Career Advice, Interviews

Hope For The Over-Fifty Job Seeker?

Lots of job seekers are on the edge right now. Employers are taking forever to make hiring decisions, they go into radio silence mode for weeks, and the job-hopeful are left wondering whether there’s even a real job opportunity to hope for or not! Some of the most freaked out people who are looking for jobs are the over-fifty candidates, who feel as though the deck is majorly stacked against them. Not only are they seeking work in one of the toughest economic climates since forever, but their advanced age is a huge barrier to employment for them – right?

That’s what we’ve all been told (and told, and told again).

I’m not so sure. Job seekers tend to forget what they bring to the party, and over-fifty job-hunters in particular tend to focus on what they don’t have (youth, ace Facebooking skills) rather than what they do. There are reams of horrible advice out there, advising over-fifty job-hunters to change their hair, get an iPad, learn to text, and otherwise spend their energy on pointless ‘just-for-show’ activities rather than zeroing in on what employers need. I see fifty-plus job seekers getting job offers every day, and here’s what I see them doing to get there:

  • They forget about their age. Your age is your age. You can’t change it – so why stress about it? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go to New York for the weekend than spend my money shooting Botox into my face. Successful fifty-plus job seekers (and entrepreneurs, and others) don’t focus on their age, and fret about it. They focus on the buyer’s/client’s/employer’s need, and how to solve it.
  • They make the job hunt about the prize, not the obstacles. People who get great jobs don’t lob resumes into the void and fill out job applications online. They go after employers with the sorts of problems they reckon they can fix – because they’ve solved those very same problems before. When you’re talking with a hiring manager (via email, LinkedIn, snail mail or on the telephone) about his biggest problem, and you’re able to talk about how you slew that very same dragon before, do you think the hiring manager is going to worry that you’re fifty- or sixty-something? No way. He’s going to be delighted that someone showed up to save the day.
  • They zero in on the employers they’re targeting. In order to get a hiring manager’s attention, we have to be able to talk about her business pain. Maybe supplier quality is a huge problem. Maybe the firm’s sales efforts are making gains against the competition. How can we get this “pain” information? It takes careful research – let’s say, an hour per employer – reading the company’s own website, checking out Google Web and Google News, and following message boards and blog posts to see what’s up inside your employer of choice. Every organization has challenges, and so does every hiring manager. Our task is to find out what’s keeping our hiring manager up at night. Once we get that answer, our age becomes a massive non-issue.
  • They use the direct approach. The black hole is for people who want to job-hunt more than they want to start working. Don’t trust that wretched black hole with your future. You’ve got to approach hiring managers directly, and when you do, you’ve got to talk about their issues, not your own magnificent career. No one will care about you until you make them care, by talking about something that’s relevant to them – namely, the dragon they’re staring down and your own experience with similar dragons.

Smart job seekers of any age are also consultants. They dig in, before the interview and during it, to find out where a hiring manager’s pain is and whether that pain is the same type the job seeker has spent years alleviating. When they do that, the employer can’t afford to care if the job seeker is young, old, or Martian – they’re going to be interested in you. Revamp your resume for every opportunity, taking off the irrelevant stuff and beefing up what employers most want to hear about – namely, the problems you’ve solved that are most like the ones the employer is facing now. Your expert wisdom is needed. Your job is to locate those employers who could most use your help, and to reach out to tell them why. Go get ’em!