I’ve been listening in on several LinkedIn groups of late and there’s a common theme, job searching sucks!
Comments have included: “No one hires older candidates.” “I don’t know how to communicate transferable skills.” “I know I sure don’t want to do what I did before…but…” “I hate networking.” “Who do I talk to?”
It’s true that many of the above are perceived obstacles. Let’s talk about some solutions that work in overcoming them.
1. Know what you want. If you don’t, it’s much harder for your network to help you. “Know anyone who’s hiring?” is not an effective networking opener. Plus, it is not the hiring decision-maker’s job to tell you what they have open or what position you may be good for. One HR director from Hallmark told me, “Help us out a bit. We’re not career counselors. Tell us what you want!”
If you’re making a change and are unclear of your new direction, I recommend completing career assessments to help you gain focus. Use a real person to help you, not just online assessment tools. A career coach or counselor can help you narrow down your choices and determine the right path for you. It’s a team effort, because your coach is objective, and sometimes a person needs help in defining goals (and a little prodding as well).
2. Age. You are the age you are. Trying to hide your age is going to be an eye-opener when you show up and appear older than 40. Rather than hide your age, demonstrate your value to an organization. What do you bring to the table BESIDES years of experience? A CEO of a staffing firm told me, “For people with 20 or more years of experience, DO NOT write that into your resume. Put a BENEFIT STATEMENT into your resume – something that speaks of how you 1) made the company money, 2) saved the company money or 3) streamlined procedures. Years of experience is immaterial and may indicate that you are just “old.” Companies want to know what kind of contribution you can make to their success – not how many years you’ve been working.”
I have worked with clients 50 and older. One 58-year-old client was very concerned about this. I must say, I had no idea she was 58, and only guessed she was older than 50 because I worked with her daughter previously. She was smart, savvy, dressed young – yet very professionally – and had modern glasses and haircut. This is important for interviews. Another, 62, bought a fitness club and runs this. All of my clients have “young” attitudes, are willing to learn, many are very physically active. You can talk about your marathon, bicycling, etc. on your interview if it comes up. If it doesn’t, know that you can mention relevant hobbies on your resume. I do not mean golf and reading. These are BORING. I do mean, if you ran a marathon in Prague, cool. Mention it. I did this for a client who was transitioning from being an experienced hospital staff nurse to pharmaceutical sales. She got the gig.
3. Transferable skills. Sure you’ve got them. It’s your responsibility to help employers connect the dots. It’s not an employer’s responsibility to do it for you. How? a) Demonstrate your thought leadership online – blog posts, tweets, article links, commentary all help you achieve this. BONUS – doing so shows you “get it” and are hip to online social media. b) Build your LinkedIn network. You are who you hang with. c) Read things outside your industry as well as inside. This gives you a broad perspective. Then communicate your new thoughts online, in white papers, and at your next industry gathering (professional network, etc.).
According to a Microsoft survey in 12/2009 about social media and hiring, 79% of interviewers said they Google candidates before meeting them. In another survey, 45% of employers said they would eliminate candidates based on what they found online.
Let’s help them find some good (not scary) stuff.