighting key career achievements, and actively using LinkedIn for promotion.
  • Leveraging Experience: Older professionals need to showcase their experience’s impact and quantify achievements to underline their potential in future roles.
  • Effective Networking: Combine in-person and virtual networking, like connecting with alumni and casual conversations, to facilitate career transitions.
  • Adapting to Job Market Evolution: Maintaining an updated LinkedIn profile and being mindful of contemporary resume formats are essential in today’s job landscape.
  • Evolution in Networking: The shift from traditional Rolodexes to digital platforms like LinkedIn has significantly expanded professional networking opportunities.
  • Online Networking Tactics: Engage in LinkedIn activities, such as commenting and connecting with alumni or former colleagues, for expanding career opportunities.
  • Digital Relationship Building: Foster professional relationships online by adding value through recommendations, posts, or direct messages.
  • Continuous Learning for Career Success: Emphasize continuous learning, focusing on emerging technologies and human-centric skills, and utilize free online courses for staying relevant and competitive.

Career Transition Tactics for Gen X and Baby Boomers

In our interview with Colleen Paulson, founder of Ageless Careers, she discusses the unique challenges faced by Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals during career transitions. Paulson addresses ageism and offers tips for effective resume writing and LinkedIn strategies. She emphasizes the importance of showcasing impact and results, combining in-person and virtual networking, and staying current in a rapidly evolving job landscape. Paulson also highlights the role of continuous learning in career longevity and adapting to digital networking. Her insights aim to guide older professionals in navigating today’s job market.

What unique challenges do Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals face when transitioning careers, and how can they overcome them?

“Obviously, ageism is a big consideration for Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals. There are so many studies out there showing that ageism is real, so it isn’t folks’ imagination if they find it harder to find a job in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond. However, finding a great job is possible at any age. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers want to be thoughtful about how they present themselves.” My biggest tips are:

  1. Keep your resume at 2 pages (3 at the very most).
  2. Focus on your biggest career highlights.
  3. Use LinkedIn to market yourself.
Colleen Paulson

How can older professionals leverage their experience in a job market that often seems skewed toward younger candidates?

“It’s really important to show impact and how you have delivered results in the past. If you can quantify results in a real way, that data becomes very powerful and will help you to show how you will use your experience in future roles.”


What are some effective networking strategies for Gen X and Baby Boomers looking to transition into new roles or industries?

“For me, the best networking strategies combine both in-person and virtual elements. Schedule a coffee or in-person meeting with former/current colleagues to talk. Make new friends on LinkedIn (I like to connect with alumni from my former universities and employers – I find that those folks are often happy to reach out and connect). 

I’ll give you a recent, real-life example. I was recently chatting with a good friend and she’s thinking about making a career change from nursing into sales. So, we were talking informally and it turns out that I have a friend at her target company. I was able to connect them and my friend is going to send her resume to my other friend.

Try to make networking easy. It’s literally talking with your friends & neighbors. Talk to the other parents at the soccer game. Chat with your neighbors during your walk. You never know what will come of those discussions.”


Can you provide advice on how to stay current and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving job landscape?

“My biggest advice is to have a strong LinkedIn profile – no matter where you are in your career. Recruiters are always looking for talent on LinkedIn and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find you. Also, don’t be afraid of the ATS. Yes, you want to be aware of the resume format that you are using and make it user-friendly, but you don’t need to buy an ATS-compliant template or anything like that. Use a template that’s easy-to-follow (I prefer no graphics) and focus on sharing your key results in a clear and concise way.”


Digital Networking and Relationship Building

How has professional networking evolved with the rise of digital and social media platforms?

“When I started working full-time, people still used Rolodexes and business cards as a way to keep track of their network. Your network was often limited to the people that you worked with on a daily basis. We’re lucky to have evolved over time and it really has never been easier to build and keep up with your network.”


What are some effective online networking strategies that professionals can use to expand their career opportunities?

“I love using LinkedIn for both networking and to expand career/business opportunities. There are so many easy ways to get started: if you are leery about posting, then just start by adding comments to posts that you find interesting. If you are trying to meet new people, search by alumni from your university or people that have worked for the same company that you worked with. Find those commonalities as a way to get started with online networking. Make sure to not lead with an ask – you want to be respectful of others time and energy, so just start by introducing yourself and making the connection.”


How can individuals maintain and foster meaningful professional relationships in a predominantly digital world?

“For me, the biggest thing is identifying how you can add value to others. Whether it’s through posting or commenting on others posts or giving recommendations on LinkedIn – there are so many ways that you can help others. Even a quick DM can make a difference in someone’s day. Try to find ways to help others and always remember that there is a human on the other side of the interaction, so be as thoughtful about how you approach these digital relationships as you would be in the real world.”


What role do you see digital networking playing in future career development, and how can professionals prepare for this?

“You definitely want to build a robust online profile. Make it easy for people to find you on LinkedIn. 92% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to find talent: you want them to find you, so craft a complete profile that is clear to the reader and you’ll be ahead of most people.”

The Role of Continuous Learning in Career Longevity

Why is continuous learning essential for long-term career success, and how can professionals integrate it into their busy schedules?

“Many companies will encourage you to take internal and external courses, so I recommend taking advantage of that whenever possible. For Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in particular, you want to show that you have a growth mindset and that you are open to learning new things, so continuing education is a great way to do that.”


What types of skills or knowledge areas should professionals focus on to stay competitive in the current job market?

“Everyone’s talking about AI, so clearly that technology is something that you want to stay current on in some way. I would also flip that and say that another way to stay competitive is to focus on the uniquely-human ways that you bring value. AI can never replace the human insights that you bring to problem solving and communications, so think about how you can add value in these areas to really differentiate yourself.”


How can professionals identify and take advantage of learning opportunities relevant to their careers?

“There are so many free courses online – I just saw a post on LinkedIn today about the top universities like Yale and others who offer free courses on a wide range of topics. Do a little bit of research to understand what is important in your industry/role and take the initiative to start taking courses in these areas.”


Can you share any success stories or examples where continuous learning significantly impacted someone’s career trajectory?

“I recently had a client who was a lawyer by training but wanted to make a switch into an analyst role. We focused on her problem solving skills and she was able to land a role at a top Fortune 500 employer. It’s never too late to make a shift. I’ve made 5 career changes myself – I started as an engineer and now I’m a career coach. The biggest thing you can do is to stay focused on how you can deliver value in the new role and stay confident that you can successfully make the move.”


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