Battle of the Ages: Grads vs. Experience for Jobs

PHOTO There?s an unintentional battle brewing between the nation?s newest workers?the graduating class of 2009?and its most experienced, those American?s in their fifties and sixties.

There's an unintentional battle brewing between the nation's newest workers the graduating class of 2009 -- and its most experienced, those American's in their fifties and sixties. And as the competition heats up, it puts a strain on both groups in an already competitive job market.

I hear daily doom and gloom from both groups: The new grads say they're out of luck because nobody will hire someone without experience. And the older workers are convinced that everyone wants to hire kids.

VIDEO: In Grand Rapids, Mich., many young and old vie for the same work.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. While age bias exists, people of all ages are hired every day. There are more young adults out of work now, but older workers are represented in greater numbers among the long-term unemployed. Since you can't change your demographic, there's no use obsessing on it. Focus on what you can control and it'll help you get hired faster.

Click here to visit Tory Johnson's Job Club resource page.

Strengths for New Grads

Thousands of people will graduate with the same degree, so that alone isn't enough. As a new grad, you're not expected to know it all, so don't worry that you lack experience. Instead, employers will judge you on communications skills, sound judgment, personality, enthusiasm, fresh perspective, commitment to launching your career. Those are your soft skills, and they're extremely important when determining whether or not you'd be a good fit for a particular position or environment.

For better or worse, you're also cheaper than your older counterpart; you're expected to be content working for less than someone who is older, so hiring you may be a relative bargain.

Strengths for Older Workers

The best asset for older job seekers is experience. Your value to an employer is directly connected to the experience you bring. In many cases, you require less training, you have demonstrated leadership and mentoring skills, and you bring a sense of calm and steadiness that comes only from wisdom and life experience.

Don't allow salary history to dictate your future compensation. If you're willing to be flexible on pay, be up front about your desire to negotiate based on the needs of this position instead of on your previous earnings. (This isn't always the case, so make the decision as you go.)

No matter what your age, don't rely solely on your resume to sell yourself. Focus on face to face contact as often as possible. You are more than a piece of paper.

Form or join a job club. Getting together weekly with peers is a smart way to stay motivated and on track. Click here to learn about the all-new Job Kernl, which features content on starting a job club.

Host a Networking BBQ

No matter what your age, anyone out of work can use this upcoming holiday weekend to host their own networking event disguised as a day-long, open house BBQ. It doesn't have to cost a lot; ask everyone to come with a pot luck dish and advice for the out-of-work host.

For the new grad, ask mom and dad to invite their friends; don't make this a kids-only beer bash. And for the older worker, you know a lot of people, so tap into that vast network. Everyone can use this as a chance to reconnect with relatives, former colleagues, classmates, neighbors, church pals?you can even tell them that their friends are welcome. Cast a wide net because your best job leads will come from introductions from other people.

And once you get the job? A few things to keep in mind to ace those first days and weeks: meet the boss.

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