Lately, when I talk to people about their job searches, it seems that a lot of them are worried they're being labeled in their job searches by recruiters. They worry these labels are at best limiting, and at worst, detrimental. With so much labeling, there's honest fear the judgements being passed are harmful.
Here's my take: yes, you're being labeled.
Look, there's no escaping it, you're going to be judged by recruiters. That's their job; if it wasn't their job, they wouldn't be recruiters. Recruiters have to judge you, and you may not like the results. Come to think of it, the recruiters are probably not enjoying it all that much either.
Despite the fact they are evaluating you, and perhaps harshly, I find most recruiters are pretty decent people, and many of them are actually pretty hip and cool (and indeed, geeky). The problem is their job means sifting through resumes, letters, websites, portfolios, and the like and they have to make judgements, oftentimes quickly.
So yes, they're judging you. They're probably wrong a lot, but they're making the wrong decisions of seasoned professionals, so their wrong is closer to right than other people's. That's what they get paid for.
What do you do? You make it easier for them to see your good traits and make their jobs easier by judging yourself for them.
Or, as we've called it under another name, personal branding.
You decide who you are and you portray it. You're the elder geek, the crazy artist, the wise old manager, or whatever. You call it out in your cover letters and your website and your resume. You do the judging for them, show them the side that's the real (and hirable) you, so their first thought is to agree with you.
You're become pre-emptive, working around potential bad judgements with proper labels, descriptions, and content.
You're not "too old," you're "experienced and always adventurous."
You're not "too young," you're enthusiastic and fresh.
You're not trying to escape your boring town, you're "seeking the proper geographic area to grow."
You get the idea. Pre-label yourself in a positive (but true) manner so people use your decisions, not their own. After all you know yourself better.
So go on, get to judging yourself before someone else does. If they're recruiters, you just made their life – and yours – much easier.