"Finding Work" FAQ Part II

12/06/2013 09:59 am ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

From readers of Finding Work When There Are No Jobs:

How do I fight ageism? Learning that too much experience can hurt your chances for a job can be a shock. It doesn't make sense. It's new. But then you start thinking about those job ads that say, "2-5 years of experience." A tiny clue that ageism might be lurking. Or you meet ageism in some wildly inappropriate remark. Ageism is real. Most of us know that. As far back as 2006, Gallup data showed that age discrimination was seen by working Americans as being a bigger barrier to employment than sexism or racism. So what do you do?

Start with a conversation. One with another human being. Fighting ageism by battling a culture, a gatekeeper, a stereotype, or a blind job ad can be a noble pursuit. But it can also be like throwing cotton balls into the wind. And it can make your path to work even longer.

Then steer that conversation to "fit."

"Fit" is the illusive, usually undefined set of attributes that is at the center of ANY hiring decision. World class recruiters will tell you that "fit" beats out any other criteria in a hiring decision. And fit is different for every job. The best way to turn the conversation to fit is to ask a question like, "Tell me about the intangibles required for this job. I've read the job description. But what's between the lines of that description?" That question will start the discussion of the perceptions that are driving the ageism.

Discussions on fit can go anywhere. Fit is the "wild card" of the hiring decision. Use the stories from the "Adding Music" section in Finding Work When There Are No Jobs as prompts to help make sure you are "singing on the same page" as your employer and that you are the "fit" they are looking for.

If there is no potential of a "fit" -- then you know not to waste time in pursuing the job.

If there is the potential for a "fit "-- you fight ageism by the way you communicate that your age is irrelevant to your past and potential performance.

Do I need a career coach? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on whether you want some combination of:

Assessment. Of job skills and goals. But also your talents. The stuff you were born with. That no one had to teach you, And giving language to those talents. Perhaps the most practical piece of all: the language for the talents. Coaches use many tools to do this. I use Gallup's Clifton Strengths Finder. Because in the thousands of folks I've coached through it, I've seen it be wrong three times. It's also quick and cheap. So much so, you can easily take the assessment on your own -- as millions already have.

Job Search Skills Training. On resumes, interview preparation and networking. Lots of career coaches do this. It's a necessary step. But in the 50 year old model upon which most current career development is based, it's often the ONLY step. And that is a big problem. Because resumes, interviews and networking alone don't will not always find you work. Not anymore. Times have changed.

Prompting new thinking about work search. In the tightly knit club of those running career development operations, particularly in academic settings, this is only done informally -- by coaches or often professors who "get it." Thinking differently is the heart of Finding Work When There Are No Jobs. If a career coach can prompt new thinking, then the job seeker can make their own, unique path. Whether it's a new job, an artistic project, contract work or a better job -- the point is that it is the individual's own unique path. Not the experts. Or rest of the world's.

I just got laid off and they offered outsourcing, should I use it? A personal decision. Outsourcing firms operate on the assumption that there is a "one-size fits-all" process in finding work. They are paid by the company doing the lay-off. If you are comfortable in finding work in the same exact way everyone else is taught to do it, by an endless mantra of resumes, interviews and networking advice, then outsourcing might help you.

I've been looking for work forever. What am I doing wrong? Maybe NOTHING. Job search is a giant system with a billion moving parts. HR departments, key word selection software vendors, career coaches, people who write books about it, academic career development people and so on. And like ANY system, the giant job search machine protects itself. One of the most powerful guns in this system's arsenal is the one that spits out the protective message: The reason you are unemployed is your fault!! Take a class, buy into an economic theory on structural unemployment or an anecdote on our imaginary talent gap or quick, go into health care!

Or, stop for a second and think, "Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's the system." Blaming the victim is as old as time. Maybe you are doing everything you can. Maybe it's time to change the question from "What am I doing wrong?" to "How can I think and then do something differently?"

How do I explain my joblessness to a parent or friend? Despite the facts, the fantasy that anyone who wants a job can get one still exists. It's a hard fantasy to dispel because at one time, it had validity. And the myth that anyone who wants a job can find one is rooted in deeper myths beyond the scope of any FAQ. So perhaps the best way to quickly answer this question is by asking your parent or friend:

"How would you go about "Finding Work When There Are No Jobs?'"