If you have not looked for a job since you entered your forties, get ready for a rude awakening! You may feel young, you may look young and you may consider yourself hip with your arsenal of cool tech gadgets. However, in the eyes of those that hire----the 40+ crowd is so yesterday. And if you are in your 50s and 60s, recruiters scrutinize you with the squinty-eyed analysis reserved for police detectives interviewing a homicide suspect. Who is being heavily recruited right now? Older Millennials and the GenX contingent born in the mid-1970s are highly sought after groups. The recruiters are calling them; they are not responding to online recruitment ads or editing their profiles on Linkedin. If you’re not keeping up with the generational definitions-here is a handy cheat sheet:
What You Need to Know
33-13 years old
Grew up on Tech—Entry Level Corporate Recruiters
52-33 years old
Currently in Middle Management waiting to have their moment
70-53 years old
Age of many CEOs, Sr. VPs & Policy-makers; Struggling to stay relevant
Unless you dislike your job, most people today do not imagine leaving work at age 60 or 65 to become full-time babysitters to their grandchildren, zip around in a golf cart or plan their next cruise. You know why? At 60 and 65, many workers today are still feeling good; enjoy socializing with others and having a sense of purpose. So how does that person over 40, 50 or 60 find work? I think there are three strategies you should employ to keep your career fresh while others wilt on the vine.
#1: Cultivate a Winning Attitude--No company is going to hire a victim. No company is going to knowingly hire a bitter whiner with a chip on their shoulder. Companies are looking for winners who can help their business grow in these uncertain economic times. If your confidence is in the tank, it is on you to figure out what you need to do to give yourself a boost. At age 40+ the time for negative self-talk has long past, because there are enough people who can find something unflattering to say on your behalf. I am not saying you need to become arrogant, haughty or hard to deal with—Divas Need Not Apply. Understand and be able to communicate your strengths and explain how hiring you will benefit the organization.
#2: Be an Expert at Something--The world is filled with people with general skills. Stand out from the crowd by being able to prove you have something—a skill, a talent, a degree, a track record, a certification, a designation, an award—that others don’t necessarily have. I recently met a woman at 50+ newly unemployed through a company lay-off. She has a great resume filled with good companies that have had mass lay-offs that everyone is aware of and a strong background in telecom. She’s a project manager and has her PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. I told her with confidence that while job-hunting in her 50s will not be a walk in the park, her PMP designation will serve her well. If you are a human resources professional take the time to earn your CCP, CBP, CEBS, PHR or SPHR. If you are in health information management earn your RHIT, RHIA, or CCP® (Certified Professional Coder®). If your field doesn’t have designations, then become viewed as an expert by publishing in journals or doing public speaking.
#3: Know and Be Known--It doesn’t matter if you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn if you raided them from someone else. Those people don’t know you. It is especially true as you become a more experienced worker—relationships matter. I have a 40+year-old friend who counts several influential CEOs as close friends. He is in the job market again and doesn’t have to go through HR or gatekeepers to speak to these business leaders. He can leverage these relationships for introductions, a job, and temporary consulting work while he strategizes his next career move. One of them might provide the investment for a business opportunity. Maybe you don’t know any CEOs—you need to know somebody who can help smooth the path for you if you suddenly lost your job. My advice is to create your list of the ten people you would call within 48 hours of a job loss. Tend to those relationships beforehand whether it is sending a birthday card, endorsing them on LinkedIn, forwarding an article you know they would be interested in or meeting for lunch twice a year. Don’t be the type of networker who only shows up when you need something.
It is a challenge, and yet not impossible to find a great job when you have more years of work in your past than you do in your future. It is not a strategy, but it also takes a little luck to connect with that company willing to look past your birth year toward what you can contribute or the hiring manager who sees your experience as strength. You may get a lot of “No” responses; remember it just takes one “Yes”.