There's probably never a good time to be laid off, unless you've been secretly itching to get out of a job for a while and just couldn't bring yourself to make the break. With a layoff, not only does your employer take the decision to leave off your shoulders, but you'll likely get a severance, unemployment pay and maybe even some assistance finding a new job. That's the best-case scenario.
One of the worst cases involves older workers who are likely to find themselves competing against young pups in the job market. That's especially true in the tech field, which has a pretty strong bias against older workers.
TechRepublic's Toni Bowers offers some good suggestions for older IT pros who find themselves (unexpectedly or not) hunting for a new job.
- Don't list everything you've ever done on your resume. Stick to the most recent and/or relevant experiences.
- Avoid the word "seasoned." (I'd add similar ones like "veteran." I used to put that one on my resume, until I realized a few years back that it made me sound like Methusaleh.) Bowers suggests substituting "accomplished" and backing it up with specific examples to prove it. A source I interviewed recently for an upcomng story about the IT job market gave me a similar bit of advice. Numbers are especially good, he told me. If possible, show how much money you saved the company or how much you helped it earn. (Bowers echoes this point.)
- Don't rely on your expertise in COBOL or other old-school skills. Show experience with and/or enthusiasm for newer technologies like social networking. (One way to show your savvy is to utilize sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter in your job search.) Be proactive about keeping your skills up-to-date. It's always important not to become complacent, but never more so than when companies are laying off workers in droves.
I quoted Duke University researcher Vivek Wadhwa in my post on age bias in the tech industry. He wrote:
The harsh reality is that as engineers progress in their careers, they need to stay current in new technologies and become project managers, designers, or architects. To keep their jobs, engineers need to build skills that are more valuable to companies and take positions that can't be filled by entry-level workers.