I work with clients who are considered “seasoned workers” – those who have worked for 20+ years in a particular industry or professional arena. They come to me because for whatever reason—downsizing, a company merger, outsourcing—they find themselves looking for work. They frequently feel lost. They don’t know where to turn and they don’t know how to start their job search.
They will say, “I’ve never been out of work before. I have never gone without a paycheck. I don’t know where to turn. I am learning that I need a job search strategy, but I don’t know where to start.”
Too often, these individuals find themselves looking for months, and even then, they wind up taking a job that is part-time or for less pay. They feel lucky that they have found anything at all. They don’t feel that they have a lot of options, and depending on their particular field, they may be right.
It is not a secret that age discrimination is real and, unfortunately, it is alive and well in today’s world. Those individuals who are in their 40’s and 50’s find themselves being squeezed to a certain degree between the Baby Boomer generation and the generational group we refer to as the Millennials. The Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are working longer out of concern about not having saved enough for long retirements. The Millennials are the generation were born somewhere between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s. They are willing to work for less money and are often perceived by employers as being more trainable than those who are older and more experienced.
So what are people in who are well into their 40’s and 50’s who suddenly find themselves out of work to do? They are too young to retire and too experienced to want to start from scratch. They don’t want to let too much time lapse between jobs, either because they know that gaps in employment sometimes poses its own set of problems.
Here is what I recommend to my clients:
1. Embrace your age and your experience instead of being afraid of it or trying to hide it.
A potential employer is going to figure out how old you are and will hold it against you if you try to hide it or fudge on your resume. You want to be credible, after all, and you want to be perceived as being honest. Embrace your age and don’t apologize for it. It is what it is. Your task is to make it work for you instead of against you.
2. Take time to review your work history and decide what you want to do moving forward.
What do you have that is unique to you with regard to your specific talents, aptitude, education, and set of experiences? No one but you has your specific set of experiences and background, so work that to your advantage.
3. Determine exactly what you bring to the table.
How can you solve a company’s specific problem, make them money, or save them money, better than anyone else? Decide going in how you are going to make the case for yourself.
4. Be sure you have kept up with technology.
One of my colleagues recently interviewed for a position that would help to promote the company by using social media. One of the interviewers told her that anyone over 50 is a “dinosaur” when it comes to technology. Unfortunately, my colleague is over 50 so that pretty much told her that at least as far as that one interviewer was concerned, she wasn’t a viable candidate. She had gotten the interview because she has kept up her skills. It didn’t get her that job, but there are other jobs.
If you don’t know a Twitter handle from a broom handle, it is time to upgrade your technical skill and know-how. Take a class if necessary. Follow social media trends. Be prepared to demonstrate to a potential employer that you are current in every way with regard to your understanding of technology and social media.
5. If you need to take courses to upgrade your other knowledge or skills, do it.
Don’t delay and don’t decide you don’t have the time or you don’t need to. You aren’t the one who makes those decisions. You must show a potential employer that you are a life-long learner and that you understand you don’t know it all. You need to demonstrate your adaptability, your flexibility, and your willingness to learn new things.
6. Brush up on your communication skills and pay attention to the brand you are projecting either consciously or unconsciously.
Like it or not, everyone has a brand. Yours may be positive or negative, and you need to determine which it is right away. If you determine that it is more negative than positive, you must start immediately to re-brand yourself.
Show up at every function dressed for success. Show up on time and always prepared. Never take it for granted that no one is watching or paying attention to you. Everyone is paying attention these days.
Modernize your look. If you are a woman who hasn’t changed her hairstyle or wardrobe in 10 years, it may be time for a makeover. Men need to pay attention to detail as well. How you show up is absolutely key to your ultimate success.
7. Do your homework so that if you get a phone interview or, even better, a face-to-face interview, you can knock it out of the ballpark.
Years ago, I was on an interview panel. One of the candidates who had looked great on paper failed to make the grade because he hadn’t done his homework with regard to what our organization needed, and it showed. Another candidate was an internal candidate but showed his arrogance by not having researched the job description more thoroughly. He showed up with no specific solutions to problems he didn’t seem to understand we had (despite the fact that he had worked in the organization in a different division).
The candidate who got that job demonstrated right off the bat that he knew the problems we were facing. He had been talking to people who knew and understood the pressures with which we were dealing. Better than that, he showed up with ideas for how we might go about solving some of those problems and alleviating some of those pressures. At the end of the day, he got the job.
It’s not rocket science, but it does take understanding that you are being considered for a job because the company or organization needs you to do something for them. You need to show up demonstrating that you understand that and be prepared to offer a solution.
The job market has been tough for a long time and while things are looking up, competition for every available job posting is fierce. Some jobs that were in existence ten years ago have disappeared forever. If you are a job seeker who happens to be over 40, you need to demonstrate that you can be adaptable and flexible, and that you have the ability to learn new ways of doing things as opposed to being stuck in the past.
Embrace your experience but don’t dwell on what used to be. Create a winning narrative with regard to how you can take a company or organization to the next level. Persuade the hiring manager that no one can do that better than you can.
While recreating yourself or rebranding yourself or figuring out your own job search strategy, if you need help, ask for it. Seek out the advice of individuals who know how to job search effectively. We are here to help. You simply have to be willing to ask.
About the author
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT is a Certified Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach and is an ICC at CareerHMO. Visit her coaching page here.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CareerHMO coach. You can learn more about coach posts here.
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