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Lesson 4: (VaYera): “Don’t look (too far) back”- The resume paradox: “What have you done lately?”


Course: Genesis Part 1. Lesson #4 of 4

Series: The Bible at Work: Career Coaching in the Torah

Teacher: Dr. Benny Benjamin

1 Views | Published: December 29, 2022

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” Michael McMillian


“When they had brought them outside, one said, “Flee for your life! Do not look back, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away” Genesis 19:17. Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26.

God informed Abraham that the sinning cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed. Out of concern for his nephew Lot’s family, who lived in Sodom, Abraham pleaded with God to have mercy on the cities despite their sins (“What if ten [innocent ones] should be found there?[1] ), but when even 10 righteous individuals were not to be found, God proceeded with His plan. The angels that came to rescue Lot and his family implored them to leave, but the family was reluctant. The angels then escorted them out of the city, insisting they keep moving and not look back. 

The reason for not looking back may have been to spare them the prospect of post-traumatic symptoms or perhaps not to be slowed down by their curiosity regarding the fire and brimstone raining on their hometown. Looking back could have triggered wistful thoughts of how they brought up their family there, recalling the good times, and lamenting the need to relinquish their lifestyle. These warnings notwithstanding, Lot’s wife couldn’t curb her longing: She looked back, froze, and turned into a pillar of salt. 

Why salt? The salt mineral has served as a food preservative since ancient times [2]. It draws water out of the cells and inhibits bacterial growth. In Lot’s wife’s case, though, she may have wanted to preserve her memories at the expense of her survival. Indeed, she may have preserved her body, but her future was lost. You could say that by looking (too far) back, Mrs. Lot found herself in a pickle.

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Older workers often feel ‘unfaired at’ by employers and recruiters, sensing that their abundant skills and experience are not given their proper weight. Certainly, many a younger worker has yet to achieve the professionalism that the older worker may have accomplished decades ago. Stereotypes associated with ageism are undeniable barriers to a successful job search, but anticipating them can facilitate dealing with them. Traditionally, these hurdles include being perceived as overqualified, inflexible, slow to adapt to new methods, and not integrating with younger workers. To neutralize these stereotypes, older applicants should seek examples from their work or non-work experience to counter each of them.

Veteran workers may be tempted to stake their fit for the job on their accomplishments in the previous millennium. However impressive these achievements may be, they won’t have the impact they may have had years ago. Awards or other acknowledgments should not be discounted, but recent experience, performance, and newly acquired skills provide the critical evidence that will make a difference in job applications. Paradoxically, your experience may merit you a lifetime achievement award, but it is unlikely to get you hired by the employer interviewing you. 

One widely acknowledged tip is for your resume or interview to include details for jobs performed over the last 10–15 years but not prior to that. They can certainly be referenced, but it’s best to leave out the minutiae. In other words, look ahead to communicate how you can contribute to the organization; don’t look too far back.

Some resume coaches suggest that older applicants adopt functionally formatted resumes (emphasizing what) rather than chronological formatting (emphasizing when). However, this is a failed effort at concealing dates and age, obscuring details that will ultimately be revealed. HR personnel need to see a career trajectory by dates. To deemphasize dates, the older worker could consolidate several years of professional experience into one or two bullet points, omitting much of the detail that may have appeared in previous resume forms. Also, you may choose to delete dates from your schooling or graduation years; citing the school names and degrees may suffice. 

Both older and younger workers need to approach the job search through a marketing lens rather than a scrapbook lens. The product (you) is only as desirable as the potential customer (the employer) perceives it, and if the employer sees only minimal current value in this product, you may be going after the wrong market (employer or industry) or framing it in the wrong way. The critical element that any employer needs to know is what are the candidate’s current skills and recent experience that would contribute to the organization’s current objectives. You may have been the perfect candidate in 1990, but perhaps not in 2022. The job may even have the same title, but it’s no longer the same job. As for any job application, you need to take the time to research the particular hiring organization and incorporate the job announcement’s terminology into your targeted resume.

Points to Ponder:

  • To remain current, frequently add new skills, achievements, training, or even volunteering to your resume. In my own experience, I added a line (and a current date) to my resume at least once a year, even if I wasn’t seeking a job change. This tactic offered both intrinsic (the content) and extrinsic (refreshing the resume) benefits. So keep your eye on the market, as no job is permanent. Upskilling yourself through various channels is a win for all. 
  • For both employers and older workers, cultivating mentoring relationships is another tack that could benefit a subsequent job search. A senior worker is often asked to coach a younger employee, share hard-earned insights, and empower the mentee. An extension of the advantages of traditional mentoring is establishing a reverse mentoring relationship, whereby a junior employee mentors a more senior employee, often bringing the latter abreast of current digital communication and other technological skills. The benefits of these interactions with younger workers are clear. 
  • Try this: As noted, the four common ageism stereotypes are that older workers are overqualified, can’t fit in with a younger staff, are not flexible enough for today’s volatile workplace, and are closed to new ideas. The following tip offers a strategy to help neutralize these four stereotypes by elaborating on one particular skill during a job application: collaboration. Citing your collaboration with diverse colleagues as an anchor, you can provide examples of projects in which you led a team and others where you served as a junior member of a team led by younger workers. Reviewing the content areas of your various work collaborations and partnerships in recent years should convey that you are au courant in cutting-edge technology and skills. Concrete examples of collaboration can persuade potential employers that you have managed to surmount the common aging stereotypes, especially accentuating your ability to adapt. Indeed, this tack “checks (just about) all of the boxes” as you confront ageism.

[1] Genesis 18:32.
[2] Kurlansky, M. (2003). Salt: A world history. Penguin Putnam.

 

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